April 5, 2010 a day no Nats fan will ever forget. It was a day when Nats Park wasn’t Nats Park. It was the culmination of one year earlier then Nats team president Stan Kasten ventured onto Philly radio and invited Phillies fans down to Nationals Park for the 2009 home opener. That day wasn’t nearly as bad because the invitation was made after most of the single game tickets were sold, but the standing invitation was out there, and one year later Phillies fans would take full advantage.
As soon a group tickets went on sale they were gobbled up by Phillies fan eager to see the regular season debut of Roy Halladay and Nats fans had little chance to counter. Opening Day is a day for celebration. It is the beginning of baseball and in the beginning there is always hope. That is there is hope until the home team’s franchise player is booed receiving his second straight Silver Slugger award and the entire starting line-up gets the same treatment. The hope for the 2010 Washington Nationals lasted until they took the field at Nats Park.
Even before that moment the Phillies had pushed the Nationals around. The Phillies did what all division winners should be able to do and beat up on the bottom of their division. In the three years from 2008-2010 the Nationals were 15-39 against the Phillies. The Nationals were helpless against them on the field and on that day in 2010 the Nationals fans felt helpless in their own park.
To be in Nats Park on Opening Day of 2010 was like watching a loved one get tortured while their captors taunt you in your own house. To this day it remains the lowest point in Washington Nationals franchise history. The pitcher on the mound that day was John Lannan. He lasted 3 2/3 innings and gave up 5 of the 11 runs scored by the Phillies. Roy Halladay allowed one first inning run and after that nothing more. The Nationals lost the game by a final score of 11-1, and the entire time Nationals fans had to endure the taunts of the 90% Philly crowd.
Tonight it comes full circle. Two years and a baseball season have passed since that day and now the Nationals are in the driver’s seat of the NL East. If they win tonight they clinch their first division title. The pitcher on the mound for the Washington Nationals is none other than John Lannan. The same John Lannan who owns a career 3-12 record with a 5.64 ERA against the Phillies. The same John Lannan who had to endure the cheers of Phillies fans in his home ballpark on Opening Day of 2010 as he walked off the mound in the fourth inning after allowing five runs.
It would make no greater statement to the world of baseball than if the Nationals can personally turn the table on the Phillies and clinch the NL East on the field where the Phillies have clinched before. The Nationals have had to watch the Phillies players and fans celebrate a division title in Nationals Park and tonight it could be their turn. All they have to do is destroy all remaining demons of the past and the memories of 2010 will be cleansed from Nationals Park.