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Nats enjoying attendance spike

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Nats enjoying attendance spike

More than one player in the Nationals' clubhouse following last night's win noted the energy emanating from the stands as the home team mounted its rally from four runs down in the bottom of the seventh.

"We had a great crowd out there tonight," Bryce Harper said. "That really propped everybody up to get going."

Perhaps it was the lack of loud music and scoreboard-encouraged chants, a byproduct of Turn Back the Clock Night. Or perhaps it was simply the growing excitement over the National League's best team through this season's first half.

This much is certain: Fans are pouring into Nationals Park in numbers not seen since the ballpark opened four years ago, and not seen at all in these parts since baseball's first season back in the District.

Through 37 home games, the Nationals' average attendance is 29,865. That currently ranks 15th out of 30 big-league clubs, and that ranking is only going to continue to rise as the rest of this season plays out.

Attendance is up 38 percent from this point last year, the second-highest increase in baseball. Only the Marlins (who moved into a new ballpark) have enjoyed a higher attendance bump (65 percent).

Perhaps most impressive about the Nationals' increase is that most of it has come over the last six weeks, as more and more fans have bought into this club's ascension to the top of the NL East.

Average attendance through the season's first 20 home games was 25,384. Average attendance over the last 17 home games (beginning with the May 18-20 series against the Orioles) has been 36,744.

Nationals Park hasn't hosted a crowd with fewer than 25,000 fans since May 15, when only 23,902 turned out for a Tuesday matinee against the Padres.

The way things are going, don't look for any more crowds under the 25,000 mark. You probably won't see many crowds under 30,000, either.

In addition to the home team's lure, nearly every remaining opponent on the home schedule is a popular draw on its own. The Cardinals, Cubs and Dodgers still haven't made their lone trips to the District this season. The Phillies, Braves and Mets all make two more visits to town.

Even the less-popular opponents -- the Rockies, Brewers and Marlins -- all come to D.C. only for weekend series, which tend to draw better regardless of any other factors.

At this point, it seems a safe bet that the Nationals will wind up with their best attendance in five seasons on South Capitol Street, besting the 2008 high of 2.32 million. And they might just outdraw the inaugural 2005 club's total of 2.73 million, which was boosted not only by a season-ticket base of more than 20,000 but also RFK Stadium's capacity of 45,016 (about 4,000 more than Nationals Park holds).

In other words, expect the scene that played out during last night's rally -- a large and boisterous crowd willing its home club to victory -- to become a regular occurrence.

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Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

When it comes to sports, we sometimes forget that the athletes we look up to are just normal people.  Normal people who have a lot to prove to millions of people on a weekly basis.  Former Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel has discussed one his human moments in an interview with 590 The Fan in St. Louis.

Ankiel admitted to drinking vodka during his plight as a pitcher. He referenced his first two starts of the 2001 season, in particular against the his opener Arizona Diamondbacks where he allowed his anxiety to giving in to alcohol to soothe him. In the previous postseason, he became the first pitcher since 1980 to throw five wild pitches in a single inning. 

It may have worked for a couple of games but Ankiel eventually realized it was only making matters worse.

Ankiel began playing in the MLB at the age of 19 and has had a fluctuating career through six teams.  All the while, he has keep a “never give up” mentality.

Why the sudden need to vent? The St. Louis baseball pitcher is getting up close and personal with his upcoming book, “The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed my Life” which is co-written with sports writer, Tim Brown will be released on April 18.  

His two seasons with the Nationals, resulted in 127 hits and 52 RBIs as an outfielder. 

MORE NATS: Can't miss Nationals promotional schedule

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Nationals sign former Orioles All-Star catcher Matt Wieters

Nationals sign former Orioles All-Star catcher Matt Wieters

The Washington Nationals have signed former Orioles All-Star catcher Matt Wieters to a one-year deal with a player option for a second year, according to multiple reports. 

Wieters spent the first eight years in the Majors with the Baltimore Orioles, being named to the AL All-Star team four times and winning two gold glove awards. Last season the switch-hitting catcher posted a .243 average with 17 homers and 66 RBI.  

The Nationals have been in the market for catchers all offseason after Wilson Ramos left for Tampa Bay in free agency. The team traded for former Padres catcher Derek Norris, whose role is now in question. The Nationals still have Jose Lobaton on the roster as a strong defensive backup catcher who has a proven rapport with many of the pitchers in the Nationals rotation. Wieters had been linked to the Nationals all offseason because of the team's need a the position and because of the Nationals close relationship with Wieters' agent Scott Boras. 

The only significant time that Wieters has missed due to injury in his career came in 2014-15 when he had Tommy John surgury. Prior to that surgury, however, Wieters had played in at least 130 games for four straight seasons and became a large part of the Orioles' identity. 

The 30-year-old backstop will give the Nationals lineup more depth and power. Wieters had three consecutive 20-homer seasons from 2011-13 and since 2009 when his career began, he ranks fifth among catchers in all of baseball in home runs with 117. 

Related: Nationals 2017 promotional schedule includes snow globes and fedoras