Fans who showed up to Nationals Park were treated to the sight of a dry tarp and only a few drops of rain.
Special shouts to any fan who attended Thursday night's Nationals-Braves game in Washington, D.C., got to the park in time for first pitch and settled in for three hours of literally nothing. Facing the prospect of bad weather, the Nationals—who were scheduled to play at 7:05 p.m.—announced a rain delay at 6:40 p.m. despite the fact that not a drop was falling. And they kept that delay going for hours despite, again, no precipitation. The result? A game that didn't start until 10:10 p.m. and didn't finish until well past 1 in the morning, all for virtually no rain at all.
This No-Rain delay is something i've never seen before!!— Ender Inciarte (@enderinciartem) July 7, 2017
It was a bizarre situation all the way around. Despite announcing the delay before the scheduled start of the game, the Nationals Park grounds crew didn't put a tarp on the field and left it uncovered for the next hour and a half, during which it didn't rain. Close to 8:30, the tarp came onto the field, but still there was no rain. Finally, at about 10 minutes past nine—or, assuming a regular game pace, what would've been the seventh inning had things started on time—a light rain began to fall. Half an hour later, the brief shower was over.
Throughout this strange ordeal, there was little to no word from the Nationals about what was going on. Then, at 9:30 p.m., the team put up a message on its Jumbotron that more or less amounted to a shrug.
But just five minutes after that and with still no rain falling, the grounds crew pulled the tarp off the field. Half an hour later, the game finally got underway, albeit to a much sparser crowd than initially present.
It was a farce all the way around. The woman who was set to sing the National Anthem before the game had left, so that job was handled by a Nationals Park employee (who apparently was excellent). Fans who had left were told, via the Nationals' Twitter account, that they could re-enter the park if they still had their tickets. Soon after, the team announced that water, soda and ice cream (and, eventually, hot dogs) would be given away for free to any fan still in attendance, to the joy of the kids still there way past their bedtime. The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg has more on-the-ground details about the rain delay that wasn't.
Players, meanwhile, were just as in the dark about things as the fans. "No rain, and we just had to wait," said Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez. "We didn't know what the heck was going on until 10 o'clock."
"I went out there to check the weather and I just saw the sun out, just chillin'," Braves second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "I was like, I don't know what's going on."
"You hate to have the fans wait around as much as we hate to wait around," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "But we were told that there was a pretty severe storm coming. But weathermen, as you know, have been wrong before."
Nats GM Mike Rizzo, in statement on delay: "Tonight was tough. We could see weather heading our way and wanted to be proactive, but ...— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) July 7, 2017
Rizzo, con't: "the timing on its arrival kept shifting. We hate when this happens – it’s such a tough spot to be in. ...— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) July 7, 2017
Rizzo, part 3: "Do you start play or not? There are so many factors to consider, including how a mid-game delay would impact our players ...— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) July 7, 2017
Rizzo, part 4: "We know the fans came to see a game, and we hate that we made them wait. We appreciate everyone's patience tonight.n't: "— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) July 7, 2017
Those fans who did stick around were able to load up on all the soda and ice cream they could handle, though they didn't get a win, as Atlanta topped Washington, 5–2. (It was a bad day for the Nationals all around: Third baseman Anthony Rendon lost the All-Star Game Final Vote contest to the Dodgers' Justin Turner, and the team lost outfielder Michael A. Taylor to an oblique strain.) Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman had the right attitude about the whole ordeal, though. "We were just wondering what was going on and wondering why we weren't playing," he said. "But better late than never."