WASHINGTON – As Juan Soto ran into left field of Nationals Park for the start of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, he slowed his run to a jog to take in the atmosphere.
With rock music blaring in the background, 43,675 Nationals fans dressed in a sea of red cheered loudly for the team’s first home NLCS game in franchise history.
Soto pointed to the crowd in left field and began pounding his glove, with fans cheering louder and louder with each pound.
After a do-or-die Game 5 and two games away from home, the Santo Domingo-native was finally home.
“For me, I feel really excited,” Soto said. “I’ve been doing this the whole season. I just give them thanks for coming to support us.”
Nationals fans, who have been with the team through its many highs and lows, showed up in droves to support the team’s Latino stars, who each had a hand in the 8-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
In the third inning when Anthony Rendon lunged to his right to rob Paul DeJong of a would-be single, fans serenaded him with “MVP” chants. Those chants would continue through Rendon’s every at-bat.
“The fans definitely showed up today,” Rendon said. “They’ve been nothing short of amazing during this playoff experience. Hopefully, we can continue to have them show up more and more.”
Fans waved their red rally towels as red fireworks were launched following Víctor Robles’ sixth-inning homer, making for a first-of-its-kind visual treat.
When Fernando Rodney launched his signature arrow deep into the D.C. sky after striking out Marcell Ozuna to end the eighth inning, fans erupted similarly.
“For me, it was part of the game, part of my plan,” Rodney said. “I felt very happy and I think the fans were waiting for something like that.”
After several early playoff exits, fans have waited for that exact moment and on Monday finally received it.
“It’s amazing, [what] I’m feeling right now is amazing,” Gerardo Parra said. “All the fans [brought] it [for] us. We’re feeling that. That’s a big part right now.”
Barring a historic collapse, the Nationals will be heading to their first World Series in franchise history. Several months ago when the team was hanging on the ropes, the thought of a deep October run seemed impossible.
Now, those same 43,675, if not more, will come out once again.
“So, maybe there’s standing-room-only,” Rendon added. “Just let them in. The more, the merrier.”
Featured Image: Rob Carr / Getty Images Sport