- The Washington Times - Friday, July 17, 2015

Fans hoping for an electric start to the series between the Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers were left in the dark Friday night.

Three times during the game, a bank of lights above the third-base line went out. Play was halted, players were swept off the field and fans were irritated.

The first delay began at 8:19 p.m. and lasted 1:22. Play resumed at 9:41 p.m., before the lights betrayed all comers again at 9:50. Finally, the game again resumed at 10:30 p.m. Shortly after a two-run home run by Yunel Escobar which gave the Nationals a 3-2 lead, the nights went out, again, at 10:42 p.m.

The third delay resulted in a quick exit from the field for both teams. Nationals manager Matt Williams and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had a brief conversation with the umpires before leaving. The dugouts and bullpens emptied. The grounds crew began work, yet no official announcement was immediately made that the game had been suspended. A few minutes later, official word came that the game had been suspended and would resume at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday. The second game will begin at 4:05 p.m. or 20 minutes after the conclusion of the first. The Nationals lead, 3-2, in the top of the sixth.

“After the second one, we knew that we weren’t going to do it again,” Williams said. “We end up spending pitchers, guys sit around way too long. The fact that it happened three times — we don’t know exactly why, so, they’re troubleshooting it now and hopefully have it done by tomorrow so there’s no more issue.”

Tickets from Friday’s game are not valid for Saturday’s games, the Nationals announced. Fans with tickets to Friday’s game can exchange them for a future 2015 game, subject to availability.

Fans with tickets for Saturday’s 4:05 p.m. game can attend the resumed game at 2:05. Gates will open at 11:30 a.m.

The more than hour-long initial delay was filled with a variety of activity. Screech, the Nationals‘ mascot, mocked the Dodgers bullpen. Members of the Nationals‘ bullpen placed bocce with baseballs. The NatPack threw free T-shirts into the crowd. The New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals game was aired on the center field video board. The free T-shirts were the only distractions greeted with pleasure by fans.

Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann had his night end after 63 pitches. During the first delay, Zimmermann threw, sat down for a 15-minute break, then threw again. He marked each up and down as an inning. Once he reached seven innings, and the delay had reached an hour in length, he was done for the night.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Zimmermann said. “It’s unfortunate. I felt pretty good tonight, then that happens. It’s just one of those things, that, I guess you just can’t explain.”

Williams said it was too dangerous to play without all the lights working.

“It’s not what players are used to,” Williams said. “Players throw way too hard to have somebody not be able to see a baseball. You’re taking people’s lives in your hands at that point. You want the conditions to be appropriate. We’re not going to run our guys out there — Donny’s not going to do it either — [Major League Baseball] probably wouldn’t let us do it either. So, it’s not a situation where we would want our guys out there in dim light trying to see a baseball that is coming at them really hard.”

Zimmermann was replaced by Tanner Roark following the first delay. Zimmermann threw four innings and allowed a two-run home run to Adrian Gonzalez. Roark threw seven pitches to end the top of fifth inning. The Nationals were coming up when the lights shut off for a second time.

The Dodgers kept starter Mike Bolsinger in for the bottom of the fourth inning when the game initially restarted. He was replaced by a pinch-hitter in the top of the fifth.

Williams said he was not sure if the team would have a 26th player available to them for Saturday’s games.

Fans were not happy. Many booed during the first delay. Some left. More booed during the second outage. Even more left the park. Then, finally, a conclusion. At least for the night.

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