Marty Niland: Nats hit milestones on a historic day

As America commemorated 45 years since the first human steps on the moon Sunday, the Nationals were celebrating some milestones and anniversaries of their own on the way to their 53rd victory of 2013, a 5-4 walk-off win over Milwaukee.

Gio Gonzalez labored through one of his more difficult starts of the season, but he collected five strikeouts in his 3 1/3-inning stint. The last of those, dealt to Rickie Weeks leading off the third, was the 1,000th of Gonzalez’s career.

In his seventh season, Gonzalez is the senior member of the starting staff and has far and away the most career strikeouts. Stephen Strasburg, in his fifth major league season, is second with 662, and Jordan Zimmermann, in his sixth, is close behind with 658.

The strikeout total also puts Gonzalez ahead of such Washington pitching luminaries as “Grunting” Jim Shaw, who amassed 767 strikeouts with the Senators from 1913-21 and Case Patten, who struck out 757 batters with Washington and the Boston Red Sox from 1901-08. Gonzalez is also within striking distance of “Long Tom” Hughes, who compiled 1,368 strikeouts in 13 major league seasons, including 884 in Washington from 1904-13. He will most likely not catch Camilo Pascual, who struck out 2,167 batters in his career, 1,142 of them in hitches with the original Senators from 1954-60 and the expansion Senators from 1967-69.

Ryan Zimmerman is already rightfully motioned among the elite hitters in Washington history, but Sunday’s game saw him move up in a couple of significant categories. A tip of the hat to “D.C. Baseball Yesterday and Today” curator and webmaster Mark Hornbaker for pointing these out.

Zimmerman’s fourth-inning home run on Sunday was his 184th, tying him with Roy Sievers for the second-most in a Washington uniform. Sievers, who also played for the St. Louis Browns, Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, hit 318 homers in his career. The majority came while playing in Washington with the original Senators from 1954-59 and Washington’s expansion team in 1964-65.

In 10 seasons with the Nats, Zimmerman has 496 extra-base hits. Only four men have hit more while playing for Washington: Sam Rice (695), Joe Judge (649), Mickey Vernon (620) and Goose Goslin (541). Rice, Judge and Goslin, a Hall of Famer, were teammates on the 1924 Senators, who brought the city its only World Series title, and the 1925 American League champions. Rice and Goslin played for the last Washington team to win a pennant, in 1933. Vernon was a Senator from 1939-48 and again from 1950-55, winning AL batting titles in 1946 and 1953.

Next on those lists for Zimmerman, “the face of the franchise,” are Goslin’s 541 extra-base hits and the 237 home runs that Frank Howard, “The Capital Punisher,” belted with Washington from 1965-71. For a guy who has averaged 50 extra-base hits and 19 homers a year, including seasons where he has missed significant time with injuries, 45 extra-base hits and 53 homers are achievable in the next two or three seasons.

One more anniversary from the weekend, the hat tip here going to former Associated Press colleague Frederic Frommer, author of the 2013 book, “You Gotta Have Heart: A History of Washington Baseball from 1859 to the 2012 National League East Champions.”

The Nats’ 5-4 win on Sunday moved them 10 games over .500 for the first time this season. On July 20, 1924, the Senators beat St. Louis 5-4 to move 10 games over .500.

Will the 2014 Nats go on to repeat the feats of their 1924 predecessors? We have at least 10 exciting weeks to find out.

Marty Niland blogs about the Nationals for D.C. Baseball History. Follow him on Twitter: @martyball98. His thoughts on the Nationals will appear here as part of’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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