I feel like I've been referencing other sports and trying to connect them to the Nationals here a lot lately, but given the lack of baseball news this winter, sometimes it feels like the only interesting way to start a baseball discussion.
So I'm going to do it again today. Apologies in advance.
You may have watched, as I did, an absolutely crazy hockey game last night. The Capitals took a 3-0 lead on the Penguins early in the second period, only to watch Pittsburgh explode for six goals in about 11 minutes, only to rally back themselves and eventually send the game into overtime, only to lose early in the extra period by the ridiculous final score of 8-7.
That was as wild a hockey game as I can remember watching in a long time. And the fact it came in the latest showdown between these two bitter rivals, with tons of emotion shown on both sides, only added to the drama.
And, of course, I couldn't help myself but start thinking of the wild baseball games I've seen over the years. Which left me compiling a list in my head. Which left me searching online for specific details of those games and others I had forgotten.
In the end, I came up with eight crazy games in Nationals history that still ring true to me. I'm sure I missed some others, but that's where you all come in. I want to know what wild games you most remember, whether it's one of these or some other that slipped my mind.
Here are the eight I came up with, presented in chronological order:
September 17, 2005
Padres 8, Nats 5 (12 innings)
The inaugural Nationals were still clinging to slim playoff hopes in mid-September when they headed west to San Diego. They were in prime position to take this game, leading 5-0 in the ninth inning, with the Padres ready to roll over. But then manager Frank Robinson inexplicably started making a bunch of pitching changes, playing matchups despite the seemingly comfortable lead. And that's when everything fell apart in stunning fashion. Chad Cordero surrendered a game-tying grand slam to Khalil Greene with two outs in the ninth. Three innings later, Jon Rauch surrendered a game-ending, three-run homer to Ramon Hernandez. Whatever hopes the 2005 Nationals had of reaching the playoffs died that night in San Diego.
June 17, 2006
Nats 11, Yankees 9
RFK Stadium was packed all weekend with the Yankees in town for what proved to be a great interleague series. Most everyone remembers the Sunday game, when Ryan Zimmerman launched the first of his 10 career walk-off homers. But the Saturday game was a much crazier contest. The Nationals trailed 9-2 in the fifth inning and might as well have given up. Except they didn't. They scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a big hit by Brian Schneider. They scored twice more in the seventh, thanks in part to a home run by Daryle Ward. They tied the game in the eighth on Jose Guillen's RBI triple off Mariano Rivera, then took the lead on Zimmerman's RBI single off Rivera moments later. Cordero finished off the Yanks in the ninth, and thus completed what stood as the Nats' biggest come-from-behind victory for nearly a decade.
June 24, 2011
Nats 9, White Sox 5 (14 innings)
As if Jim Riggleman's surprise resignation the day before didn't create a wild enough scene, the game the next night in Chicago took the storyline to an entirely new level. The Nationals bullpen blew not one, not two, but three saves in this game, giving up three runs in the ninth, one in the 10th and one in the 12th. Interim manager John McLaren was ejected after arguing a close call in the eighth inning, putting on a tirade for the ages and leaving the team not entirely sure who was now officially managing the rest of the game. And then after all that, they won it with four runs in the 14th, getting big hits from Roger Bernadina and Zimmerman off future teammate Matt Thornton. The White Sox did bring the tying run to the on-deck circle in the bottom of the 14th, but the Nats avoided their fourth blown save of the game when Collin Balester induced a game-ending double play out of Alex Rios.
July 20, 2012
Braves 11, Nats 10 (11 innings)
The Nationals opened a big four-game series with the Braves, leading their division rivals by 3 1/2 games. And when they jumped out to a 9-0 lead after five innings, the party was on at Nationals Park. Except this game was far from over. Atlanta stormed back with four runs in the sixth, four more in the eighth and then two runs in the ninth to take a 10-9 lead. The Nats showed some grit in rallying in the bottom of the ninth, getting a game-tying homer from Danny Espinosa off Craig Kimbrel. But the Braves came back to win it in the 11th on a two singles, an error and a passed ball. It was the largest lead the Nationals have ever blown, and it left everybody terrified they were going to blow their lead in the standings as well. That, however, never happened. The Nats split the four-game series and went on to win their first-ever division title a couple months later.
August 17, 2013
Nats 8, Braves 7 (15 innings)
The game began with Stephen Strasburg plunking Justin Upton (in retaliation for Bryce Harper having been drilled and injured the night before) and one inning later getting ejected (along with manager Davey Johnson) after throwing three consecutive wild pitches (two of them behind Andrelton Simmons' back). Who knew that would be a footnote by the end of the night? A wild, back-and-forth affair saw the Nationals take a 7-4 lead into the eighth but then blow that lead when Freddie Freeman (who else?) homered off Tyler Clippard and Jason Heyward homered off Rafael Soriano. The game kept going deep into the night until Adam LaRoche broke the deadlock with a leadoff homer in the top of the 15th. Out of available relievers, Johnson had to turn to Dan Haren (who started two nights earlier) to close it out in the rain and record the first save of his career.
September 3, 2014
Nats 8, Dodgers 5 (14 innings)
This was an epic ballgame between two very good teams. Down 2-0 in the ninth, the Nats got a game-tying, pinch-hit homer from LaRoche (who hadn't played the first eight innings due to a back injury), then took the lead on Denard Span's RBI single. But one out from victory in the bottom of the ninth, Jayson Werth lost a fly ball down the right field line in the Southern California sun to allow the tying run to score and the game to continue. Relievers Xavier Cedeno and Aaron Barrett stranded the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th with back-to-back strikeouts. Jerry Blevins stranded the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th with a popup and a strikeout. LaRoche drove in two runs in the top of the 12th to give the Nats a 5-3 lead, only to watch as Clippard served up a two-run homer to Carl Crawford in the bottom of the inning. Finally in the 14th, LaRoche (bad back and all) busted down the line to beat out a potential inning-ending double play and allow the go-ahead run to score. Asdrubal Cabrera provided insurance with a two-run homer moments later. And Blake Treinen finished it off to secure a crazy 14-inning victory.
April 28, 2015
Nats 13, Braves 12
Otherwise known as "The Dan Uggla Game." The Nationals were in bad shape, owners of a 7-13 record and then down 9-1 after two innings, with A.J. Cole getting lit up in his major league debut. Somehow they clawed their way back at Turner Field. They got a three-run homer from Jose Lobaton. They got a solo homer from Span. And then they got a whole lotta offense from Uggla. The former Atlanta second baseman, technically the highest-paid player on the Braves roster since they released him the previous season with another year left on his contract, tripled home two runs in the seventh. Then he absolutely destroyed a three-run homer off Jason Grilli in the top of the ninth to give the Nats the lead and complete the biggest comeback in team history. What few fans remained in the park at that point booed their ex-ballplayer vociferously, while the Nationals dugout erupted. Once the game was over, Max Scherzer poured chocolate syrup on Uggla's head, and thus was born a new tradition.
April 24, 2016
Nats 6, Twins 5 (16 innings)
Plenty of fans were upset that Harper was given his first day off of the season, but they weren't disappointed by day's end. After watching the Twins take a 4-1 lead in the eighth, the Nationals rallied behind Wilson Ramos' two-run double in the bottom of the inning. Still trailing by a run in the ninth, manager Dusty Baker sent Harper up to pinch-hit. The reigning MVP responded by launching a 3-2 pitch from Kevin Jepsen deep to center field for the game-tying homer as the ballpark erupted. Neither team was able to push across anything in extra innings until the 15th, when Miguel Sano singled off Yusmeiro Petit to give Minnesota a 5-4 lead. No problem because the Nats rallied to tie it up again in the bottom of the 15th on a - wait for it - run-scoring bunt by Oliver Perez. Yes, Oliver Perez, who then pitched a scoreless top of the 16th, setting the stage for Chris Heisey to be the hero with his leadoff walk-off homer.
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