#TBT to “Nationals Classics”: Watching the ball drop

The coming of the new year prompts people (or at least cable news) to look back on what has passed. Of course, MASN is doing that throughout the offseason as we bring you “Nationals Classics.” This week, naturally, is no exception.

Since you’re going to be staying up late Monday night, why not get acclimated with a couple of extra-inning marathons? We’ll also have a game from the Nats’ early days in D.C. that might make you break into a chorus of “Auld Lang Syne.” You can enjoy all that and more as we ring out the old and ring in the neew.

Lots of good times to be recalled fondly, so let’s get started.

Thursday, Dec. 27, 9 a.m. - The Nats left the rest of the National League East eating their dust in 2017, clinching the division title early. To be precise, the win that sealed the deal came on Sept. 10, 2017 at Nationals Park. Phillies starter Ben Lively went the distance that day, yielding three runs on six hits. But Stephen Strasburg was better, allowing just two hits over his eight innings while extending his scoreless streak to 34 innings. Ryan Madson picked up a save, fighting his way through a tense ninth.

Thursday, Dec. 27, 11:30 p.m. - The 2010 season concluded with the Nats languishing in the NL East cellar. But not all was gloom and doom. Strasburg would arrive in June to begin his career in the big leagues. Handling Strasburg and the rest of a mostly young pitching staff was eventual Hall of Famer Ivan Rogriguez. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman hit .307 and had 25 homers. On May 23 of that year, the Nationals took the rubber game of an interleague series at home against their neighbors to the north. The visiting Orioles scored a run in the first inning, but the Nats stormed back in the bottom half as right fielder Roger Bernadina tripled off Kevin Millwood with the bases loaded. The Birds tied the score at 3-3 in the top of the ninth, one of the runs coming on a groundout from future National Matt Wieters. But in the home half, left fielder Josh Willingham homered off Cia Meredith for the walk-off win.

Friday, Dec. 28, 5 p.m. - The Nats grabbed another NL East crown in 2016 as the pitching staff ranked in the league’s top five in virtually every category. A matchup with the Tigers at Nats Park on May 9 ended as one of the most exciting wins of the season. Trailing 4-1 in the sixth, the Nats finally got to Tigers starter (and now brand-new National) Aníbal Sánchez. With two out and Zimmerman aboard via fielder’s choice, Daniel Murphy jacked a 2-2 delivery to right to cut Detroit’s lead to a run. Ben Revere’s sac fly tied the game in the seventh. Pinch-hitter Clint Robinson homered in the ninth to ignite the Nats Park crowd.

Saturday, Dec. 29, 10 a.m. - The Nats outlasted the Twins in another wild interleague contest on South Capitol Street on April 24, 2016. Strasburg went 7 1/3 innings, which most days would be enough to keep the bullpen fresh. In this early-season game, however, it didn’t even get the home team halfway there. It took five relievers - including Yusmeiro Petit, who pitched 4 2/3 - to secure victory. The Nats were down a run going into the bottom of the ninth. Bryce Harper, pinch-hitting for Michael A. Taylor, homered to take the game to extras. Miguel Sanó’s RBI single put the visitors ahead in the 15th. Danny Espinosa scored the tying run on a throwing error. The game was nearly six hours old when Nats outfielder Chris Heisey put an end to it with a home run to left center in the 16th.

Sunday, Dec. 30, 4:30 p.m. - Max Scherzer took the hill at home for the Nationals on April 9, 2018 for the season’s first tilt with the Braves. Howie Kendrick’s two-RBI double would prove to be more than enough to bag a Nats victory. Scherzer wove a two-hit, complete-game masterpiece. As if that weren’t enough, he reminded us why he belongs in the National League as he drew a walk, stole a base and singled. Even one of his outs was a line drive.

Wednesday, Jan. 2, 9 a.m. - The National League East did not have a losing team in 2005. The Braves took the division title with 90 wins, while the Nationals finished in the basement with 81. On July 3, 2005, the Nats completed a three-game sweep at Wrigley Field, fighting off two late surges from the Cubs to win the finale 5-4 in 12 innings. The home team scored their first two runs on Aramis Ramírez’s homer in the ninth off Chad Cordero, tying the game 2-2. It looked like the Nats would win it in the 11th when Brad Wilkerson doubled to bring home Carlos Baerga and Brian Schneider. But a leadoff homer from Jerry Hairston and an RBI double from Todd Hollandsworth sent the contest to the 12th. That’s when Schneider homered with two out. Joey Eischen, who had blown a save chance the previous inning, got the Cubbies 1-2-3 to get the win.

Wednesday, Jan. 2, 7 p.m. - Scherzer was again at his dominating best in Miami on July 27, 2018, giving up just three hits and a run over eight innings while fanning 11 Marlins to become the fourth pitcher in major league history to have seven seasons of 200 or more strikeouts. The Nationals offense also dominated, scoring four times in the first three innings and then exploding for a five-run eighth. Matt Adams, Juan Soto and Daniel Murphy each had three hits for a combined six RBIs. Soto homered and tripled.

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