How are those resolutions coming?
Already, huh? Well, there’s always next year ...
As we try to remember to put the correct year on the checks we write, we start to see some light at the end of the baseball tunnel. Spring training’s about a month and a half away now, and while we still don’t know whether Bryce Harper will be back, we do know that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has been busy assembling a roster that should give the club a chance to retake the National League East title.
While you’re waiting for all the pieces to fall into place for 2019, you’ll want to catch some thrilling Nationals performances from the recent and not-so-recent past, including some eye-popping starting pitching, a walk-off win and as impressive a display of power as you’re likely to see, ever.
Thursday, Jan. 3, 12:30 p.m. - Stephen Strasburg recorded his second big league win in as many starts on June 13, 2010 as the Nats took an interleague contest against the Indians in Cleveland by a 9-4 score. Travis Hafner homered off Strasburg to lead off the bottom of the second inning, but the right-hander would yield just one more hit and no more runs in a 5 1/3-inning, 95-pitch effort. Michael Morse plated Adam Dunn with a single through the right side of the infield to start the scoring in the second. Dunn homered in the fourth. The Nats broke it open in the sixth with a two-RBI double from Ivan Rodriguez and Ian Desmond’s two-RBI triple. Roger Bernadina (two-run homer) and Alberto González (RBI double) widened the gap in the eighth. Nats right-hander Miguel Batista struggled in the ninth, letting the Indians get off the mat with three runs, but Tyler Clippard came on to squelch the rally and get the final two outs.
Saturday, Jan. 5, 7 p.m. - Max Scherzer did not three-peat as Cy Young Award winner this season, coming in second to the Mets’ Jacob deGrom, but more than a few observers believe 2018 might have been Scherzer’s best year yet. As a disappointing season for the Nationals was winding down, 26,000 at Nats Park saw the intense right-hander fan Austin Dean to record his 300th strikeout of the year on Sept. 25, 2018. Scherzer had 10 Ks that night in the home team’s 9-4 win over the Marlins. In his seven innings of work, Mad Max threw exactly 100 pitches, 70 for strikes, while scattering five hits and issuing no walks. Anthony Rendon led the offense, hitting a homer and a double for four RBIs.
Sunday, Jan. 6, 1 p.m. - The Nats enjoyed a cheerier September in 2017, wrapping up their fourth National League East title in six years on Sept. 10 in a 3-2 win over the Phillies. Strasburg struck out 10 over eight innings while allowing just two hits and a walk and extending his scoreless streak to 34 innings. The Nationals broke a 0-0 tie in the sixth after Trea Turner led off with a triple to right and then scored on Adrian Sanchez’s bloop double. Then with two out, Victor Robles doubled to plate Sanchez. The rally might have continued, but Robles was gunned down trying to stretch that double into a triple. Turner hit a solo homer in the eighth, and the Nats would need all three of the runs they had accumulated to preserve the victory in the top of the ninth. Ryan Madson got the save all right, but not before surrendering two runs on three hits in his uncomfortably exciting one inning of work.
Monday, Jan. 7, 12 p.m. - Wilson Ramos played the hero part on May 4, 2012, hitting an RBI single off Michael Schwimer with two out in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Naitonals a walk-off win over the Phillies. Strasburg yielded just three hits through his six innings, but two of them were homers that drove in a total of three runs. With the Nats trailing 3-2, Chad Tracy led off the eighth inning with a single and then took second base on Danny Espinosa’s sacrifice bunt. the Phils walked Rick Ankiel intentionally to set up a potential double play, but catcher Jesús Flores threw a monkey wrench into their plan, sending Chad Qualls’ 1-0 pitch to left field for a double that brought Tracy home to tie the game. The two teams trudged through the mostly uneventful ninth and tenth innings, and the home half of the 11th didn’t show much promise, either. Schwimer got Tyler Moore and Desmond on fly balls. But then Steve Lombardozzi coaxed a single through the infield with the big bats of Harper and Jayson Werth behind him. Schwimer pitched around both of them, and the resulting walks loaded the bases for Ramos, pinch-hitting for right-hander Ryan Perry. Perry, who had pitched the top of the 11th, ended up with the win.
Monday, Jan. 7, 7 p.m. - After running away with the NL East and then enduring more playoff heartache, the Nationals came into 2018 looking to repeat as division champs and smash their postseason jinx. After notching an opening day win over the Reds and then taking a loss in Atlanta, Scherzer took the mound at Nats Park for the first time that season to face the Braves again on April 9. The result was a very Scherzer-like gem: a complete game in which the Nats ace struck out 10 while walking none and allowing a measly two hits. And, oh yeah, Scherzer also singled, walked and stole a base. The only scoring for either side came in the first inning on Howie Kendrick’s two-RBI double off Julio Teheran.
Tuesday, Jan. 8, 9 a.m. - The clubs (including the Nationals) jockeying for position in the race to sign free agent Harper are probably thinking about days such as May 6, 2015. That was when Harper - still just 22 but already in his fourth season in the majors - homered in his first three at-bats to power a 7-5 victory over the Marlins. Scherzer went seven innings and got the win, but did not bring his A game. He surrendered all of the Marlins’ five runs, giving up 10 hits, including a Giancarlo Stanton homer. Harper picked up his teammate, though, driving in a total of five runs (the last with a groundout). Yunel Escobar accounted for the other two with a sac fly and an RBI single.