#TBT to “Nationals Classics”: Key moments from the best season ever

The champagne (if you’ve got any left after October’s revelry) will taste just a little sweeter this New Year’s in Nats nation. Whatever else might have been going on in the world and our individual lives over the year that is now coming to a close, we will look back on 2019 with delight as we recall the way the Nationals’ refusal to give up made hearts and pride swell in the District, Northern Virginia and the Maryland suburbs.

The “Nationals Classics” lineup over the next seven days includes many pivotal games in the campaign that led the Nats to their first World Series championship, but MASN will also be bringing you thrilling moments from previous seasons dating back to 2014.

So as we welcome the 2020s and look forward to the start of spring training, raise a glass to Nationals past and present who made the team what it is today.

Thursday, Dec. 26 - 11 a.m. - The Nats missed the playoffs in 2018, finishing just above .500 and in second place in the National League East. But even as the team endured a disappointing season, it saw many reasons for optimism about the future (well founded, as it turns out). Chief among them: Juan Soto, who seemed to come out of nowhere to achieve star status that year. On Sept. 11, 2018, the rookie went 3-for-4 with four RBIs, hitting a double and a two-run homer in the Nats’ 10-inning, 7-6 win over the Phillies.

Thursday, Dec. 26 - 8 p.m. - On the way to a second NL East crown in 2014, the Nats prevailed in an April 9 slugfest with the division-rival Marlins. The Nats clawed their way back from an early 5-0 deficit on the strength of 2-for-4 days from Denard Span, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper. Jayson Werth put the home team over the top in the eighth with a grand slam that finished the scoring in the 10-7 Nationals win.

Friday, Dec. 27 - 6:30 p.m. - On April 21, 2015 at Nationals Park, Cardinals batters had 13 hits and drew four walks. The Nats notched eight hits and six free passes. But the score made the contest look like a pitchers’ duel. The game was tied 1-1 in the 10th when Yunel Escobar ended it with a two-out homer.

Saturday, Dec. 28 - 10 a.m. - The 2019 season clearly was a charmed one for the Nats, but the mojo at work in this one was downright eerie. Down six runs after a ninth-inning bullpen implosion, the Nationals could’ve mailed it in from there and no one would have thought ill of them for it. Instead, Sept. 3, 2019 marked a Nats comeback that might have been even more miraculous than the ones that took place during their playoff run in the weeks to come. The Mets sent Paul Sewald to the mound for mop-up duty in the bottom half, but he got only one out. After Trea Turner doubled and Asdrúbal Cabrera and Rendon singled in succession, New York turned to lefty Luis Avilán to face Soto. It didn’t help. Soto singled, and Mets skipper Mickey Callaway went to his closer, Edwin Díaz. That didn’t help, either. Zimmerman doubled in Cabrera and Rendon, and Kurt Suzuki sent the Nats Park crowd into a frenzy with a walk-off three-run homer.

Saturday, Dec. 28 - 8 p.m. - Zimmerman, of course, has had more than his share of walk-off hits. The 11th of his career came on Aug. 22, 2018 in an 8-7 victory over the Phillies. The Nats trailed by a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and Harper and Rendon went down on fly balls. But Soto stroked a liner to right that went for a double off Seranthony Domínguez. Zimmerman then homered to bring in Soto and himself and bring the game to a close. Harper went 3-for-5, and Wilmer Difo tripled and doubled.

Sunday, Dec. 29 - 6:30 p.m. - He would be the World Series MVP and then sign a contract that was, briefly, the most lucrative ever for a pitcher. But Stephen Strasburg also enjoyed a milestone in midseason, earning his 100th career win as the Nats rallied to beat the White Sox on June 4, 2019. It wasn’t the right-hander’s most dominant effort, as he gave up five runs on five hits including a home run from Yoán Moncada. But his teammates picked him up, particularly Rendon, who drove in five runs during a 2-for-4 evening.

Monday, Dec. 30 - 6:30 p.m. - During the exploratory period of his recent free agency, Strasburg reportedly talked with the Yankees. It’s fortunate he was able to come to terms to stay in D.C. not just because he’s central to the Nats’ success, but because it would have been a waste for him to go to the American League. As pitchers go, Strasburg’s pretty handy with the bat. Exhibit A: the Nationals’ 13-4 win over the Braves on July 18, 2019. He pitched well enough to win, but also helped his own cause at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a home run and five RBIs against the Braves. That dinger, of course, meant the stoic righty had to do a dugout dance. That alone makes this appointment television.

Tuesday, Dec. 31 - 7 p.m. - Heading into the day’s play on Sept. 24, 2019, the Nats were not yet assured of a wild card berth. The Nationals and Phillies, originally scheduled to play a four-game series at Nationals Park, would play a doubleheader that day to make up for a rainout. The Nats would win every one of those five games, pulling down the shade on their division rivals’ dim playoff hopes while cementing their own. In the nightcap of the Tuesday twinbill, Turner’s sixth-inning slam off Jared Hughes helped get the home crowd a 6-5 win.

Wednesday, Jan. 1 - 9 a.m. - The overhead windup, the grunt, the head thrown earthward, and then the stroll around the mound while his teammates throw the un-batted ball around the infield. We’ve seen it nearly 2,700 times over the storied career of Max Scherzer. On July 27, 2018, Scherzer became just the fourth pitcher in major league history to have seven seasons of 200 or more strikeouts. He recorded 11 that night in Miami, allowing just one run on three hits and a walk over eight innings. The Marlins were still in the game until the eighth, when the Nats jumped on Javy Guerra - whom the Nats would land on a waiver claim the following May - for five runs.

Wednesday, Jan. 1 - 3 p.m. - In case you missed the “Nationals Classics” telecast the previous day, MASN offers a repeat. Heck, even if you did see it, maybe you’d like to watch Turner and the Nats tromp on the Phillies one more time. That never really gets old, does it?

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