The offseason now in progress has certainly proved eventful. The Nationals basked in the glow of their World Series title for just a moment, then turned their attention to the problem of defending their crown. Repeating as champs became all the more problematic when Anthony Rendon left D.C. for sunny California, but the Nats brought Howie Kendrick, Asdrúbal Cabrera and Daniel Hudson back into the fold while adding reliever Will Harris, veteran infielder Starlin Castro and slugger Eric Thames.
Turning to the wider world of Major League Baseball, the Astros, Red Sox and Mets have jettisoned their managers - the latter before he’d filled out his first lineup card - in the wake of a scandal over electronic sign-stealing.
As much as we’re all looking forward to spring training, it might seem anti-climactic.
But no matter. “Nationals Classics” is here to remind us all that the real excitement happens between the white lines. And the telecasts on tap for the coming week provide some prime examples. You’ll see a Nats pitcher fulfilling a dream, a marathon win with a wild finish, and two of baseball’s biggest names going toe to toe.
So forget that it’s still January and lose yourself in these looks back at Nats baseball of the not-too-distant past.
Monday, Jan. 27 - 7 p.m. - By time the regular season wrapped up on Sept. 28, 2014, the Nats had smoked the competition, and would finish 17 games in front of the Braves and Mets in the National League East. But that didn’t mean starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann would be mailing it in against the Marlins. The right-hander tossed a no-hitter, the first for both him and the franchise. Ian Desmond’s solo homer in the second inning provided the only run of the game.
Tuesday, Jan. 28 - 9 a.m. - The Nationals in 2016 likewise won the division with room to spare, due in part to a 16-7 April. One of the wins came on the 24th of that first month of the season in the wild finale of an interleague series with the visiting Twins. Bryce Harper tied the score 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth with a leadoff homer to send the game to extra innings. Minnesota’s Miguel Sanó singled to bring in Eduardo Núñez in the 15th, and with the bullpen wearing thin, Nationals manager Dusty Baker was painted into a corner in the bottom half. With the Nats down to their final out and Danny Espinosa at second, Baker left Oliver Pérez - who had struck out Max Kepler to end the top half - in the game to bunt. But catcher John Ryan Murphy muffed his throw, allowing the tying run to score. That set up Chris Heisey’s walk-off home run leading off the Nats 16th.
Wednesday, Jan. 29 - 1 p.m. - Midway through their fourth NL East-winning season, the Nationals went to Anaheim, Calif., for a July 18, 2017 showdown between baseball’s two hottest young stars. Bryce Harper announced his presence to the Southern California crowd right away with a first-inning homer, but as if following a Hollywood script, Mike Trout answered with a dinger of his own in the home half. Trout would get credit for a second RBI on his groundout in the ninth, but Harper took round one, going 4-for-4 as the Nationals won 4-3.