Pitchers and catchers report in another month, and before you know it, West Palm Beach will again be filled with the sounds of cracking bats and dugout chatter as the Nationals prepare to defend their World Series title. At the same time, 29 other teams will reconvene in Florida and Arizona with notions of knocking the Nats off their perch atop the major leagues.
Especially motivated will be the Marlins, Mets and the 2019 National League East champion Braves. And then there’s that club just up Interstate 95 in Pennsylvania. The Phillies’ proximity - not to mention that they lured away the Nationals’ star right fielder with a monster contract last year - has bred a unique sort of hostility in Nats Nation.
With that in mind, MASN takes great pleasure in serving up an extra helping of Phillies whuppings in this week’s “Nationals Classics.” Mr. Walk-Off accounts for two of them, and Ryan Zimmerman also figures prominently in other Nationals wins you’ll relive over the next seven days. The vanquished include the Brewers, Cubs, Dodgers, Mets and even the Yankees in an interleague scuffle.
So grab a cheesesteak and settle in. Youse are gonna love this.
Thursday, Jan. 16 - 9 a.m. - Wins were tough to come by for the Nats in 2009, but they got a big one on July 27 that year, thanks in large part to right fielder Josh Willingham. Twice he came to the plate at Miller Park in Milwaukee with the bases loaded that night, and he homered both times, collecting eight RBIs as the Nationals topped the Brewers 14-6.
Thursday, Jan. 16 - 7 p.m. - The Phillies won the NL East in 2010, but the Nats took a series from them in Washington at the end of July. On the last day of the month, the home team trailed by a run going into the bottom of the ninth. With two on and one out, Zimmerman hit a walk-off three-run homer off Brad Lidge.
Friday, Jan. 17 - 6:30 p.m. - Zimmerman tormented the Phillies again on Aug. 22, 2018. Again the Nats trailed by a run going into the home ninth. Again Zimmerman hit one deep, plating Juan Soto before scoring the winning run himself on the round-tripper that gave the Nationals an 8-7 victory.
Saturday, Jan. 18 - 8 p.m. - Daniel Murphy accounted for most of the Nats’ offense on Aug. 4, 2017 at Wrigley Field. The second baseman homered in the first with Howie Kendrick aboard to give the visitors an early lead. Murphy took Kyle Hendricks over the wall a second time to lead off the sixth, and Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle kept the Cubs off the board in the eighth and ninth in a 4-2 Nationals win.
Sunday, Jan. 19 - 3:30 p.m. - In the Nationals’ sophomore season in Washington, a fresh-faced Zimmerman hit a walk-off homer to beat the Yankees. Nine years later, he got ‘em again. On May 19, 2015, the Yankees and Nationals combined for 18 hits. Zimmerman had just one of them, but it decided the contest in the 10th inning. Andrew Miller sandwiched two strikeouts around a base on balls to Yunel Escobar, then took aim at Zimmerman. But the lanky lefty got behind and Zimmerman took him deep on a 3-1 pitch to give the Nats an 8-6 win.
Monday, Jan. 20 - 9 a.m. - Wilson Ramos came off the bench to hit the game-winner against the Phillies on May 4, 2012, singling off Michael Schwimer with two out in the 11th inning to bring Steve Lombardozzi home to secure a 4-3 victory. Starter Stephen Strasburg struck out four and gave up just three hits in six innings.
Monday, Jan. 20 - 4 p.m. - In 2015, in his first season after he came to the Nats as a free agent, Max Scherzer threw the first no-hitter of his major league career. In his final appearance that same season, he got his second. On Oct. 3, 2015, Scherzer struck out 17 Mets batters - nine of them in succession - as the Nats won 2-0 at Citi Field.
Tuesday, Jan. 21 - 12 p.m. - The home team has the hammer, the advantage of batting in the bottom of the inning. That edge becomes even more significant once a game gets to extra innings and the home club can grab an instant win. But on June 19, 2013, Ian Desmond took the air out of Citizens Bank Park in the top half of the 11th with a grand slam that turned a nailbiter into a foregone conclusion. The Phillies managed just one baserunner after that and the Nats grabbed a 6-2 road win.
Wednesday, Jan. 22 - 9 a.m. - Adam LaRoche had himself a day on Sept. 3, 2014 at Dodger Stadium, and he didn’t even get into the game until the ninth inning. With Kenley Jansen in to close with the Dodgers up 2-0 and Bryce Harper aboard for the Nats, skipper Matt Williams brought the left-handed-hitting LaRoche in for Tyler Moore. Jansen blew his save chance as LaRoche homered on a 2-1 pitch. Denard Span singled to bring in the go-ahead run, but Andre Eithier scored on an error in the home half to send the game to extras. The Nationals took the lead again in the 12th when LaRoche hit a two-RBI single. Carl Crawford tied the score again with a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning. In the 14th, LaRoche got his fifth RBI of the day on a fielder’s choice. Asdrúbal Cabrera (in his first go-round with the Nats) followed with a two-run homer that put the visitors on top for good.