#TBT to “Nationals Classics”: Youngsters shine

Our long national nightmare continues, and we continue to go without the national pastime. We take comfort in knowing that our baseball heroes are stepping up to the plate to help the heros who are giving their all for our communities, but as we endure a public health crisis and steel ourselves for its economic repurcussions, we can’t help but wish we could at least take in a ballgame.

As we’ve been reminding you throughout the unpleasantness, you indeed can catch some exciting baseball action on MASN, albeit repeats from seasons past.

Before the Nationals reached the pinnacle of Major League Baseball last October, they had multiple seasons in which they had winning clubs, and even in years when they didn’t, there were moments of glory that hinted at the greatness to come. This week’s crop of “Nationals Classics” includes a couple of episodes that feature some foreshadowing from an elite pitcher and a premier infielder who showed promise early and then delivered.

You’ll want to postpone any video conferences you’ve got scheduled for today, especially, as “Nationals Classics” is an all-day affair. But don’t forget the rest of the slate. Staying at home isn’t all bad, y’know.

Thursday, April 23 - 9 a.m. - The 2016 season would be another that ended in frustration as the Nationals again stubbed their toe in the playoffs, but on Sept. 24, a 6-1 win over the Pirates clinched the Nats’ third National League East title in five years, and fans could see nothing but blue skies. A Josh Bell solo would account for the only run for the home team at PNC Park. The visiting Nationals didn’t need to go yard, as Stephen Drew’s single drove in two in the three-run first inning, and the Bucs committed errors on consecutive plays to put two across in the three-run fourth.

Thursday, April 23 - 4 p.m. - The Nationals took Stephen Strasburg with the very first pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, and it didn’t take long to see why. After half a season in the minors, Strasburg was ready for prime time and he did not disappoint, striking out 14 in his first major league start, a 5-2 win over the Pirates in Washington. The offense was powered by home runs from Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Wilingham on June 8, 2010.

Thursday, April 23 - 11:30 p.m. - Now it seems like Trea Turner has been the Nats’ shortstop forever. But longtime fans will remember Turner using his speed to patrol center field in his early days in the bigs. That was the position Turner, still a rookie, played on Sept. 9, 2016 when the Nationals hosted the Phillies. His homer with two out in the ninth inning broke a 4-4 tie and gave the Nats an intstant win over their NL East rivals.

Saturday, April 25 - 9 p.m. - Jayson Werth projected a commanding presence, and it was on full display in an early-season scrap with the Marlins on April 9, 2014. With the Nats trailing the Fish 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth, Marlins right-hander Carlos Mármol hit Nate McLouth and gave up a bunt single to Denard Span. Both runners advanced on Derek Dietrich’s throwing error, and Mármol intentionally walked Anthony Rendon to load the bases. Werth planted Mármol’s 0-1 pitch over the fence in left center for a grand slam and Rafael Soriano held on to to save a 10-7 Nats win.

Sunday, April 26 - noon - There’s no denying the Angels acquired a winner when they lured Rendon away from the Nats after he became a free agent this past offseason. If you need a reminder, watch this one. The Nationals third baseman hit three home runs and collected 10 RBIs as the Nationals pantsed the Mets 23-5.

Sunday, April 26 - 11:30 p.m. - The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft (and 2019 World Series MVP) encountered some injury problems as he made his way in the majors, but ultimately he lived up to the hype. On May 2, 2019, Strasburg made it to 1,500 strikeouts quicker than any picther in history, recording nine Ks as the Nationals edged the Cardinals 2-1.

Monday, April 27 - 4:30 p.m. - Major League Baseball boasts some incredibly gifted pitchers, craftsmen who dismantle hitters with precision and smarts. And then there’s Max Scherzer, who above all else is a ballplayer, a gamer who can beat you in ways you never even thought of. His steal of second base in the seventh inning ultimately did not figure in the Nats’ 2-0 win on April 9, 2018, but come on. How often do you see a pitcher swipe a bag? Oh, yeah, the veteran right-hander shut out the Braves on two hits while striking out 10 and going the distance.

Monday, April 27 - 11:59 p.m. - In their first year in the nation’s capital, the Nationals did better than most expected, finishing dead even at 81-81, and in mid-April spent a glorious eight days atop the NL East. Hosting the Diamondbacks on April 17 of that inaugural 2005 campaign, the Nats rode a six-run seventh inning to a 7-3 win at RFK Stadium. Nick Johnson’s two-RBI triple and José Vidro’s two-RBI single accounted for the lion’s share.

Tuesday, April 28 - 7 p.m. - The Nats reeled in another NL East crown in 2017 and hosted the Cubs for the first two games of the National League Division Series. After dropping Game 1 3-0, the Nationals sent lefty Gio González to the hill against southpaw Jon Lester. González surrendered just three runs on three hits in his five innings, but Oliver Pérez faced just one batter to earn the victory, inducing a double play grounder from Anthony Rizzo in the eighth. A two-run homer from Bryce Harper and a three-run shot from Zimmerman propelled the Nats to a 6-3 win that evened the series.

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