Was any postseason retrospective ever more aptly titled than “Improbable”? The look back at the Nationals’ 2019 playoff run re-aired on MASN recently, reminding us just how odds-defying the team’s climb to the top was. Battling back to a playoff berth after teetering on the edge of oblivion in May, the Nats then had to come back against a dominant closer to win the wild card, survive two elimination games in the National League Division Series - coming back from a three-run deficit late in Game 5 - and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to prevail in a World Series in which the visiting team won each of the seven games.
Probably the least improbable aspect of the whole affair was the performance of World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg. He was, after all, the very first pick in the First-Year Player Draft of 2009 and a big reason the Nats were able to keep the faith over the bumpy road that was the 2019 season.
The MASN programming chefs have liberally peppered this week’s batch of “Nationals Classics” with the San Diego State product, including his take-control start in Game 6 of the Fall Classic. You’ll also catch division-clinching triumphs of prior seasons and other exploits of current and former Nationals. Feel-good moments abound, and we could all use some of those right about now, so settle back and enjoy “Nationals Classics.”
Thursday, June 4 - 9 a.m. - The Nationals sewed up their fourth National League East crown in six years on Sept. 10, 2017. In an eight-inning start at home against the Phillies, Strasburg extended his streak of scoreless innings to 29. Phils starter Ben Lively pitched a complete game, but Trea Turner tripled and homered as the Nats beat him 3-2.
Thursday, June 4 - 7 p.m. - The Mets were in for a world of hurt on April 30, 2017, with Anthony Rendon the chief bringer of pain. The third baseman went 6-for-6, homering three times and delivering 10 RBIs in the Nationals’ 23-5 shellacking of their division rivals. Matt Wieters had two longballs of his own.
Friday, June 5 - 12:30 p.m. - The 2019 season would bring the Nationals their first World Series championship, but heading into the day’s play on May 24, they looked as good as dead. Already at their 19-31 nadir, they trailed the Marlins 9-8 in the eighth at Nationals Park. But the Nats would go 1-0 that evening. Juan Soto homered with two aboard to put the home team ahead, and Matt Adams followed with a solo shot for insurance purposes. Sean Doolittle surrendered a leadoff homer in the ninth, but the Nats grabbed a 12-10 victory.
Saturday, June 6 - 8 p.m. - Cycling, anyone? Turner took his bat for a spin on April 25, 2017, hitting three singles, a double, a triple and a two-run homer for a total of seven RBIs as the Nats overcame the Rockies in a 15-12 slugfest. Daniel Murphy drove in five runs and had a triple of his own.
Sunday, June 7 - 11:30 a.m. - The Nats and Phillies tangled for 12 innings at RFK Stadium on Sept. 3, 2005. The visitors erased a 4-1 deficit in the ninth inning on back-to-back homers off Chad Cordero. Gary Majewski worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the 11th, and in the bottom of the 12th, Preston Wilson singled to drive in José Guillén to give the Nationals a 5-4 walk-off win.
Monday, June 8 - 1 p.m. - This one kicks off a tripleheader that stars Strasburg. Ten years ago to this very day, he demonstrated the prowess that made him the overall No. 1 draft pick of 2009, striking out 14 Pirates batters over seven innings as the Nats won 5-2. Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham all homered for the Nats.
Monday, June 8 - 4 p.m. - Strasburg blanked the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Oct. 11, 2017 to force a fifth game of the NLDS, giving up just three hits over seven innings while fanning 12. The Nats clung to a 1-0 lead most of the way, but got a grand slam from Michael A. Taylor in the eighth.
Monday, June 8 - 8 p.m. - The Nats faced down elimination in Houston on Oct. 29, 2019 as Strasburg won Game 6 of the World Series in a memorable 8 1/3-inning performance. The Nats got on the board first on Rendon’s RBI single, but the Astros gave Strasburg trouble early, scoring two runs in the bottom of the first on José Altuve’s sacrifice fly and a solo homer from Alex Bregman. Fifth-inning solos from Adam Eaton and Soto put the Nats back on top, and Rendon would pile on a two-run homer in the seventh and a three-run double in the ninth, setting up the all-the-marbles game the following night.
Wednesday, June 10 - 3:30 p.m. - In the 2014 season, the Nationals had sole possession of first place in the NL East from June 21 on, and secured the division title on Sept. 16 with a 3-0 win over the second-place Braves. Tanner Roark squared off for seven innings against Aaron Harang. Tyler Clippard pitched the eighth for a hold and Drew Storen the ninth for a save. Ian Desmond homered and later scored the Nats’ third run on a wild pitch.
Wednesday, June 10 - 7 p.m. - After missing the playoffs in 2015, the Nationals were back in business the following year, clinching their third NL East crown in five years on Sept. 24, 2016 with a 6-1 win in Pittsburgh. Reynaldo López’s 5 1/3 innings of relief got him credit for the victory. Bryce Harper and Stephen Drew each had a pair of RBIs.