Can you hold on for one more week?
The long delay of the start of the 2020 season and the resulting longer-than-anticipated wait for the raising of the championship banner at Nationals Park make the 2019 season seem like a very distant memory of a much simpler time. But in just seven days, baseball finally, finally returns as the Yankees come to South Capitol Street to kick off the oddest season in the sport’s long history.
While we don’t yet know exactly what baseball in the 2020s will be like, we do know that the Nationals had several very good years (and one spectacular one) in the 2010s. This week’s “Nationals Classics” offerings bring you diamond action from across the decade, from the lean year of 2010, through the string of playoff seasons and into the comeback-packed, World Series-winning season of 2019.
So while you’re crossing off in your calendar the last few days leading up to July 23, enjoy a review of some of the exciting moments from the past 10 years’ worth of Nationals baseball.
Thursday, July 16 - 9 a.m. - With the East Coast teams in both leagues staying in the East for the shortened season that’s now on the horizon, the Nationals will be seeing a lot of the Orioles in August. In this May 23, 2010 matchup against the Nats’ neighbors to the north, Josh Willingham hit a one-out home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Nationals a 4-3 victory and a series win over the Birds. The Nats’ other three runs came on Roger Bernadina’s bases-loaded triple in the first.
Friday, July 17 - 7 p.m. - May 24, 2019 was a tough day for the pitching staffs of both the Nats and the Marlins. A game that ran just shy of four hours saw 22 runners cross the plate, but 12 of them were Nationals as Kyle Barraclough picked up a win despite giving up two hits on 18 pitches. Four different Nats enjoyed multi-RBI nights, but the big blow came from Juan Soto, who jacked a three-run homer in the eighth to put the home team in front. Matt Adams followed with a solo shot. Jorge Alfaro homered for the Fish in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough as the Nats prevailed 12-10.
Saturday, July 18 - noon - Four years ago on this date, Bryce Harper emerged as the winner in a showdown in Anaheim, Calif., with another of the game’s brightest young stars, Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Both Harper and Trout homered in the first inning, but Harper would go on to have a 4-for-4 night as the Nats logged a 4-3 win. Anthony Rendon and Adam Lind had two and three hits, respectively. Starter Edwin Jackson got credit for the victory, working seven innings.
Saturday, July 18 - 3 p.m. - The second half of a “Nationals Classics” doubleheader brings you a game, from exactly a year ago, in which Stephen Strasburg not only pitched 5 1/3 innings but also did more than his part at the plate (you won’t be seeing that this year, with both leagues employing the designated hitter in the pandemic-shortened season that begins next week). Strasburg picked up five RBIs while going 3-for-3 with a three-run homer as the Nats cruised to a 13-4 victory.
Sunday, July 19 - 4 p.m. - With the Nationals up 2-0 over the Reds going into the ninth inning on April 12, 2012, the stage was set for Brad Lidge to pick up a save. But a one-out base on balls, a Scott Rolen double and an intentional walk loaded the bases for Ryan Ludwick, who singled to bring in the tying runs. The Nats threatened in the bottom half, but a double play grounder sent the contest to extra innings. Alfredo Simón came on for the visitors in the 10th and hit Ryan Zimmerman with his very first pitch. Simón’s 16th and final offering of the afternoon missed the mark badly, and Zimmerman scampered home on the wild pitch to score the game-winning run.
Sunday, July 19 - 11:30 p.m. - If you’re a night owl and missed Thursday morning’s broadcast, here’s your chance to catch the Nats’ May 23, 2010 walk-off victory over the Orioles.
Monday, July 20 - 9 a.m. - Ian Desmond’s grand slam in the 11th inning propelled the Nats past the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on June 19, 2013. Gio González struck out 11 while giving up two runs on just two hits over seven innings. Jayson Werth had a couple of RBI singles as the Nats grabbed a 6-2 win.
Monday, July 20 - 7 p.m. - The Nats put in a long day at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 3, 2014, but left Los Angeles with an 8-5 win. With the Nationals facing a 2-0 deficit, Harper led off the ninth with a single. Skipper Matt Williams brought Adam LaRoche in to pinch-hit for Tyler Moore to face Kenley Jansen, and LaRoche’s homer tied the score. Denard Span’s RBI single put the Nats up a run, but the Dodgers got that one back on an error in the home half. LaRoche hit a two-run single in the 12th, but again the Dodgers were able to tie the score. LaRoche again came to bat with the bases loaded in the 14th and his fielder’s choice grounder brought Desmond home for LaRoche’s fifth RBI on a day he was supposed to have off. LaRoche then scored on Asdrúbal Cabrera’s homer.
Tuesday, July 21 - 3:30 p.m. - The Nationals engineered a boatload of amazing comebacks last year, but they weren’t unprecedented. Take this beauty from April 23, 2014. With the Angels visiting Nats Park, Trout singled in an insurance run in the ninth to put the visitors up 4-1. Jose Lobaton jumped on Ernesto Frieri’s 0-2 pitch to lead off the home ninth with a home run. Frieri’s outing ended later that inning with Werth’s two-run double. Mike Scioscia summoned Fernando Salas to face LaRoche, who took Salas’ first pitch to left-center to bring home Werth and the game-winner.
Wednesday, July 22 - 7 p.m. - Starting pitchers Strasburg and Dallas Keuchel gave up all the runs at Nationals Park on June 21, 2019 as the Nats edged the Braves 4-3. Soto doubled and tripled, and Victor Robles also hit a three-bagger. Check out the video below to see Robles come from somewhere in Prince George’s County to make a sliding grab of Dansby Swanson’s dying quail and end the game.