To say that 2020 has been sad, strange and unnerving is almost cliché now. But that doesn’t make it any less true. And with seven weeks left before the arrival of 2021, many of us have begun our countdown to New Year’s Day a little earlier than usual.
As we head toward what’s bound to be a long winter likely to bring a coronavirus surge, we all face a long list of morale-challenging circumstances. While it certainly includes much more impactful factors, the absence of baseball still has to be on that list for many of us.
The good folks of MASN can’t help to develop a COVID-19 vaccine or ensure an uninterrupted supply of toilet paper, but we can help to keep your spirits up by reliving exciting baseball as only the Nationals can play it. This week’s crop includes extra-inning thrillers, masterful performances by the Nats’ ace starters and even a couple of games from the lost season just concluded (don’t worry, the Nationals win them both).
So take a break from the news of the day and take a trip to the not-too-distant past to enjoy the exploits of your favorite ballclub with “Nationals Classics.”
Thursday, Nov. 12 - 9 a.m. - Even the casual baseball fan understands that under normal circumstances (i.e. not 2020), a major league season is not a sprint, but a marathon. Well, on April 24, 2016 the Nationals and Twins got an early-season training session in Washington. The visitors broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the eighth inning on (future National) Brian Dozier’s three-run homer. The Nats got two of those runs back on Wilson Ramos’ double in bottom half, but needed Bryce Harper’s leadoff homer in the ninth to send the game to extra innings. And boy, did they get ‘em. The contest went five more innings without a run crossing the plate for either side. Miguel Sanó’s single broke the 4-4 deadlock in the Twins’ favor in the 15th, but with two out in the home half, Danny Espinosa walked, stole second and later scampered home on a throwing error. With the score tied 5-5, Chris Heisey led off the bottom of the 16th with a shot to left center that gave the Nats a walk-off win.
Thursday, Nov. 12 - 7 p.m. - The 2020 season - in more ways than one - proved to be anything but the sort of title defense Nationals fans anticipated the year following their team’s improbable triumph. But even this disappointing year gave us some moments worth remembering. One of those came on Aug. 28, when Max Scherzer fanned 11 Red Sox as the Nats opened a three-game set at Fenway Park with a 10-2 win. Trea Turner went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, and Juan Soto, Howie Kendrick and Josh Harrison went yard in the blowout.
Saturday, Nov. 14 - 3 p.m. - In the middle game of a three-game sweep of the Pirates at Nationals Park, Scherzer thoroughly dominated as the home team cruised to a 6-0 win on June 20, 2015. The only blemish on an otherwise perfect game came with two out in the ninth, when Scherzer’s 2-2 offering hit pinch-hitter José Tabata. Harper hit the game’s only home run, and he and Tyler Moore each got credit for two RBIs.
Sunday, Nov. 15 - 1 p.m. - Stephen Strasburg pitched a nearly flawless game - allowing two hits and walking one batter while striking out 10 in eight innings - but the Nationals had to hold off a late Phillies rally and put another National League East title on ice on Sept. 10, 2017. Ryan Madson, however, did hold on for the save despite giving up two runs on three hits in the Nats’ 3-2 victory. Ben Lively went the distance for the Phils and took a tough loss in which he gave up six hits but struck out seven Nationals.
Sunday, Nov. 15 - 11:30 p.m. - Michael A. Taylor never quite blossomed into the hitter many had hoped for during his years in the Nats organization, but he sure seemed to get more than his share of big hits in big moments. On Sept. 4, 2015, Matt den Dekker’s two-out single in the ninth inning plated pinch-runner Turner to keep hope alive at Nationals Park. With the score tied 2-2, the home team got to work in the bottom of the 10th. Harper and Ryan Zimmerman both singled, bringing Taylor to the plate to pinch-hit for reliever Jonathan Papelbon. Taylor drove Brandon Cunniff’s 1-0 pitch over the wall in left-center to close the proceedings.
Monday, Nov. 16 - 7 p.m. - One of the myriad weird things about the 2020 season came to pass on July 29. With the pandemic raging and the Canadian government less than keen on having ballplayers traipsing back and forth across their border with the United States, the Toronto Blue Jays had to find a temporary home. They settled on the Buffalo, N.Y., digs of their Triple-A affiliate (which, like every other minor league team, couldn’t play any games at all this year). But the Jays couldn’t complete the work required to bring Sahlen Field up to major league standards by the time the revised 2020 schedule had them playing their home opener. So instead, the Nats, in their home ballpark, donned their road grays and batted in the top half of each inning. Starting pitchers Nate Pearson and Scherzer and their respective bullpen mates held the opposing offense scoreless until the top of the 10th. With Emilio Bonifacio placed on second base to start the inning, Jays right-hander Shun Yamaguchi walked the first two batters, but then struck out the next two. Adam Eaton hit a dribbler but beat Yamaguchi’s throw to first to bring home Bonifacio and keep the inning alive for Asdrúbal Cabrera, who hit a three-run triple. The Nats held on in the “home” half to seal a 4-0 win.
Tuesday, Nov. 17 - 9 a.m. - The Nats won a wild one at Chavez Ravine on Sept. 3, 2014, beating the Dodgers 8-5 in 14 innings. Down 2-0 entering the ninth, the Nationals rallied to tie the score on Adam LaRoche’s pinch-hit, two-run homer. They took a one-run lead on Denard Span’s two-out RBI single, but Jayson Werth’s error on Justin Turner’s fly to right in the bottom half prevented the Nats from winning in regulation. LaRoche drove in two more runs with a base hit to left in the 12th, but again the Dodgers kept themselves alive, this time on Carl Crawford’s two-run dinger. LaRoche notched his fifth RBI in three at-bats with a fielder’s choice grounder in the 14th, and Cabrera (then in his first stint with the Nats) hit a two-run shot to put the visitors on top for good.
Tuesday, Nov. 17 - 11:30 p.m. - Harper was feelin’ it in the early part of the 2015 season, and on May 9, his sixth homer in three games gave the Nationals an instant 8-6 win over the Braves in the ninth inning. José Lobaton and Zimmerman also homered with runners aboard that Saturday as the Nationals continued a win streak that would reach five games.
Wednesday, Nov. 18 - 11 a.m. - The number 10 figured in this game in a couple of interesting ways. For one, it was the number of hits the Nats collected in this Aug. 21, 2014 tilt with the Diamondbacks at Nationals Park, even though the game turned out to be a 1-0 squeaker that Anthony Rendon won for the home team without the benefit of an RBI. Span hit a one-out single in the ninth inning, then stole second with Rendon at the plate. Rendon got credit for a single with his grounder to third, but Span scored on Jordan Pacheco’s throwing error, giving the Nats a walk-off win. The victory was the Nationals’ 10th straight, tying a franchise record.