‘Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house ... the sets were tuned to MASN for lots of great baseball action on “Nationals Classics.”
OK, so it’s not Clement Moore. It’s not even Dinty Moore. But clunky poetry aside, if you’re holed up for a low-key holiday season, there’s nothing like a few ghosts of Natsmas past to brighten up your yuletide.
You’ll see a couple of Nationals stars when they were mere lads announcing their presence in a very un-Tiny-Tim-like fashion. You’ll watch Nats pitchers get as tight-fisted with opposing offenses as Scrooge is with his coal. You’ll marvel as Nats batters make like that Grim Reaper dude.
OK, it’s not Dickens either.
And I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, “Don’t miss Nationals Classics!”
Thursday, Dec. 24 - 9 a.m. - It hardly seems possible, but it’s now been seven and a half years since Bryce Harper was a rookie with the Nationals. June 5, 2012 proved a memorable day in his career as the then-19-year-old smacked a liner to left to plate Jesús Flores and snag his first walk-off hit as the Nats came from behind in the 12th to stun the Mets 7-6. Harper kept busy on defense, too, starting in center field, moving over to right in the eighth, then back to center in the 11th.
Thursday, Dec. 24 - 6 p.m. - Another 19-year-old showed up in a big way on Sept. 11, 2018 as Juan Soto’s two home runs helped the Nats complete a doubleheader sweep in Philadelphia. Going 3-for-4 - he also doubled that day - the Childish Bambino had four RBIs in the nightcap to power the visitors’ 7-6 victory.
Friday, Dec. 25 - 11:30 a.m. - With two primed and well-rested aces going at it, opening day can provide fertile ground for a pitchers’ duel, and such was the case on April 1, 2013 at Nationals Park. Ricky Nolasco was sharp for the Marlins, allowing just three hits over six innings. But two of those hits were solo shots from Harper, and that would be all the Nats would need. Stephen Strasburg surrendered just three hits in seven innings of work and retired 19 consecutive batters as the home team notched a 2-0 win.
Friday, Dec. 25 - 7 p.m. - The Nationals enjoyed a red-letter day on Sept. 28, 2014 as Jordan Zimmermann recorded the first no-hitter in franchise history. Playing at home against the Marlins in the final game of the regular season before heading to the playoffs as National League East champs, the Nats touched up Henderson Alvarez III for 11 hits, but were only able to score once. Ian Desmond had the RBI. Only Harper had more than one base knock. The game came in at just over two hours.
Saturday, Dec. 26 - 4 p.m. - When Max Scherzer recalls June 20, 2015, he probably smiles ruefully. Having not allowed a single baserunner for 8 2/3 innings, he hit José Tabata with a 2-2 pitch. Ah, well, nobody’s perfect. Nats cruised to a 6-0 win. Tyler Moore and Harper each had a pair of RBIs. Stay tuned for another Scherzer no-no from that season.
Saturday, Dec. 26 - 6:30 p.m. - Scherzer struck out nine straight in another dominating performance on Oct. 3, 2015, this one in the second game of a twinbill with the Mets, that year’s division winners. The intense right-hander fanned 17 as the Nats won 2-0. Wilson Ramos’ sac fly and Dan Uggla’s solo homer cashed in the runs.
Sunday, Dec. 27 - 1 p.m. - Yunel Escobar’s home run in the 10th inning broke a 1-1 tie to end the Nats’ tilt with the Cardinals on April 21, 2015. Nationals starter Gio González pitched six scoreless innings and it looked like the home team would win a squeaker in regulation. But two singles and a wild pitch cost Drew Storen a save and González a victory. That honor would go Aaron Barrett, who worked around a leadoff single in the top of the 10th.
Sunday, Dec. 27 - 11:30 p.m. - The 26,000 at Nationals Park were in for a wild ride on July 17, 2012. Moore broke a scoreless tie in the fifth with a solo homer, and Steve Lombardozzi’s RBI double in the eighth set the Nats up for a tidy win over the Mets. But Tyler Clippard immediately got himself into trouble in the ninth, giving up two singles to start the inning. With one out, pinch-hitter Jordany Valdespin sent Clippard’s 1-2 pitch over the wall in center, and suddenly the Nats were on the wrong side of the scoreboard. In the ninth, Mike Morse and Adam LaRoche both singled with one out. Moore whiffed, but Danny Espinosa plated pinch-runner Desmond to force extras. Josh Thole’s double brought home Daniel Murphy in the Mets 10th, and again the home team had its backs to the wall. The Nats evened the score once more when Harper hit an RBI triple in the bottom half. Two intentional walks later, he was forced out at home. But then with Moore at the plate, Pedro Beato threw a wild pitch that allowed Ryan Zimmerman to score the game-winner.
Monday, Dec. 28 - 9 a.m. - Merry Clinchmas! The Nationals salted away another division title on Sept. 16, 2014 with a 3-0 victory in Atlanta. Desmond’s two-run dinger in the sixth put the Nats in the driver’s seat, and he doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the ninth to provide insurance. Tanner Roark pitched seven innings, giving up only five hits. Clippard and Storen, respectively, got credit for a hold and a save.
Tuesday, Dec. 29 - 9 a.m. - Jayson Werth’s two-out RBI singles in the seventh and ninth innings kept the Nationals alive in Philadelphia on June 19, 2013. In the 11th, Desmond blew the game wide open with a grand slam off Michael Stutes as the visitors prevailed 6-2. González struck out 11 in seven innings while allowing just two hits. Rafael Soriano pitched the 11th inning to obtain the save.
Tuesday, Dec. 29 - 11:30 p.m. - Things were looking grim for the Nationals on April 23, 2014. Leading off the bottom of the ninth with the Nats down 4-1 to the Angels, Jose Lobaton found himself in an 0-2 hole. But then something clicked and Lobaton yanked an Ernesto Frieri pitch over the right field fence. Frieri struck out Zach Walters swinging, but then Denard Span singled, Anthony Rendon walked, and Werth plated them both with a double. That was it for Frieri, and Halos skipper Mike Scioscia brought Fernando Salas in from the bullpen. He’d only throw one pitch, though. Adam LaRoche lined it into left center to bring home Werth and end the contest in a 5-4 Nationals win.