As miserable as it can be in most of the country, weather-wise, February is normally a joyous time for baseball fans, as it means the start of spring training in the sunny climes of Florida and Arizona.
But as Bill Murray experienced on film one February, baseball could be having, in the words often attributed to an oft-quoted Yankees catcher, deja vu all over again. Just as it did last year, COVID-19 has made the schedules for spring training and the regular season anything but a sure thing.
If Major League Baseball has its way (the MLB Players Association is reportedly less than pleased with the proposal) spring training could be delayed for a month as public health authorities continue working to get vaccines into arms and get a handle on the coronavirus pandemic.
Fortunately, you can always find baseball on MASN, if not via live game broadcasts, then through your hometown team’s greatest hits on “Nationals Classics.” These games will seem familiar, of course, as they are reruns, after all. But they’re the sort of memories you’ll enjoy experiencing again.
Thursday, Feb. 4 - 3:30 p.m. - Reds starter Homer Bailey and Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann kept things moving along at a crisp pace on April 26, 2013, setting down opposing batters with little difficulty. But Zimmermann was the better of the two that day, with Xavier Paul’s leadoff single in the third inning accounting for the only Cincinnati hit. In the fourth, Bryce Harper tripled and Jayson Werth’s base hit brought him home in the Nats’ 1-0 win.
Friday, Feb. 5 - 7:30 p.m. - Zimmermann’s no-hit bid in the above-referenced game from the previous season fizzled early, but on the very last day of the regular season in 2014, the Nats starter got ‘er done, becoming the first pitcher in franchise history to toss a no-hitter. It was another 1-0 squeaker for the Nats, with Ian Desmond’s second inning solo homer providing the margin of victory and Steven Souza Jr’s sprawling grab cementing the win.
Saturday, Feb. 6 - 2 p.m. - The Nats, as you might recall, grabbed the brass ring, won all the marbles, (put your own old-timey expression here) in 2019, and Max Scherzer led the way. The veteran ace was hot for much of the summer, and July 6 provided as good an example as any. The Royals managed only four hits and a base on balls for the seven innings Scherzer was on the hill, and he struck out 11. The visitors didn’t fare any better against Tanner Rainey or Matt Grace, and the Nationals cruised to a 6-0 shutout. Kurt Suzuki and Juan Soto each drove in two runs, Suzuki on a homer in the second.
Saturday, Feb. 6 - 8 p.m. - Football linemen dream of scooping up a fumble and taking off like a running back for big yardage. Scherzer enjoyed a baseball equivalent on April 9, 2018, doing something pitchers aren’t normally asked to do - indeed, are actively discouraged from trying - stealing a base. He also displayed his customary level of excellence at his real job, pitching a two-hit, complete-game shutout against the Braves. Scherzer’s swipe of second, by the way, proved inconsequential. Howie Kendrick’s two-run double in the first inning provided all of the scoring in the game.
Sunday, Feb. 7 - 11 p.m. - After the fast-moving, pitching-dominated contests described above, here’s a palate-cleanser from Sept. 3, 2014. The Nats were in Los Angeles wrapping up a three-game set with the Dodgers and - ain’t it always the way? - getaway day turned into a 14-inning slog. Adam LaRoche was supposed to have the day off, but came off the bench in the ninth with Harper aboard and the Nats trailing by a pair. LaRoche’s home run tied it, and Denard Span later got an RBI single to put the Nats ahead. Werth’s error in right allowed the Dodgers to send the game to extra innings. In the 12th, LaRoche singled with the bases loaded to bring in two runs, but a Carl Crawford homer in the bottom half tied the score again. In the 14th, LaRoche hit an RBI grounder and Asdrúbal Cabrera’s three-run homer put the visitors on top for good this time.
Monday, Feb. 8 - 6 p.m. - Not yet 20 at the time, Soto enjoyed a big day on Sept. 11, 2018, homering twice in the second game of a doubleheader sweep of the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The second shot came in the bottom of the 10th inning and proved the difference in the Nats’ 7-6 triumph.
Tuesday, Feb. 9 - 3 p.m. - Burly slugger Adam Dunn had himself a day on May 24, 2009, driving in a total of six runs on two homers - one a grand slam - as the Nats downed the visiting Orioles 8-5. Catcher Wil Nieves and starting pitcher Shairon Martis had the other two RBIs for the Nationals.
Tuesday, Feb. 9 - 11:30 p.m. - Fans for both teams had something to cheer about when the Nationals and Giants were finished their Aug. 7, 2007 clash at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Giants fans remember that date as the night Barry Bonds broke the career record for home runs held since the 1970s by Henry Aaron. Bonds and teammate Bengie Molina both went deep in that game, but the Nats got homers from Felipe López, Austin Kearns and Brian Schneider on the way to an 8-6 win.
Wednesday, Feb. 10 - 2:30 p.m. - The Mets had scored a run in the 10th at Nationals Park on July 17, 2012, but Harper’s RBI triple in the home half tied the score at 4-4. With Harper at third, New York elected to issue intentional walks to both Ryan Zimmerman and Desmond. The ploy worked, initially. LaRoche grounded to first and the Mets got the force on Harper at the plate. They then brought Pedro Beato to the mound to face Tyler Moore. A wild pitch on Beato’s 1-2 delivery allowed Zimmerman to come home and the Nats Park faithful to celebrate.