Ranking the Nats’ 19 home playoff games, from best to worst

There’s a postseason game being played tonight in Washington. Er, Landover. But you get the idea.

Remarkably, this is only the fourth time the Washington Football Team is hosting a playoff game in the last three decades. It hasn’t won a home playoff game since its 27-13 victory over the Lions in the 1999 NFC wild card contest.

The Nationals, on the other hand, have hosted 19 postseason games since 2012. Yes, eight of those came in October 2019 alone, but even prior to the World Series run there were some memorable playoff games held on South Capitol Street.

So why not take this morning to revisit them all. Here’s one humble reporter’s ranking of the 19 postseason ballgames at Nationals Park, from best to worst ...

1. 2019 NL WILD CARD GAME
The most exhilarating moment in ballpark history: Juan Soto’s three-run single (plus error) off Josh Hader in the bottom of the eighth to beat the Brewers, 4-3, end the D.C. do-or-die-game curse and propel the Nats to the start of their championship journey.

2. 2019 NLCS GAME 4
The first pennant-clincher in franchise history had the ballpark delirious after a seven-run bottom of the first, then biting its nails the rest of the way as the Cardinals nearly pulled off another unthinkable comeback. No worries, Daniel Hudson closed out the 7-4 victory and for the first time a trophy was presented on a makeshift stage behind second base at Nationals Park.

3. 2012 NLDS GAME 4
Until 2019, this was the best game in Nats history. Jayson Werth’s epic walk-off homer on the 14th pitch of his at-bat against Lance Lynn gave his team a thrilling 2-1 victory over the Cardinals and forced Game 5 the following night. It was as much baseball jubilation as D.C. had experienced in generations. If only it had lasted more than 24 hours.

4. 2017 NLDS GAME 2
The Nats were in trouble, down 3-1 to the Cubs in the bottom of the eighth and in danger of falling behind 0-2 in the best-of-five series. Then Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman homered during a jaw-dropping, five-run rally that flipped the game into a 6-3 victory and made everyone believe this year might be different from the others. (Editor’s note: It wasn’t.)

5. 2019 NLDS GAME 4
It’s easy to forget how quickly the Nationals’ 2019 postseason came to ending after the incredible wild card game. They were facing elimination to the Dodgers on this rainy night and trailed early after Max Scherzer gave up a first-inning homer. But Zimmerman’s three-run blast highlighted a five-run fifth, and Scherzer settled down nicely to secure a 6-1 win and send both teams back to L.A. for the decisive Game 5.

Nats-Park-WS-G5-Night-Sidebar.jpg6. 2019 WORLD SERIES GAME 3
Yes, it was a loss. But it was the first World Series game played in the District in 95 years, and the energy and anticipation inside the park before first pitch was incredible as the Nationals attempted to do the unthinkable and take a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Astros. Then the game started, and all the air was sucked out of the place as Houston won 4-1.

7. 2019 NLCS GAME 3
The Nationals came home from St. Louis up 2-0 after brilliant pitching performances from Aníbal Sánchez and Scherzer. Then they got a 12-strikeout masterpiece from Stephen Strasburg, cruised to an 8-1 victory and left themselves one win away from a sweep for the pennant.

8. 2016 NLDS GAME 2
After the Nationals dropped Game 1 to the Dodgers in frustrating fashion, Game 2 was postponed by rain. It was worth the wait. Despite falling into an early hole, they rallied back to win 5-2, thanks in large part to Jose Lobaton’s three-run homer into a stiff wind on a day when it didn’t seem like anybody would be able to hit the ball out of the park.

9. 2019 WORLD SERIES GAME 4
After the letdown of the first Fall Classic game in D.C. in nearly a century, the Nats laid an even bigger egg the next night. They trailed the whole way, saw Patrick Corbin get knocked around by the Astros, continued to fail with runners in scoring position and ultimately were left to watch Fernando Rodney get blasted during an 8-1 loss that evened the series.

10. 2019 WORLD SERIES GAME 5
But wait, it got even worse the next night. Desperately needing a win to get the series back in control, the Nationals found out during the afternoon Scherzer couldn’t make his start because of neck spasms. The crowd tried to will Joe Ross to an unlikely pitching performance, but it wasn’t to be. Houston cruised to a 7-1 victory and flew home believing it was now in prime position to win the World Series.

11. 2014 NLDS GAME 1
Game 1s on South Capitol Street have not been kind to the Nationals, who are 0-3 in such series openers. This was maybe the least annoying of the bunch, a fairly lackluster 3-2 loss to the Giants that was notable for two reasons: 1) It was Strasburg’s postseason debut, and 2) Harper launched the first of his many titanic home runs off Hunter Strickland.

12. 2016 NLDS GAME 1
The opener of the Nationals’ first best-of-five against the Dodgers began in a fashion we’ve become used to: Scherzer giving up early home runs. The ace dug his team into a quick 4-0 hole before setting down. The lineup did score three runs off Clayton Kershaw but went just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position en route to a 4-3 loss.

13. 2019 NLDS GAME 3
Probably the least memorable game of the entire 2019 postseason. Sánchez pitched well for five innings, and Soto’s two-run homer sent the Nationals into the sixth leading 2-1. But Corbin’s first relief appearance of the month was a disaster. He retired only six of eight the batters he faced in the sixth, all of them eventually scoring as the Dodgers cruised to a 10-4 win.

14. 2017 NLDS GAME 1
Yet another uninspired Game 1 home loss, this time to the Cubs. Strasburg was great but surrendered two unearned runs in the sixth (via a rare Anthony Rendon error). The Nationals lineup was rendered impotent by Kyle Hendricks, who put only six men on base and faced only two batters with a runner in scoring position during a 3-0 Chicago victory.

15. 2012 NLDS GAME 3
The Nationals’ first home playoff game was an absolute dud. Edwin Jackson gave up four runs in five innings, the bullpen gave up four more the rest of the way and the lineup went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position during an 8-0 whitewashing at the hands of the Cardinals, the Nats’ second straight eight-run loss in a series that appeared to be slipping away.

16. 2014 NLDS GAME 2
Jordan Zimmermann was brilliant for 8 2/3 innings. Then Matt Williams walked from the dugout to the mound, and you know what happened next. About three hours, nine innings and a 20-degree temperature drop later, the Nationals suffered a 2-1 loss to the Giants in the second 18-inning game in postseason history (Astros-Braves in the 2005 NLDS). It was as miserable as a non-elimination game gets.

17. 2016 NLDS GAME 5
All three of the Nationals’ NLDS Game 5 losses were painful. This one, to the Dodgers, felt slightly less painful than the others. The Nats, to be sure, blew it. Up 1-0 in the seventh, Scherzer gave up a quick homer to Joc Pederson only to be pulled by Dusty Baker. The fabulous foursome of Marc Rzepczynski, Blake Treinen, Sammy Solís and Shawn Kelley then gave up three more runs during a disastrous inning. Despite all that, the Nationals had a golden opportunity to rally in the bottom of the ninth, with the tying run in scoring position and Daniel Murphy at the plate against surprise closer Kershaw. But Murphy just got under Kershaw’s pitch, popped it up and the Nats’ season ended with an agonizing 4-3 loss.

18. 2017 NLDS GAME 5
We’re proceeding into some really painful memories here, folks. Optimism was sky high after Strasburg and Michael A. Taylor willed the Nationals to victory in Game 4 at Wrigley Field the day before, but it all came crashing down during an epic 9-8 loss to the Cubs that included every inconceivable manner of disaster. Wild pitches? Check. Hit by pitches? Check. Controversial catcher’s interference? Check. Line drive lost in the lights? Check. Trailing runner picked off first base at a critical moment in the game? Check. This one had it all, and it cost Baker his job and left everyone wondering if the Nationals really were cursed.

19. 2012 NLDS GAME 5
The do-or-die disaster that started it all. It began as such a joyous night at the park, the crowd giddy after Zimmerman, Harper and Michael Morse all homered to stake the Nationals to a 6-0 lead. And then the Cardinals started clawing their way back. Gio González cut the deficit in half before departing. Davey Johnson thought it would be a good idea to use Jackson out of the bullpen instead of usual setup man Ryan Mattheus. Tyler Clippard gave up a homer to Daniel Descalso. And then Drew Storen, despite being only one strike away from ending the series on multiple occasions, gave up the two-run single to Descalso that tied the game and the two-run single to Pete (Bleeping) Kozma that sealed a 9-7 loss that still haunts everyone today.

blog comments powered by Disqus