Washington Nationals

16th Season First Game Played April 4, 2005
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2005: Baseball finally returned to Washington, DC 34 years after the Senators left for Texas, as the wayward Montreal Expos still without an owner moved to the Nation’s capital. Immediately after unveiling their logo, Nationals apparel became one of the hottest sellers as baseball starved fans on the Potomac swiped it up, as plans for a new ballpark that is scheduled to open in 2008 were announced, while MLB sought bidders for permanent ownership in Washington. The Nationals would start the season on the road playing their first nine games and compiling a 5-4 record, including an April 6th game in which Brad Wilkerson delivered a cycle in the Nationals first win against the Philadelphia Phillies. On April 14th, baseball finally returned to Nation’s Capital as President George W. Bush keeping with an old Presidential tradition threw out the first pitch as the Nationals beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3 at RFK Stadium, the former home of the Senators. The Nationals would go on to compile a respectable 13-11 record at the end of the first month. The Nationals would remain hot over the next two months and led the National League Eastern Division by five and a half games over the Atlanta Braves entering the 4th of July with a record of 51-30. However, hosting the New York Mets for a four-game series, the Nationals began to sputter as the Mets took three-of-four games as the Nats went into the second half losing five-of-seven at RFK Stadium to division opponents. After the break, the Nationals struggles continued as their grip on first place quickly slipped away, as, by the time they entered a three-game series with the Braves in Atlanta, the lead was gone. The Nats would be swept in the series and would never see first place again. The Nationals continued to struggle in August as they ended losing a total 24-of 32-games over five weeks ending on August 11th. The Nationals would stop the sinking with a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies to keep them in the Wild Card Race as all five National League East teams had .500 or better records and were in thick of the playoff chase heading into September. However, the Nats would quickly fall off in the race as they began to slip further in the NL East Standings as a three-game sweep at the hands of the Mets dropped them to .500 and into last place where they would post an 81-81 record. Among the individual highlights for the first year, Nationals was Chad Cordero, who won the National League Fireman Award with 47 saves, while Livan Hernandez led the team with a 15-10 record. At the plate, homers were scarce in cavernous RFK Stadium as Jose Guillen led the team with 24 homers and 76 RBI.

2006: As the Nationals entered year two plans were still being finalized for the new stadium, while an owner was finally found as the group led by Washington area real estate millionaire Ted Lerner won the bidding at $450 Million. Lerner would take over in July naming longtime Atlanta Braves exec Stan Kasten as the team’s President. On the field, the Nationals made news by acquiring Alfonso Soriano in a trade with the Texas Rangers. The trade seemed extra risky with Soriano becoming a free agent at the end of the season, as he expressed displeasure with being moved from Second Base to Left Field by Manager Frank Robinson. After threatening to refuse to play Soriano agreed to move to the outfield and had the finest season of his career, becoming just the fourth player in baseball history to have a 40-40 season with 46 homers and 41 stolen bases. However, Soriano’s success did not translate into wins, as the Nationals struggled from the very beginning of the season as they won just two of their first 11 games on the way to a horrible 8-17 April. The Nationals would not recover from their poor start and would spend almost the entire season rotting in last place in the National League East, as they ended the year with a record of 71-91. As the season ended, manager Frank Robinson was let go ending a storied 50-year Hall of Fame career in baseball. Meanwhile, the Nationals, who made a halfhearted attempt to trade Alfonso Soriano at the trade deadline, watched helplessly as he signed an eight-year contract worth $136 million with the Chicago Cubs.

2007: In year three, the Nationals secured with a new owner and a new stadium under construction and began the process of settling into the Washington DC market. The Nationals had a new manager in Manny Acta as they started to focus on the future, as they hired former Atlanta Braves President Stan Kasten to run the team’s baseball operations. Heading into their final season at RFK Stadium, not much was expected of the Nats, as they got off to a terrible 9-25 start. However, as the year went on, the Nationals played much better as they won 13 of their next 20 games, and proved to be pesky to some of the top teams in their division. None peskier than the New York Mets, whom the Nationals beat five times in the final two weeks of the regular season to knock them out of first place and out of the playoffs, as they played .500 ball after the All-Star Break, finishing in fourth place with a record of 73-89.

2008: On March 30th, the future began for the Nationals as they opened their brand new stadium, Nationals Park, with a Nationally Televised Sunday Night game against the Atlanta Braves. In holding to tradition, President George W. Bush once again threw out the first pitch, but the last pitch is the one that would bring Nats fans to their feet, as Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-out two-run walk-off home run to give the Nats a thrilling 3-2 win. However, there would not be much more to cheer in the early part of the season, as the Nats quickly found themselves in last place, posting a 9-17 record in April, after winning their first two games that were played in March. Things would not get much better from there as the Nationals took it on the chin throughout the season, including an awful July in which they won just five games, as they topped 100 losses, posting a terrible record of 59-102.

2009: At the start of the season, the Nationals took their lumps early and often, losing 10 of their first 11 games, on the way to an awful April in which they posted a 5-16 record. Things would not get better in May as they lost 20 games and sat in last place again with a record of 14-36 through 50 games. While June provided more struggles, the Nationals would win two out of three against the New York Yankees in the Bronx. The Yankees would go on to win the World Series, as the Nats continued to be the worst team in baseball, failing to win ten games again while posting a 9-17 record. While the Nationals lost on the field in June, they added a big piece off the field, drafting hard-throwing righty Stephen Strasburg out of San Diego State with the first overall pick in the draft. Labeled a can’t miss prospect, the Nationals hope Strasburg could be the foundation to build the franchise upon. The Nationals reached the All-Star Break with a record of 26-61 and decided to make a change firing Manager Manny Acta and replacing him with Jim Riggleman. Under Riggleman, the Nationals would not so much improvement as they went on to post an awful 59-103 record.

2010: After two straight 100 loss seasons, the Nationals entered the season with an air of anticipation for the debut of Stephen Strasburg, who as the top pick in the 2009 MLB Draft. Even before the debut of Strasburg, the Nationals showed some signs of improvement with a 13-10 record in April. The Nats continued to play somewhat competitive baseball in May and entered June with a 26-26. While fans continued to wait for Strasburg, the Nationals with the top pick in the MLB Draft landed another can’t miss prospect in slugger Bryce Harper, who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated while still a sophomore in High School. A day after the draft on June 8th, a sold-out crowd at Nationals Park got to witness the debut of Stephen Strasburg. He allowed two earn runs in seven innings while setting a Washington Nationals record of 14 strikeouts as the Nats beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2. Strasburg pitched well in his first five starts, but it would not result in wins for the Nationals posted an 8-19 record in June. In July, the Nats would improve to 11-12, but with a sore shoulder, Stephen Strasburg spent some time on the disabled list. He would return in August, but despite the Nationals’ best efforts to use, their rookie star sparingly Stephen Strasburg’s season would end on August 21st with a torn ligament in his elbow. He would require Tommy John surgery that would cost him the 2011 season. Strasburg posted a 5-3 record with a 2.91 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 12 starts. Without Strasburg, the Nationals would lose their buzz as they went on to finish in last place again, with a record of 69-93.

2011: As the season began, Stephen Strasburg was still recovering from Tommy John surgery, while Bryce Harper was just beginning his professional career. The Nationals hoped to start the climb to respectability as the season began. While losing Adam Dunn to free agency, the Nats signed Jayson Werth to a seven-year deal worth $126 million. Opening day would be a bit of a disappointment for the Nats, as they started the season with a 2-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park. The Nats would lose four of their first five games as they had a streak April, finishing the month with a record of 12-14 as they sat in third place in the National League East. The Nationals would continue their streaky play in May, as Werth struggled with the high expectations of a big contract. Werth would end the season with a disappointing .232 average with 20 home runs and 58 RBI. After slipping to 27-36, the Nationals suddenly became the hottest team in baseball, as they won 12 of their next 13 games, as they got strong play from Catcher Wilson Ramos, 1B Michael Morse, and SS Danny Espinosa all of whom had solid breakout seasons. On June 23rd, the Nationals climbed over at 38-37. It was the latest they were over .500 since 2005. Despite the streak and their winning record, manager Jim Riggleman suddenly resigned after the 1-0 walk-off win over the Seattle Mariners. While Bench Coach John McLaren ran the team, the Nationals continued their strong play, as they took two of three games on the road against the Chicago White Sox, which included a thrilling 9-5 win in 14 innings. The Nationals would then hand the reigns over to Davey Johnson. Under Johnson, the Nats struggled at first losing their first three games on the road against the Los Angeles Angels. Eventually, the Nationals would get back on track and enter the All-Star Break at .500 with a 46-46 record. After the break, the Nationals would go into a slump, as any chance of getting into the pennant race, slipped away as they dropped 10 of 13. While Stephen Strasburg began a rehab assignment, the Nationals had a disappointing August, as they again posted a losing month. Strasburg would make his season debut at Nationals Park, allowing just two hits in five scoreless innings, with four strikeouts. However, the Nats pen would lose the game as the Los Angeles Dodgers won 7-3. Stephen Strasburg would make five starts posting a 1-1 record with an ERA at 1.50. The Nationals would finish the season strong, winning 14 of their last 18 games, as they finished in third place with a record of 80-81.

2012: With Stephen Strasburg healthy and ready to start the season in April, the Nationals began the season with one of the best starting rotations in the National League, as they had acquired Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland Athletics and signed Edwin Jackson in the off-season. Still, the Nats wanted to take things slowly with their young talented hurler, so they set an early season innings limit, figuring that despite the talent on the team, the club was still at least a year away from being ready to play October baseball. After starting the season by winning four of six on the road against the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets, the Nationals would dramatically win their home opener as Ryan Zimmerman scored on a wild pitch by Alfredo Simon as the Nats beat the Cincinnati Reds 3-2 in ten innings. The following day they would win in 13 innings, on a single by Jayson Werth. The Nationals, through the first 18 games, were the best team in baseball, posting a record of 14-4. As April came to an end, the Nats had to deal with several critical injuries as both Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman went on the disabled list. To keep the offense on track, the Nationals decided it was time to call up the 2010 #1 draft pick Bryce Harper. Harper played well in his first weekend in the majors, but the Nats had their early slump of the season, with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Coming home, Harper showed his toughness stealing home against the Philadelphia Phillies after getting plunked on purpose by Cole Hammels. The Nats would take that early May series at home against the Phillies, setting a tone that they were not going away in the Eastern Division. Still keeping any losing streak short was the pitching of Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg, who had a combined record of 21-7 at the All-Star Break. Both would be named to the All-Star team, along with Bryce Harper, who at 19 became the third-youngest All-Star in MLB history. At the break, the Nationals had a record of 49-34 and were on target to reach the playoffs. However, the strategy limiting Strasburg to 160 innings remained in place, as some around the team felt it was time to take the reins off as the Nationals were a team capable of going all the way to the World Series as they rolled through the summer with a record of 80-51. Leading the way was a Nats offense equally as strong as their pitching staff, as Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond all topped 20 homers. With two Wild Cards, the Nats were all but assured of making the playoffs. However, on September 8th Strasburg threw his last pitch of the season as he got roughed up by the Marlins at home. Despite Strasburg’s struggles, the Nationals would win the game 7-6 on a walk-off hit by Chad Gaudin in the 10th inning. While Strasburg was shutdown, Gio Gonzalez remained the Nationals’ most reliable starter, winning an MLB best 21 games, along with a 2.89 ERA and 207 strikeouts, as he finished third in Cy Young voting. Gonzalez was not the only National receiving individual honors, as Bryce Harper finished the season with 19 home runs and was named Rookie of the Year as Davey Johnson won Manager of the Year. The Nats would lock up a playoff spot on September 20th and a week later did the unthinkable by winning the National League Eastern Division as Gonzalez earned the win as the Nationals beat the Phillies 7-3 on the road. The Nats would go on to post the best record in all of baseball at 98-64.

2012 Postseason: Despite the first postseason baseball in Washington in 79 years, there was no thought of bringing back Stephen Strasburg to pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. Gio Gonzalez would get the start and would show some nerves as he walked four batters and threw a wild pitch as the Cardinals scored twice in the 2nd inning without a base hit. Gonzalez would settle down as the score remained 2-1 in the Cardinals favor until the 7th inning, when Tyler Moore delivered a two-out, pinch-hit single to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead. The lead would stand as Tyler Clippard, and Drew Storen finished the game in the eighth and ninth. After losing 12-4 in Game 2, the Nats came home to a sold-out stadium anticipating seeing history. However, it was more disappointment Nats fans saw, as they were blanked 8-0 in their second straight flat performance. In Game 4, needing a win, the Nationals got a strong start from Ross Detwiler allowed just one hit over six innings matching Kyle Lohse in an old fashioned pitcher’s duel. The score was tied 1-1 when Jayson Werth, who battled injuries all season led off the ninth inning by hitting the first pitch from Lance Lynn over the Leftfield wall for a walk-off homer. The momentum would carry over to Game 5, as the Nationals jumped out to a 6-0 lead on home runs by Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, and Michael Morse. However, the defending World Champion Cardinals would not down easily, chipping away at the lead to make the score 6-5 in the eighth inning. After getting a much-needed insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, the Nationals were one out away from the NLCS with Closer Drew Storen on the mound and a runner on third. However, Storen suddenly was hit by nerves, walking Yadier Molina and David Freese as the entire crowd stood, anticipating a victory. With nerves getting frayed, Storen would give up a two-run single to Daniel Descalso, which would tie the game 7-7. The Cards would then take the lead on a two-run single by Pete Kozma. The Nationals would go down in order as the Cardinals celebrated a 9-7 win to reach the NLCS as the crowd at Nationals Park stood in stunned disbelief.

2013: Coming off a division championship, there was a great deal of anticipation around the old Capital City as the Washington Nationals were considered a favorite to reach the World Series. It was manager Davey Johnson’s final season as he announced plans to retire after the season. The Nats got off to a fast start, sweeping the Miami Marlins to start the season at home, as they won seven of their first nine games. However, early troubles with the Atlanta Braves would become a theme of the season, as the Braves swept them at Nationals Parks in an early April series. One player who struggled early was Stephen Strasburg, who lost five straight decisions after earning the win on Opening Day. The Nats would finish April with a disappointing record of 13-14, losing the first two of a four-game series in Atlanta. The Nats would begin May winning the next two against the Braves, but could not find any consistency as every time they would climb above .500 they suffer a losing streak and find themselves digging out of another hole. While the Nationals struggled, the Braves built a big lead in the National League East. The same inconstancy would carry on throughout the season as the bobbed up and down around the .500 mark, through the end of August as they never got more than five games above .500, nor were they ever more than six games below. With the division out of reach, and the Wild Card a longshot, the Nationals finally found their groove in September as they started the final month by winning 15 of 19 games. However, it was too late as the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cincinnati Reds had wrapped up the Wild Card spots. The Nationals would win just three of their final seven games as they finished the year with a record of 86-76, falling four games short of the Wild Card and ten games behind the Braves in the division race. Stephen Strasburg pitched in hard luck most of the season, posting a record of 8-9 with an ERA of 3.00, while Jordan Zimmerman had a terrific season, posting a team-best record of 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA. Gio Gonzalez, though unable to match his previous season’s success, posted a solid 11-8 mark with an ERA of 3.36, while Dan Haren finished a disappointing season with a record of 10-14 and an ERA of 4.67. Bryce Harper’s sometimes reckless style of play would cost him more than 40 games as he injured his knee crashing into the wall at Dodger Stadium. Nonetheless, he continued to establish himself as one of baseball’s best young power hitters, with 20 home runs and 58 RBI in 118 games. Harper was one of five Nats with at least 20 home runs, with Ryan Zimerman hitting 26, Jayson Werth hitting 25 with a team-high 82 RBI, while Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond hit 20 each.

2014: With new manager Matt Williams, the Nationals started the season on the road against the New York Mets, rallying to win the opener in ten innings 9-7 thanks in part to a three-run home run from Anthony Rendon. The Nationals would win all three games against the Mets before coming home to face the Atlanta Braves. The Braves would spoil opening weekend in DC, winning the first two games before the Nats salvaged the Sunday finale. Despite their struggles against the Braves, the Nationals started well, winning seven of their first nine-game. The Braves would continue to frustrate the Nationals sweeping a series in Atlanta. In that series, Washington also lost Ryan Zimmerman to a thumb injury. Already dealing with a degenerative shoulder injury, Zimmerman would be on and off the disabled list all season. A thumb injury would also shelve Bryce Harper as the Nationals finished April with a record of 16-12. May would be a month of struggles for the Nationals as they slipped under .500. Among the players struggling were Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, who each had losing records. The Nationals fortunes would begin to turn in June, as they won eight of nine games, highlighted by three straight wins in San Francisco against the Giants. The winning streak enabled the Nationals to take over first place in the National League East. As the Nationals started winning, so were Strasburg and Gonzalez, while Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann emerged as their two top pitchers. Zimmermann would post a record of 14-5 with an ERA of 2.66, while Fister led the team with a 16-6 record and an ERA of 2.41. Offensively, while Ryan Zimmerman was hobbled, Anthony Rendon took over at third base and had a breakout season with 21 home runs and 83 RBI. At the same time, Adam LaRoche led the team with 26 homers and 92 RBI, with Ian Desmond homering 24 times while driving in 91 runs. The Atlanta Braves who early in the season looked like a challenger for the division title went into a second-half slump, as the Nationals began to build a big a double-digit lead. The Nationals would all but wrap up their second division title in three years, with a ten-game winning streak that saw them get six walk-off wins. The Nationals, with 38 wins over the last two months, would finish the season with the best record in the National League at 96-66. They would end the season with a bang as Jordan Zimmermann no-hit the Miami Marlins 1-0 at Nationals Park in the final game of the regular season. It was the first No-Hitter, for a Washington baseball team since Bobby Burke in 1931.

2014 NLDS: The Nationals would face the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series. The Giants needed a win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card Game before reaching Washington. Stephen Strasburg got the start for Washington in Game 1 and was hit around as the Giants built a 3-0 lead. The Nationals were unable to solve Jake Peavy at the same time as they were held hitless until the fifth inning. The Nats finally strung together a rally in the sixth inning but left the bases loaded after Hunter Strickland struck out Ian Desmond. Bryce Harper and Asdrúbal Cabrera got the Nats on the board with homers in the seventh inning, but they would get no closer as the Giants won the opener 3-2. Jordan Zimmermann fresh off his No-Hitter took the mound for Game 2 and may have pitched even better, retiring 20 straight Giants, before walking Joe Panik in the ninth inning with two outs. The Nationals were hard-pressed to score against Tim Hudson and had just a slim 1-0 lead when Closer Drew Storen came on to get the final out. However, Storen faltered, allowing a single to Buster Posey and a game-tying double to Pablo Sandoval. Posey attempted to score the winning run but was tagged out at home by Wilson Ramos. From there the game was in the hands of the bullpens, and neither team could get on the board, as the game set a new record for the longest postseason game in terms of time and innings at 18, before Brandon Belt homered off Tanner Roark to give the Giants a 2-1 win. Game 3 in San Francisco would be another pitcher’s duel as Doug Fister matched Madison Bumgarner for six scoreless innings. Finally, the Nationals caught a break on a Bumgarner throwing error to score three runs in the seventh inning on the way to a 4-1 win to avert the sweep. In Game 4, the Nationals would battle back from an early 2-0 deficit as Bryce Harper splashed his third home run of the series into McCovey Cove in the seventh inning. However, the Giants would score the go-ahead run on a wild pitch by Aaron Barrett in the bottom of the inning. The Giants would win the game 3-2 and go on to win their third World Series Championship in five years.

2015: Left and Right, Blue and Red both could not be more bullish on the Washington Nationals as they entered the season as the overwhelming favorite in the National League after adding Max Scherzer to an already stacked starting rotation. The Nationals got Scherzer a former American League Cy Young winner by signing the Free Agent to a seven-year contract worth $210 million. Scherzer got the nod on Opening Day as the Nationals hosted the New York Mets. Max Scherzer was sharp in his Nationals debut as he did not allow a hit until the sixth inning. Sadly he would leave the game with a loss as two errors by Ian Desmond led to three unearned runs enabling the Mets to win the game 3-1. Mistakes and injuries would be the story for the Nationals in April as they muddled along most of the way, posting a record of 10-13. As April came to an end, Jayson Werth and Denard Span returned to the lineup. Though the two would spend more time on the bench and in the field fighting through various injuries all season. One player who was healthy all season was Bryce Harper, who had the career year fans have been waiting for. Starting with a home run in the opener, Harper, who had a career-best .330 average, was the unquestioned star of the season, with a league-best 42 home runs and 99 RBI to win both the Hank Aaron Award and the National League’s MVP. Powered by an 18-9 record in May, the Nationals would take over first place in the Eastern Division erasing, which once was an eight-game deficit. However, the good times would not last as injuries continued to have their way with the Nationals lineup, as they never truly had their full 1-8 lineup together at the same time. Even their vaunted starting five failed to match expectations as Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez both struggled at times, with Max Scherzer often pitching in hard luck. Scherzer would manage just a 14-12 record despite a 2.79 ERA and 276 strikeouts. One game that Max Scherzer did not need any support was on June 14th he allowed only one while pitching a complete game 4-0 shutout against the Milwaukee Brewers, striking out 18 batters in the process at Miller Park. Six days later, Max Scherzer was even better, retiring the first 26 batters before hitting Jose Tabata with a 2-2 pitch. Scherzer would retire Josh Harrison to finish the No-Hitter, as the Nats blanked the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-0 at Nationals Park, with Scherzer also recording ten strikeouts. The Nationals would spend much of June and July in first place, but could not create any distance between them and the Mets. As the trade deadline approached the Mets were making big moves to fix their anemic lineup, the Nationals meanwhile looked to improve their bullpen by acquiring Jonathan Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies for Nick Pivetta. The deal would have a negative effect as Drew Storen, who had been the closer in the first half of the season, struggled in the setup role. As July came to an end, the Nationals led the Mets by three games, entering a three-game series at Citi Field. The Mets would win all three games to even the race for the Eastern Division. The Mets would roll past the Nationals who struggled throughout August, with Storen becoming a liability posting a record of 0-2 with a 9.22 ERA after the trade, while Papelbon rubbed many of his new teammates the wrong way. As September arrived, the Nationals had one last chance to win the division hosting the Mets in a three-game series starting on Labor Day. It was there that the Nationals bullpen struggles came to a full head as the Mets again swept the Nats to all but put the NL East out of reach. The middle game was particularly frustrating as the Mets rallied from a 7-1 deficit with six runs in the seventh inning. Things got so frustrating for Drew Storen, who broken his thumb slamming his locker shut in frustration. Frustration would also spill over with Papelbon as he got in a fight with Bryce Harper in the dugout at Nationals Park. Papelbon would be suspended for the final week of the regular season as the Nationals finished the year with a disappointing record of 83-79, leading to the dismissal of manager Matt Williams. The Nats would have one last great moment before the season ended as Max Scherzer pitched a second No Hitter blanking the Mets 2-0 in the next to last game of the season. He would strike out 17 batters, including nine straight as a Yunel Escobar error, led to the Mets only base runner.

2016: After a disappointing season, the Washington Nationals looked to get off to a strong start under new manager Dusty Baker. They accomplished their goal by winning nine of their first ten games. A key to the Nats’ early success was newly acquired 2B Daniel Murphy, who had 12 multiple-hit games and was hitting at or near .400 all month. The Nationals would finish April with a record of 16-7, holding a half-game lead over the New York Mets as Bryce Harper was named National League Player of the Month. The Nationals would battle the Mets throughout May, splitting a pair of three-game series, as Murphy continued to drive the Nats offense with Bryce Harper struggling to keep up his early-season numbers. Daniel Murphy was named National League Player of the Month in May, as he tied a franchise record for hits in a month with 47, including seven home runs. Meanwhile, on the mound, Stephen Strasburg was dominating, posting a 9-0 record through the first two months. As the Mets struggled, the Nationals began to build a lead in the Eastern Division in June. As the month came to an end, the Nationals swept the Mets in a three-game series at Nationals Park. A significant factor in the Nats sweeping the Mets was Daniel Murphy, who tormented his former team all season, recording a hit in all 19 games. In total, Murphy clobbered the Mets going 31 for 75 for a .413 average with six doubles, seven home runs, and 21 RBI. Despite pitching through a back-strain, Strasburg continued his strong start, posting a 12-0 record before the All-Star Break. At the break, the Nationals were one of the best teams in baseball at 54-36, holding a six-game lead in the Eastern Division. In the second half, Strasburg would improve to 13-0 by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1 in the first game after the break. After suffering a 6-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 21st, Strasburg won his next two starts. However, in August, he suffered three straight losses before an elbow forced him to shut down for the rest of the season at 15-4, ending the year with a 3.60 ERA. The Nationals of 2016 was a tougher team than they had been in the past as they developed a next man up mentality. As Stephen Strasburg went down, Max Scherzer stepped up and had a tremendous second half, winning 10 of 11 decisions to finish the year with a record of 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA and league-leading 284 strikeouts, which was good enough to win the National League, Cy Young. As August began, one area the Nationals looked to improve was in the bullpen, as they acquired Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates at the trade deadline. Over the last two months, Melancon recorded 17 saves while posting an ERA of 1.82, as Jonathan Papelbon, who began the season as the closer, was released. The Nationals clinched the division title on September 24th, beating the Pirates 6-1 at PNC Park. Not all news was good news for the Nationals as two nights later, Wilson Ramos suffered a season-ending knee injury. Ramos was among the Nats top hitters all season, batting .307 with 22 home runs and 80 RBI. Daniel Murphy meanwhile was the unquestioned MVP of the Nats, as he finished second in voting behind Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs, after posting a career-best .347 average, 25 home runs and 104 RBI, as well as a league-leading 47 doubles. Murphy’s stats were especially crucial for Washington, as Bryce Harper had a somewhat disappointing season, batting .243 with 24 homers and 86 RBI. As the season came to an end, a new star emerged in Trea Turner, who was named Rookie of the Month in August and September as he ended the season with a .342 average, with 13 home runs and 40 RBI, while stealing 33 bases.

2016 NLDS: The Washington Nationals would face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series. The opener at Nationals Park featured a marquee pitching matchup with Max Scherzer taking on Clayton Kershaw. However, neither pitcher was particularly sharp as the Dodgers won the opener 4-3. Tanner Roark got the start in Game 2 but also struggled to allow two runs and seven hits before leaving the game trailing 2-0 in the fifth. The Nationals thought they would get strong relief, as five relievers combined to hold the Dodgers to one hit the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Jose Lobaton gave Washington the lead with a three-run blast in the fifth inning, as the Nats won the game 5-2 to even the series. The Nats bats came alive in Game 3 as the series shifted West to Dodger Stadium. Using a pair of four-run rallies, the Nationals took a 2-1 series lead by beating the Dodgers 8-1. Looking to close out the series, the Nationals got four RBI from Daniel Murphy, who went 2-for-3 to improve his series average to .462. However, it was not enough as the Dodgers won the game 6-5 to send the series back to Nationals Park for a decisive fifth game. Things looked good early in Game 5, as Danny Espinosa singled home Daniel Murphy with the first run in the second inning. Meanwhile, Max Scherzer was silencing the Dodgers bats, allowing just four hits over the first six innings, while striking out seven. The Nationals were unable to build on the lead, as they were they had only one hit in ten at-bats with men in scoring position, leaving 11 on base. The Nationals wasted opportunities would come back to haunt them as Joc Pederson led off the seventh with a home run. Dusty Baker then decided to make a pitching change, as the Dodgers scored three runs, as cycled through five relievers in a confused seventh inning. The Nationals now down 4-1, would make the game closer on a two-run home run off the bat of Chris Heisey. However, that would be as close as the Nationals would get. In the ninth inning, down 4-3, with the tying and winning runs on base with one out, Daniel Murphy popped up to second base after Clayton Kershaw came on to get the final two outs. As the ball drifted harmlessly in the air, Dusty Baker gave a look of resignation, as Wilmer Difo struck out, ending the Nationals season.

2017: After the Washington Nationals disappointing loss in the Division Series, they looked for a quick rebound and quickly grabbed control of the Eastern Division as they posted a 17-8 record in April. One of the early surprises was the play of Ryan Zimmerman, who was named Player of the Month in April as he set a team record with 29 RBI. Zimmerman, who dealt with a bevy of injuries over three seasons, had a career year in 2017, batting .303 with a career-high 36 home runs and 108 RBI. Along the way, Ryan Zimmerman became the franchise leader in home runs and RBI. The Nats closed the month with a 23-5 statement win against the New York Mets, with Anthony Rendon having a ten-RBI game. Rendon would bat .301 with 25 home runs and 100 RBI on the season. The Nationals beatdown of the Mets would be symbolic of the season, as the Mets suffering through a plague of injuries faded out of the playoff race, allowing Washington to cruise to a second straight division championship. Up and down the lineup the Nationals had several players have big seasons, Daniel Murphy led the team in hitting a .322, hitting 23 home runs with 92 RBI, while Trea Turner led the team in stolen bases with 46. Early in the season, Turner nearly made history, hitting for the cycle on April 25th and coming a triple shy away from doing it in back to back games against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Also having a breakout season was Michael A. Taylor with 19 home runs and 53 RBI. Bryce Harper meanwhile was in the running for the MVP award, as he hit .319, with 29 home runs and 87 RBI, despite missing six weeks later in the season, dealing with a knee injury. The Nationals were able to rest Harper late in the season, as they won the division by 20 games, posting a record of 97-65. Pitching was vital the Nationals easy path to the division title as Max Scherzer won the Cy Young again with a record of 16-6, with a 2.51 ERA and 268 strikeouts, while Stephen Strasberg went 15-4 with an ERA of 2.52 and 204 strikeouts. In the bullpen, the Nationals made a significant upgrade in July acquiring Sean Doolittle with Ryan Madson, for Blake Treinen, Sheldon Neuse, and Jesus Luzardo. Doolittle would record 21 saves in 30 games for the Nationals in the second half of the season.

2017 NLDS: The Washington Nationals would face the reigning champion Chicago Cubs in the Division Series. The Nationals would suffer a setback as the series began, as Max Scherzer was unable to go at the start of the series, with a tender hamstring. Game 1 would see Stephen Strasberg and Kyle Hendricks match in an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel. Strasburg would blink in the staredown, allowing two runs in the sixth inning. While the Nats bats remained silent, managing just two hits against Hendricks and two Cubs relievers, as Chicago won the game 3-0. Gio Gonzalez got the start for the Nationals in Game 3 as the bats remained silent, scoring just one run off Jon Lester. Facing the prospect of falling behind 2-0 in the series, the Nationals bats finally woke up in the eighth inning, while trailing 1-0. Bryce Harper tied the game with a two-run bomb, while Ryan Zimmerman followed up with a three-run home run to win the game 6-3. Scherzer made the start for the Nationals in Game 3 and did not allow a hit until Ben Zobrist hit a one-out double in the seventh inning. Dusty Baker playing it safe, took Scherzer out of the game, as Albert Almora Jr. tied the game with a single off Sammy Solis. The Cubs would go on to win the game 2-1 on a hit by Anthony Rizzo. Facing elimination, the Nationals got a great start from Strasberg, who allowed just three hits with 12 strikeouts in Game 4, winning 5-0, as Michael A. Taylor broke the game open with a grand slam in the eighth inning. After pitching dominated the first four games of the series, Game 5 in Washington. Taylor gave the Nats a 4-1 lead in the second inning, but the Cubs rallied and took the lead as Max Scherzer was ineffective coming in out of the bullpen in the fifth inning on short rest. The Cubs eventually built a 9-6 lead as the two teams slugged it out all night, with Jose Lobaton cutting the deficit to one, with an RBI single in the eighth. However, Lobaton was picked off, ending the rally. In the ninth inning, Washington was unable to get the tying run as Wade Davis struck out Bryce Harper to end the series with a Cubs 9-8 win. Following a second straight NLDS loss, the Nationals decided to part ways with manager Dusty Baker.

2018: Dave Martinez took over the bench for the Washington Nationals after the team let go of Dusty Baker during the offseason after failing to materialize postseason success with a loaded all-star roster. The pressure was immediately added for Martinez with looming contract decisions for all-stars Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper. Looking to improve externally Mike Rizzo brought in utility man Howie Kendrick to add some versatility to the infield, internally they had a pair of rising young outfielders with 18-year old Juan Soto and 20-year old Victor Robles in the pipeline. The Nationals also were expecting to finally reap benefits of the Adam Eaton trade after he suffered a season-ending injury the first series in 2017. After a 4-0 start, the Nationals struggled to maintain success throughout April. The team dropped the next 14 out of 20 games, which included being swept by divisional rival New York Mets. At the end of the month, the team sat at 13-16 with a struggling pitching staff aside from Max Scherzer, who sat at 6-1 by May 1st. Fortunes changed heading into May as the team collected 19 wins in the month, which also included an absurd 12-2 record on the road, putting them directly in position to compete for a division title. Soto made his major league debut on May 20th after beginning the year in class A ball. The teenager batted .362 with 14 home runs across three levels before being called up. It was becoming a theme for the season; the Nats struggled to maintain consistency until the All-Star Break standing at 48-48. The All-Star Game was at Nationals Park in 2019, with three Nationals for the home fans to cheer, including Bryce Harper, who won the Home Run Derby, as his agent made a demand for a record contract. Harper was joined by Max Scherzer and Sean Doolittle on the NL roster. After the break, Stephen Strasburg continued his struggles on the season. In the first game after a stint on the injured list, Strasburg gave up six runs, dropping to 6-7 on the year. Making 22 starts on the year, Strasburg had a down season statistically relative to his talent going 10-7 with a 3.74 ERA. The next night Scherzer Hurled his 13th win in a 6-2 rout of the Atlanta Braves. The righty racked up another Cy Young caliber season despite being outclassed ultimately by Mets ace Jacob deGrom. He carried the Nationals staff with a 2.53 ERA and a league-leading 300 strikeouts. By the end of July, Juan Soto was becoming one of the best outfielders in the game by winning his second straight Rookie of the Month award. The season was waning, and the team was in desperation as it sat at 53-53, five and a half games out of first place. After August 7th, the team never reached above four games over .500 ending the year at 82-80, eight games back of the Braves. It was not a lack of offense that was the downfall for the Nationals. Harper had 34 home runs and 100 RBI in his final season with the Nationals. Third baseman Anthony Rendon had himself another impressive campaign batting .308 with 24 home runs and 92 RBI. Trea Turner swiped the second most bases in the league with 43. Players like Daniel Murphy and Howie Kendrick batted well in their limited action, the two playing 56 and 40 games, respectively.

Written by Eric Decker

2019: The Washington Nationals were looking to reload, not rebuild after Bryce Harper signed with the rival Philadelphia Phillies. The team acquired a pair of veteran catchers to bolster the defense behind the plate by inking Kurt Suzuki and trading for Yan Gomes from the Indians. The big offseason splash for the Nat’s came when Mike Rizzo was able to sign pitcher Patrick Corbin, to a six-year, $140 million contract, giving Washington three frontline aces in the rotation. Going into the year, expectations were muted after losing Harper; however, the Nats believed they were ready to compete. Anthony Rendon was still one of the more underappreciated players, Juan Soto was making the leap to superstar before the audience’s eyes, Trea Turner quietly had become more and more consistent throughout his career, and Victor Robles was ready to break through and command the starting center field position. The beginning of the season went precisely to the tune of the critics as the team struggled immensely. Days after smacking two home runs against the Mets to help earn the team’s first win, Trea Turner was sent to the IL with a broken finger after being hit by a Zach Eflin fastball. As it was in 2018, the bullpen performance seemed to be the downfall for the Nats. Wander Suero (4.54 ERA), Javy Guerra (4.86 ERA) and Matt Grace (6.36 ERA) are just some of the names that continuously squandered opportunities for the Nationals. The team hit a season-low 19-31 on May 23 as a five-game losing streak culminated with an embarrassing four-game sweep to the New York Mets, in which the pen blew a lead in each game. The Nats bounced back over the next two weeks by winning nine out of their next 11 games, likely saving manager Dave Martinez’s job. Carrying this success into June, the team went scorching hot, going 18-8 in the month sitting at 42-41 at the end of June. At the All-Star break, the Nationals had a 47-42 record with a renewed hope for the season with the team in the playoff race. Mixed results were still coming out of the bullpen; however, so much of the success of keeping the squad afloat was due to the performances of Patrick Corbin, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg, who all had winning records going into the break. Two players were initially selected to represent the Nats at the festivities with Scherzer alongside Rendon, who finally received his first all-star appearance after batting .311 with 58 RBI in the first half of the season. Both players, however, failed to participate due to minor injuries. Struggling after the break, the Nationals looked to make a critical move at the trade deadline. Daniel Hudson was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays; he would become a valuable arm in the bullpen during the playoff run. In 25 innings pitched during the regular season, Hudson amassed a ridiculous 1.44 ERA while striking out 23. The team also added veteran infielder Asdrubal Cabrera shortly into August after being released by the Texas Rangers. In the thick of both a divisional and wild card race, the Nats won 14 of 17 to end August behind the stellar play of Rendon, Soto, and Robles. They had now emerged as arguably the best defensive center fielder in baseball with unreal quickness and tracking ability. Robles led the entire MLB in outs above average (21). Sitting at a 76-58, the Nats had control of the spot in the wild card race. On September 3rd, the Nationals staged one of the most significant ninth-inning comebacks in baseball history. Thanks to the help of Paul Sewald, Luis Avilan, and Edwin Diaz, the Mets blew a seven-run lead that was finished off with a three-run home run for Kurt Suzuki in an 11-10 win. The team saw their sizable lead in the wild card race fall to nothing by September 22nd after an inconsistent month matched up with an incredible hot streak by the Milwaukee Brewers. This seemed to be the only motivation the Nats needed as they failed to lose a game the rest of the way ending the year with an eight-game win streak, cementing the top wild-card spot at 93-69. Rendon, in his contract year, smashed even his lofty expectations. The third baseman batted .319 with a 1.010 OPS while hitting 34 home runs and leading the league in RBI (126). Soto thoroughly established his superstar campaign, smashing 34 home runs for 110 RBI and an absurd 108 walks for a 19-year old. Strasburg led the NL in wins (18) while hurling a 3.32 ERA with a staff high 251 strikeouts. Scherzer and Corbin were not far behind him with 243 and 238, respectively. The two also fancied lower ERA counts than Strasburg on the season.

Written by Eric Decker

2019 Wild Card and NLDS: To make the Division Series, the Washington Nationals first had to get past the Milwaukee Brewers in the wild card game. The Brewers, who were missing MVP Christian Yelich scored three early runs off Max Scherzer to dig the Nationals into a sizable hole a. Nationals Park was relatively quiet until the eighth inning when Juan Soto reeled a three-run single off of Josh Hader, who was attempting a six-out save, to take a 4-3 lead before Daniel Hudson finished off the save. The reward for winning the Wild Card was a series with the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers team, who had been to the world series the previous two seasons. Walker Buehler took the hill for the Dodgers and blanked the Nats, only giving up one hit in six innings en route to a 6-0 victory in Game 1. A matchup of aces was the focal point of Game 2. Strasburg, who was getting his real first licks at the postseason as a frontline ace versus Clayton Kershaw, who was looking to shake a stigma regarding his underperforming postseason starts. Stigma, however, would reign initially as Kershaw loaded the bases in the first inning before getting out with only one run allowed. RBI’s by Eaton and Rendon in the second made the score 3-0 before Kershaw settled down. Strasburg, on the other hand, was in total control of his craft, not allowing a base runner until there were two outs in the fifth inning. In the end, Strasburg struck out ten in six innings of work, lowering his career postseason ERA 0.64. The Dodgers were able to cut the lead to one before an eighth-inning RBI single by Cabrera cemented the 4-2 win and 1-1 series count. Game 3 looked like it was riding the Nationals momentum alongside the home crowd. The Nats were up 2-0 heading into the fifth in part to a hectic first inning that included Anibal Sanchez working out of a bases-loaded jam and a Juan Soto two-run blast off Hyun-Jin Ryu. Dave Martinez made the questionable decision to bring in Patrick Corbin for relief on three days rest after throwing 107 pitches in the opener. Corbin got two out with relative ease until it all fell apart, and he was in part responsible for a seven-run sixth inning that eventually closed the door for the Nats. The Dodgers took a 2-1 series lead with a 10-4 rout. Looking to bounce back in a critical elimination game, the Nationals had sent ace Max Scherzer out to the mound. Scherzer slipped up early, giving up a solo shot to Justin Turner before settling in for a stellar performance of seven innings pitched, only giving up four hits and the lone run. It took until the fifth for the Nats to break through and take the lead with Anthony Rendon getting the inning off with an RBI single that scored Trea Turner. Mr. National Himself Ryan Zimmerman smacked a three-run home run to dead center to give the Nats a 5-1 lead. They would not look back, winning the game by a 6-1 margin to force a decisive fifth game in LA. Stephen Strasburg got the start for Washington in Game 5 but struggled as the Dodgers took an early 3-0 lead. The Dodgers held a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning when Kershaw came into the game in relief and gave up back-to-back home runs to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto to tie the game. The game went into extras where the Nats won 7-3 on the tenth inning grand slam by Howie Kendrick. Sean Doolittle came in to finish off an improbable series win. The Nationals had won a playoff series for the first time in their history, coming from behind against one of the best teams in baseball.

Written by Eric Decker

2019 NLCS: The Washington Nationals would face the St. Louis Cardinals in NLCS. Game 1 included a masterpiece from Anibal Sanchez had a no-hitter riding into the eighth inning until a two-out single by Jose Martinez ended his night. In total, Sanchez went for 103 pitches, striking out five and only allowing the one hit. A Yan Gomes double in the second along with a Howie Kendrick seventh-inning single gave the Nats their only runs in the 2-0 victory. The Cardinals again struggled to get the bats going in Game 2, getting one run on three hits as Max Scherzer was at peak performance, leading Washington to a 3-1 win. Looking to get any momentum in the series, the Cardinals sent Jack Flaherty, who boasted a 1.13 ERA in his last 18 starts to the mound in Game 3 at Nationals, while Stephen Strasburg started for the Nats.  Strasburg, however, had another superb postseason outing, pitching seven innings, with 12 strikeouts and giving up a lone unearned run. The Nationals meanwhile pounded Flaherty, winning 8-1 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. On the mound for the series clincher was Patrick Corbin, who never really had to face the full pressure of the situation as the Nats exploded for seven in the first inning, winning 7-4 to complete the sweep as Howie Kendrick was named NLCS MVP.

Written by Eric Decker

2019 World Series: In the World Series for the first time in franchise history, the Washington Nationals faced the Houston Astros, who were an overwhelming favorite. As the series began, rumblings began to swirl about the Astros’ unethical ways of winning. Game 1 with all eyes on the mound as Max Scherzer faced Gerrit Cole. The Astros broke through first in the opening inning with a two-run double by Yuli Gurriel. The Nats would tie the game on home runs by Ryan Zimmerman and Juan Soto. In the fifth inning, the Nats scored three runs to take the lead, with Soto scoring two runs on a double as the Nationals won 5-4 to hand Cole his first loss since mid-May, as Sean Doolittle shut the door in the ninth inning. Game 2 featured another all-ace caliber matchup with Max Strasburg going up against Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. Both teams put up two spots in the first inning, Anthony Rendon scored two on a double while Alex Bregman immediately tied it up with a two-run shot. After that, Strasburg returned to his usual dominant playoff performance striking out seven in total and only walking one in six innings of work. Kurt Suzuki broke the tie in the seventh with his first career playoff home run. Verlander would be pulled, and the Nats would go on to score eight more runs over the final three innings to complete a 12-3 win. After winning two games in Houston, the Nationals had Anibal Sanchez make the start in Game 3 at Nationals Park. Sanchez struggled as the Astros got back in the series with a 4-1 win. The Nationals had Patrick Corbin on the mound for Game 4, seeking a 3-1 series lead. It was clear early that Corbin did not have his best stuff as he was tagged for four runs in the first four innings. Again, the bats fell silent for the Nationals as they were only held to four hits on the day. The only run was coming from a Soto RBI that scored Gerardo Parra. Alex Bregman corked a grand slam off Fernando Rodney in the seventh inning to earn his fifth RBI on the day while cementing an 8-1 win that seven the series at two games apiece. Game 5 would see a Joe Ross get the start as Max Scherzer was unable to go due to neck pain, missing a rematch Gerrit Cole. Only getting four hits again, Washington was shut down by Cole with the only run in coming in the seventh inning when Juan Soto smashed his second home run of the World Series, as the Astros won 7-1 to take control of the series. Unfortunately, it was already too late; by that point, Joe Ross had already given up four runs on the day. It was safe to say things were looking bleak for the Nationals, down 3-2 with the last two games at Minute Maid Park. In the first inning of game six with Anthony Rendon ripped an RBI single off Verlander to get an early lead. However, Houston answered with two runs off Strasburg in the bottom of the inning with a sac-fly from Jose Altuve followed by another home run from Bregman. Like the rest of the postseason, Strasburg strapped in from there, pitching into the ninth inning, not allowing another run. In the end, he allowed five hits and seven strikeouts over 8.1 innings of work. The Nats regained the lead after solo shots in the fifth by Adam Eaton and Juan Soto. The Nats would score two runs in alternating innings for the rest of the contest to make it 7-2 to force a seventh game. Game 7 saw Zack Greinke matched up with Max Scherzer, who was dealing with nagging pain. Greinke was outstanding, not allowing a run in the first six innings. Scherzer gave up two runs in five innings of work, and a solo shot to Yuli Gurriel an RBI later from Carlos Correa in the fifth. Heading into the seventh inning the Nats were down 2-0 when the late-inning magic that lifted the Nats all October awoke again as Anthony Rendon blasted a home run to put the Nats on the board. Howie Kendrick followed with a two-run home run off Will Harris that hit the right-field foul pole to give the Nationals a 3-2. Run scoring singles from Soto and Eaton over the next couple of innings gave Daniel Hudson a four-run lead to work within in the ninth inning as the Nationals won 6-2 to claim the title World Champions, the first time in 95 years that Washington ruled the baseball world. It was the first time that the road team had won every game in a seven-game World Series, it was also the first time a team had defeated a pair of 105+ win teams in the same postseason (Dodgers, Astros). This Nationals played in a fourth elimination game in the 2019 postseason, trailing in each one before getting the win, cementing the 2019 postseason as run for the ages for the Washington Nationals.


Written by Eric Decker


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Page created on May 11, 2005. Last updated on May 12, 2020, at 11:45 pm ET.