The Dodgers may be tied for the most wins in baseball and the Brewers are hitting their way to the top of a weak NL Central, but the Nationals are by far the most fun team to watch. (Don’t @ me.) Now that Ryan Zimmerman has discovered the value of launch angles and Bryce Harper is hitting like himself again, this team is so much fun. Eight walk-off wins and five (should be seven) All Stars later, we’re halfway through the season! Here are the most exciting moments from the Nationals’ first half:
7. Bryce v. Strickland
It’s the moment of the season that got everyone talking. Hunter Strickland gave us all a ridiculous lesson in grudge-holding.
Drilling a guy for something he did two years ago seems a bit stupid. (Because it is stupid.) But hoo boy, did it get people talking. Did Bryce intentionally throw his helmet horribly? (Probably not.) Should people have expected Buster Posey, who had just gotten off the concussion DL, to go to Strickland’s defense? (No.) Did we need a reminder that Jayson Werth can toss professional baseball players around like paper clips? (Yes.)
6. Walk-off Wieters
The Nationals have more walk-offs than I have slots on this list. The first of two that made the cut, this one is remarkable on a personal level for me. I like going to baseball games solo because I sit next to different people all the time. At this particular game I was next to a woman who was with her daughter and her mom. Three generations at one game, which was adorable.
Jayson Werth got everything started in the bottom of the ninth. On the twelfth (Count ‘em, twelve!) pitch of the at-bat, he homered. The woman next to me, the moment that ball left the bat, grabbed my arm and said “Oh my goodness!” I’d never met this woman before, hadn’t said a word to her, but right then and there we both were willing that ball to go over the wall. And it did! So what did the Nats do?
What they always seem to do: keep the line movin’. Capped by Matt Wieters walking off his former team.
5. Albers’ First Save
Another moment that got baseball talking. Twelve years in the major leagues and, finally, Matt Albers got that first save! Which may not be exciting on its face, but what’s baseball if you can’t smile about the little things?
4. Easter Walk-off
I don’t have family in the District, so I spent Easter at my home away from home: Nats Park. My Easter dinner consisted of a hot dog, Shake Shack, and a walk-off bomb served up by Bryce Harper.
The best part about that walk-off is by the time the ball lands in left center, Joaquin Benoit is already at the third base line on his way back to the dugout. There are a lot of things to be said about Bryce Harper. But with the game on the line, two outs, bottom of the ninth, there is nobody in baseball I’d rather have up at the plate.
3. Max Takes One for the Team
When Max Scherzer is pitching you should consider yourself glued to your seat. On this date I made the poor decision to get a hot dog during the fourth inning and this happened:
All twenty-five people in the line had one of two reactions: stunned silence or cries of desolation. At first, it felt like we should start planning a vigil for the Nats’ season. But ninety seconds later, powered by some combination of anger the fact that he had not yet reached ten strikeouts, he got back in the game. He got up, stomped around the mound a little, and got right back to it. Everyone at the hot dog stand had the same expression on their face like,
“We should’ve seen that coming.”
Of course, the real impressive thing was what happened in the following inning. After taking a comebacker off the knee, Max Scherzer struck out three Phillies on nine pitches. Almost as if to say, “Yes. I am the best.”
2. Trea Hits for the Cycle
You didn’t think Trea Turner would be left off this list, did you? The first National to hit for the cycle in nine years! How cool was this? Speed, power, and terrible accessorizing prominently on display at Coors Field:
1. Tony’s Big Day
The first Nationals game my mom ever sat down and watched all the way through was the home game against the Mets on April 30th. If you ask who her favourite player is, she’ll say, “Anthony Rendon,” without hesitation. Then again, if your first impression of a player is him going 6-for-6 with ten RBIs and three homers, he’d probably be your favourite, too.
There you have it, the most exciting Nats moments of the first half! Walk-offs and Ks and homers, oh my! Finally, for a few honourable mentions:
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Audrey Stark is a Contributor at Federal Baseball. You can follow her on Twitter @highstarksunday.