We’re taking a break from the labor negotiations to come back to the penultimate installment of our Nats-killers series as we look at the players that have owned the Washington Nationals to this point in their careers.
To catch up on the series so far, including the introduction and the first three players in our list, you can find the links below. The introduction to the series will give you the criteria we’re looking for in the Nats-killers and some of the near-misses who won’t be on the list.
Let’s continue our countdown with #2 on our list of Nats-killers: Pete Alonso.
In this series, we’re going to take a look at their numbers against the Nationals and then revisit their “signature” moment against the team where they truly changed the game.
To this point in the series, we’ve looked at Anthony Santander, Matt Adams, and Kevin Pillar. While they’ve largely had productive major league careers, they’re not players who anyone would consider to be among the game’s better players.
The same can’t be said for Alonso, who burst onto the scene for the New York Mets in 2019, winning National League Rookie of the Year and finishing seventh in the NL MVP voting.
In 48 games against the Nationals, Alonso has a sublime .358/.432/.728 slash line in 199 plate appearances, clubbing 16 HR and driving in 38 runs, good for an incredible wRC+ of 203.
Because his career is just three seasons old at this point, that dominance against the Nats props up the rest of his career numbers. Against everyone else in the majors, Alonso slashes just .241/.335/.516, giving him only a slightly above-average 126 wRC+.
Yes, one of the criteria we set out in the introduction was that a player must be much better against the Nationals than the rest of the league, and Alonso is still a pretty good player anyway. However, what he lacks in that difference is made up by the fact he has a sample size (199 PA) almost double the next nearest player on this list, Matt Adams (109 PA).
There might not be anything that emphasizes his dominance against the Nats than 2020.
Across 198 plate appearances against the rest of the league, Alonso slashed .191/.288/.416 with a below-average 89 wRC+. Against the Nationals though, the first baseman tore the cover off the ball to the tune of a .429/.512/.857 slash line and wRC+ of 262 in 41 plate appearances.
The numbers look sensational for Alonso, but he has also stepped up in the biggest of moments more than anyone else on the list so far with a fair few signature moments.
Alonso is also the player we’ve looked at to this point who has a walk-off hit to his name.
Back in August last season, the Nationals rolled into Citi Field in the midst of a 3-7 run following their trade deadline sell-off that effectively waved the white flag on the season and closed a 10-season competitive window.
The Mets, meanwhile, were hunting down the Philadelphia Phillies at the top of the NL East. So while their visitors had an eye on the future, New York needed a win in the three-game series.
After winning the first two games — the second of which was played as the first part of a doubleheader after being rained out the night before — the two sides went at it again in the second of two games that day in a [shudders] seven-inning game.
The Nats rallied in the top of the final frame from 4-1 down to tie it at 4-4, but couldn’t quite get the go-ahead run across, so they handed the tie-game over to de facto closer, Kyle Finnegan,
Finnegan retired Jeff McNeil on eight pitches, but then Alonso dug in, and on a 2-0 count, he dug out a pitch low in the strike zone and launched it just over the left-field fence. Probably not his prettiest or his farthest, but it got the job done and got the Mets a win.
In the grand scheme of things though, it didn’t mean a great deal for the Mets who fell out of contention towards the end of the season.
For the Nationals, it was one of many losses that piled up down the stretch with a weakened team, especially with an inexperienced bullpen that struggled to hang onto late leads.
A seventh-inning walk-off home run just a couple of weeks after the Nats bailed on the 2021 season might be too gimmicky for some. So, as a second choice, in 2019, Alonso also hit a big home run against Washington during a series in which they dropped to that fateful 19-31 mark...
Four down, one to go. So far, we’ve had a wide variety of players to this point. Small sample sizes, big sample sizes. Multiple signature moments, few signature moments. A big difference in production, smaller but still sizeable differences in production.
The top of this list though has everything though. The big difference in production between the Nationals and the rest of the league, multiple signature moments, and reasonable sample size.
For a final clue, this player even had a walk-off hit against the Nationals in 2021...