Aug 26, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy (20) celebrates with right fielder Bryce Harper (34) and his fifth inning solo home run against the Colorado Rockies at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Today, we bring you part 1 of our countdown of the top ten Washington Nationals games of 2016
Throughout the 2016 season, the Washington Nationals gave their fans a lot of great games en route to winning 95 games and the NL East title. On this Thanksgiving, every Nats fan should be thankful that this organization has won three division titles in five years and continues to put a consistent, winning product on the field year in and year out.
As the Washington Nationals got to 95 wins, there were many games that had fans on the edge of their seats, and had great excitement up until the final at-bat of the game. Starting today, we will do a two part series and rank the top ten games of the 2016 season. Part two (games 5 through 1) of this series will be published on Saturday morning.
There were many moments throughout this season that did not make this list. Some of them include Bryce Harper’s 100th career home run, which was his first career grand slam against the Braves back in April, a franchise record nine-run fourth inning against the Braves in a win back in September, or Stephen Drew’s walk-off triple against the Padres in July.
So, without further ado, here are the first five games on my top ten list. Plus, all of us at District On Deck would like to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving and we are thankful that you choose to read the articles that are on this site on a daily basis.
Jun 12, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth (28) hits a walk off two run RBI single against the Philadelphia Phillies during the ninth inning at Nationals Park. The Washington Nationals won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Werth Walk-Off Single Against Old Team
The first game on my countdown takes us back to June 12 against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nats Park as the Washington Nationals were looking to complete the three-game sweep against Phiadelphia.
Joe Ross kept the Phillies scoreless for the first four innings, but Philadelphia got on the board in the fifth on a solo home run from Cody Asche. In the sixth, the Phillies had three straight hits to start the inning as a double by Odubel Herrera and a single by Freddy Galvis tied the game at three.
During the ninth inning, two former Phillies were at the center of the stage. In the top of the ninth, former Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon gave up a solo home run to Maikel Franco to start the inning, which gave the Phillies a 4-3 lead.
It looked like the story of the game was going to be Papelbon allowing the game-winning run, but the Nats offense rallied against Jeanmar Gomez in the ninth. Bryce Harper and Espinosa had back-to-back one out singles and Clint Robinson drew a bases loaded walk, which set the stage for Werth.
In that at-bat against Gomez, Werth got the count to 2-2 and then hit a game-winning two-run single into right field to secure the sweep and give Gomez his second blown save of the season. Plus, it capped a weekend where the Nats outscored the Phillies, 22-10.
Sep 24, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; The Washington Nationals celebrate in the clubhouse after clinching the National League Eastern Division Championship by defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. The Nationals won 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
NL East Clincher In Pittsburgh
With their magic number to clinch the NL East down to two, the Washington Nationals took the field at PNC Park and got a big lead early against Ivan Nova and the Pirates. It was 3-0 before Ross took the mound due to a Harper sac fly and a Drew two-run single with the bases loaded in the top of the first.
Despite getting the early lead, Ross did not go deep into this game. Josh Bell hit a solo home run against him in the third to cut the Nats lead to 3-1. Ross ended up going 2.2 innings, giving up the solo home run on five hits.
After Ross, the bullpen was able to shut out the Pirates for the final 6.1 innings. Reynaldo Lopez was the MVP of this game as he pitched 5.1 of those innings and gave up three hits while striking out six and walking two. You could make the case that this was the game that clinched Lopez a spot in the bullpen for the NLDS against the Dodgers.
The Washington Nationals offense tacked on three more insurance runs in the fourth inning to give them a 6-1 lead, which ended up being the final score. They had to wait until the Phillies beat the Mets that night to clinch the division, but once the score went final, the champagne party was on in the visitor’s clubhouse as the Nats clinched their third NL East title in the last five years.
Jul 29, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; Washington Nationals center fielder Ben Revere (9) celebrates scoring with left fielder Jayson Werth (28) against the San Francisco Giants in the fifth inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Triple Play In San Francisco
History was made on July 29 at AT&T Park when the Washington Nationals took on the San Francisco Giants. In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Nats pulled off their first triple play in the short history of the franchise during a 4-1 win.
Trailing 1-0 in the top of the fourth inning, Werth tied the game with a base hit to right against Jeff Samardzija. One inning later, a Ben Revere RBI single and a Daniel Murphy RBI triple put the Washington Nationals ahead 3-1.
Those three runs would be all that Max Scherzer would need. The eventual National League Cy Young award winner went seven innings, gave up one run on five hits, struck out six, and walked two as he picked up his 11th win of the season. The lone Giants run came on a Gregor Blanco RBI single in the second.
Without that triple play, the Nats might’ve lost three of those four games in San Francisco. One day later, the Washington Nationals fixed their bullpen when they completed the trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates for closer Mark Melancon and sent Felipe Rivero to Pittsburgh along with prospect Taylor Hearn.
Apr 4, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy (20) drives in the game winning run with a base hit against the Atlanta Braves during the tenth inning at Turner Field. The Nationals defeated the Braves 4-3 in ten innings. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Opening Day Drama In Atlanta
This past season, the Washington Nationals first game and their first win ended up being at Turner Field in Atlanta. Bryce Harper got the scoring started with a solo home run in the first against Julio Teheran, which was his fourth career home run on Opening Day.
But, the lead didn’t last long when Freddie Freeman crushed a solo home run to dead center against Scherzer. Three innings later, the teams exchanged solo home runs again. Daniel Murphy hit his first home run in a curly W uniform to center and Adonis Garcia hit a home run for Atlanta, which tied the game at two.
While Opening Day was great for Murphy, it wasn’t good for Shawn Kelley. Kelley walked Garcia on four pitches with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, which gave the Braves a 3-2 lead. However, the Nats would rally back.
After the Washington Nationals loaded the bases against Jason Grilli, Michael Taylor hit a sacrifice fly to center to tie the game at three. In extra innings, Murphy would end up being the hero as his double in the tenth inning against Jim Johnson ended up sealing the win in Dusty Baker’s first game as Nats manager.
Opening Day ended up setting the tone for this team as one that would fight back in any situation and it set the tempo for the Nats fast start to the season. Add in the implementation of the new slide rule, which worked in the Nats favor, and you have yourself a top ten ballgame.
Aug 7, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos (40) celebrates after hitting a solo home run off San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) (not pictured) during the seventh inning at Nationals Park. Washington Nationals defeated San Francisco Giants 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Ramos Home Run Decides Pitcher’s Duel
Back on August 7, fans at Nationals Park got to see a classic pitcher’s duel between Tanner Roark and Madison Bumgarner as both teams did not score a run until the seventh inning. Before that first run of the game, there was one defensive play that ended up being a difference maker in the game.
With second and third and two outs in the top of the seventh, Brandon Belt hit a ball to deep center field that appeared to be a double, but Ben Revere made a great over the shoulder catch to end the inning. While Revere struggled at the plate this past season, he found a way to save games with his good defense.
During the bottom of the inning, Wilson Ramos led off the inning with a solo home run to right against Bumgarner, which ended up being the game’s only run. Despite throwing a complete game and giving up only two hits, Bumgarner took the loss.
As for Roark, he threw seven shutout innings, gave up five hits, struck out five, and walked three in the win. While the three walks were high, the Giants ended up going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the game.
At the time, it looked like a huge win because the Nats would have the head-to-head tiebreaker on the Giants if San Francisco had won the NL West. However, it ended up being the Dodgers who won the NL West instead of the Giants.