WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Washington, D.C. has deservedly been dubbed ‘Walk-Off City’ after the Nationals have earned four of their nine straight victories with their mastery of the walk-off.
One ended on a walk-off homer, and the others on clutch walk-off base hits. All have resulted in the Nationals keeping alive Major League Baseball’s longest current win streak, making now a better time than ever to revisit the greatest walk-off moments in Washington Nationals history.
While this list may be prone to error, lacking of objectivity, and quite possibly skewed by recency effect, all walk-offs on it — which have been limited to home runs — will help you feel a better appreciation for how special the Nationals play has been these last two weeks.
5. Bryce Harper Responds to ‘Minors’ Controversy with Walk-Off Homer (2014)
This came just a few short weeks ago, on Aug. 7, on the heels of media-generated controversy over whether or not the Nationals should demote struggling Bryce Harper to the minor leagues, where he would conceivably straighten out his swing. It’s placement on this list feels necessary if for no other reason than to highlight a common them noticed in Harper: Just when you’re ready to count him out, he reminds everyone with his play just how good he is, and how spectacular he can be.
With the score deadlocked at 3 in the bottom of the 13th inning, after a nearly six entire scoreless innings and an Ian Desmond walk, Harper rose to the occasion on a 1-0 count from Carlos Torres, going Oppo Boppo into the left-field seats to give the Nationals a 5-3 win and again silence all the haters.
4. Ryan Zimmerman’s Grand Slam Walk-Off (2011)
Twenty games back and dead in the NL East division at 60-63, on Aug. 19, 2011, the Nationals — under Davey Johnson’s first year of management – had to take whatever moral victories they could get just to lurch through their sixth straight losing season in Washington.
They got one that night, against then-division-leading Philadelphia, the score tied, 4-4, in the bottom of the ninth.
Ryan Zimmerman and Phillies pitcher Ryan Madson faced equal threat: A two outs, bases loaded situation staring at a 3-2 count. This was the epitome of a head-to-head matchup.
Zimmerman would be the one who delivered for his team on this night, when Mr. Walk-Off drilled a high inside fastball just into the bleachers in the corner of left field for the walk-off grand slam.
3. Bryce Harper’s First-Career Walk-Off (2013)
The Nationals’ 2013 season didn’t go anywhere near as planned, but there were plenty of bright spots.
One was Bryce Harper hitting his first-career walk-off home run – off Bryan Morris — in his second season, giving the Nationals a 9-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 25.
2. Zimmerman Christens Nationals Park with Walk-Off (2008)
This walk-off homer, which earned Zimmerman the nickname ‘Mr. Walk-Off,’ will forever hold a special place in Nationals fans’ hearts for years to come. It closed out the team’s literal first regular season game ever played at Nationals Park, a brisk March 30 in the nation’s capital (it was frigid cold; I was there), with a win.
For the fun of it, take a look at the Nats’ 2008 Opening Day lineup: Cristian Guzman, Lastings Milledge, Ryan Zimmerman, Nick Johnson, Austin Kearns, Paul Lo Duca, Elijah Dukes, Ronnie Belliard and Odalis Perez.
Zimmerman stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth — score tied at 2 — to take a quick ball from side-armed Braves pitcher Peter Moylan, before sending the next pitch for a long ride, just dipping over the fence in left-center field. The brand new ballpark was electric, and for the first time since the team’s arrival in Washington in 2005, it was clear Nationals baseball was here to stay for a very long time.
1. Jayson Werth’s NLDS Game 4 Walk-Off (2012)
There was really no question this would be No. 1. At the time, everything which had happened previously in the club’s eight-year history had been leading up to this Oct. 11 moment.
With the Nationals facing elimination in the organization’s inaugural playoff series, trailing the Cardinals 2-1 in the 2012 NLDS, Jayson Werth stepped to the plate with no outs and nobody on, the score tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth.
He worked the count against Lance Lynn, receiving on a full count a gift-wrapped fastball down the heart of the plate, which he promptly buried in the back of the visiting bullpen in left field to give the Nats a 2-1 victory, and force a decisive Game 5. The Nationals would live to fight another day. Literally.
(Note to readers: I’m sure I’ve missed some. There have been plenty of walk-offs in the team’s history. Since I treasure the privilege to delve into the Nationals’ past, please drop a link in the comments to whatever you feel should have been included, or just otherwise great moments in team history.)