31 Oct Top 10 Moments for the 2018 Nationals
By Laura Shir
The 2018 season was a tough one for the Nationals and their fans, with the team underperforming relative to expectations and ultimately missing the postseason altogether. However, in the spirit of remembering the joy even in the face of disappointment, here are the top 10 moments of the Nats’ 2018 season (with one honorable mention).
Honorable mention: Gio’s goodbye ceremony
I couldn’t in good conscience call this one of the top ten moments, because it was bittersweet, but it was an important moment this season. In spite of his often-eventful starts, Gio Gonzalez has been beloved by Nats fans since 2012. Maybe it was the way he wore his heart on his sleeve when he pitched, or how he was so quick to share his sense of humor with the fans (the “meow” interview is still a favorite). Seeing him honored on the video board, with his sons running around the field, was emotional for everyone, as was the outpouring of wonderful Gio stories on social media as soon as the trade to the Brewers was announced. Gio touched so many with his kindness and generosity; if we had to say goodbye, this was a lovely way to do it.
10. Doo finally riding in the bullpen cart
The Nats’ bullpen cart debuted on August 17th, complete with a flashing red light on top to let you know it was important. But no one used it – no home relievers and no visitors. It just took laps around the field excitedly, as if to say, “Hello! I’m here! Doesn’t anyone want a ride?” But on September 8th, Sean Doolittle came off the DL and finally gave the fans what they wanted: he rode in the bullpen cart, and gave it rave reviews. What did the bullpen cart’s (unofficial) Twitter account have to say about giving Sean a ride? “It was amazing. [Doolittle] was the best. He smelled like glove leather and peppermint. I expected his beard to be more glittery, but he we can work on that for next time.” Solid review. Five stars.
9. Max’s first career stolen base (in a game in which he pitched a 2-hit complete game shut out)
Max had been agitating to get the green light to steal for several years: he told the Washington Post, “I’ve been yelling at Matt Williams and I’ve been yelling at Dusty Baker, like, ‘Let me go!’ ” But he’d never gotten it – until this year. On April 8th, with the Braves’ Peter Moylan on the mound, he singled, took a casual lead off of first, and then took second without a throw. Then he went right back to pitching ace mode, and finished the game with 102 pitches and no runs. You know he’s gonna be re-telling that story for years.
8. Zim’s 11th career walkoff (on review)
They don’t call Ryan Zimmerman Mr. Walkoff for nothing. This one, though, was more eventful than usual: on August 22nd, down 7-6 to the Phillies, Zim batted Juan Soto in on a fly ball to right. But the ball bounced off the railing and back onto the field, and Zim had to speed up his home run trot and sprint into second as it was initially ruled a double. On review, it was proven to be a homer, but the excited rookie Soto almost accidentally sabotaged it by running after Zim to try to tackle him before he had gotten all the way home! Thankfully, Zim made it in safely before any of his teammates could touch him (which would have caused him to be out instead of scoring), and the Nats won the game.
7. Mark Reynolds’ Amazing Weekend (July 7-8)
Who is Mark Reynolds, you ask? You’re not familiar with his illustrious career? Okay, maybe he’s not the most memorable player, putting up .248/.328/.456 as that random white dude on 8 different teams since 2007. But he had a truly incredible weekend this July for the Nats. On July 7th, the Nats slaughtered the Marlins 18-4, and Mark was personally responsible for 10 of those RBIs, putting up two homers, two singles, and a double. The following day, the Marlins returned the favor by beating the Nats 10-2, and who was brought in to save the struggling bullpen and get the last out of the game? None other than everyday hero Mark Reynolds, now the proud owner of a 0.00 ERA.
6. Jayson Werth’s retirement ceremony
Jayson was a clubhouse leader in his seven years with the Nats, playing a huge role in their transformation from a 69-93 team in 2010 to a division winner in 2012. He also contributed some of the most memorable moments for the fans, from his walk off in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS to his colorful post-game interviews (the two that spawned the most memes among Nats fans were when he quipped, “you go, Dan Kolko,” Mean Girls style, to the Nats’ sideline reporter in 2014, and then in 2016 when he told the haters to “kiss my ass” on live TV). In spite of the rain that threatened the festivities, on September 8th, the Nationals honored Jayson’s retirement with a Ring of Honor induction ceremony with speeches, gifts (including a rocking chair), a touching video from many of his former teammates, and the opportunity for the fans to hear “Werewolves of London” played in the park one last time. A-wooooooo! That’s wolf for “we miss you, thank you for everything.”
5. Going 69-69
When the Nats got to 68-69, everyone waited to see if 69-69 would happen. The internet collectively lost its mind in anticipation. And, thanks to a 9th inning homer and a 10th inning sac fly from Bryce Harper, it happened. It was nice.
4. The Ongoing Legend of Tony Two Bags
To continue the niceness, Anthony Rendon had 69 total bases in September. As usual, he also had a quietly terrific season, and ended it on a high note: he put up a .352 average with a 1.096 OPS in the last month of the season. In addition, this season seems like it was an important one for Tony in terms of personal growth. He overcame his typical media shyness to give an excellent interview to the Washington Post about his recent work with the Nationals’ youth academy. It was an unexpected and rare look into the psyche of a beloved but often enigmatic player. Tony will be a free agent after next season, but given the strong connections he’s forging in the DC area, this offseason would be an ideal time for the Nats to sign him to a contract extension.
3. Max Scherzer’s 300 Ks
2018 was the year of the milestones. In addition to the team hitting the 69-69 mark, Bryce finally got that elusive 100th RBI, and Max hit a milestone he had been striving toward for years: 300 strikeouts. In game 158, which would ultimately be Max’s final game of the year, he started the game with a 290-strikeout record. Though the Marlins would seem an easy target, Max had struck out 10+ fish only once this year (out of four previous 2018 starts versus Miami). But in true Max fashion, he made it look easy, going seven strong and allowing only one run while striking out exactly the ten batters he needed to reach the 300 mark. The home broadcast cut to his wife Erica May-Scherzer in the stands just before and just after the 300th strikeout, and her expressions – palpable stress to utter joy – were everything.
2. #ChildishBambino hitting a homer before his actual debut
Juan Soto. Our large adult son. Doer of Juan Soto Things. Juan was an ongoing highlight reel in the 2018 season, but one of the most entertaining moments of the season was when he hit a home run on June 18th in a game that was resumed after a rain suspension on May 15th – five days before his actual MLB debut. The stats in that game counted for May 15th even after it resumed, so technically, Juan hit an MLB homer while he was still in double-A. Slashing .292/.406/.517, 5 stolen bases and 22 homers in 116 games, 19 years old and a time traveler? Your Rookie of the Year candidate could never.
1. Bryce winning the home run derby at Nats Park
The lights. The cameras. The crowd. Papa Harper’s biceps. The beloved, prodigal Wilson Ramos bringing him water in between rounds. Scherzer and Doolittle as the world’s most amped up cheering squad. The legendary hair, complete with DC flag headband. Bryce’s dramatic home run derby win, after not participating in the derby since 2013, was a fever dream of incredible moments, one after the next. All that, and it even fixed his swing: Harper batted .214 before the all-star break and .300 after it. Though his free agency this offseason is fraught with uncertainty for Nats fans, Bryce’s derby win on home turf gave DC a victory that no one can ever take away: one perfect, shining night in the District, etched into baseball history forever.