What makes a baseball season?
Well, for starters, 162 games. Before it starts, there’s some games that don’t count. After it ends, there’s some games that very much do.
But a season of Washington Nationals baseball is made not just of numbers — batting averages, walks and hits per inning, errors, strikeouts, wins and losses — but also of the special moments that make us excited to be fans. Sometimes what looks like just another tally on a stat sheet can be a big hit that sets the tone for a big season, or a great game pitched by a man in memory of the past and in mind of the future. An anonymous, workmanlike win over a sleepy team counts the same in the win-loss record as an awe-inspiring comeback victory that makes a statement against a top rival, but to the fans, comparing them is like comparing Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride with Superman: Escape from Krypton.
Each season has its own cast of heroes, too. You know their names — you know their stories. There’s the kinda quiet, kinda shy kid from Texas who would rather talk about the Houston Rockets than talk about his MVP-caliber numbers. There’s the “washed-up,” “once-great” slugger whose body failed him the past three years, but who defied the odds and the skeptics to reclaim his superstar status. There’s the big-bodied thirty-something who bounced from organization to organization before signing a minor league deal over the winter, only to emerge as one of the most dominant relievers in the major leagues. The emergency call-up who spent 10 years toiling in anonymity in the minor leagues, only to come up and prove he belonged in The Show all along. The bespectacled wildling who locks down the ninth inning with often just a single pitch. The unappreciated utilityman who knuckled down and turned the trajectory of his career around. The underrated lefty who rediscovered his old form on the mound. The kids. The stars. The veterans.
Each and every one had their role to play this season, and a lot of them have another chapter yet to write before the book is closed on the Washington Nationals of 2017. For now, though, here’s a look back at some of the moments that made us cheer all the louder this regular season.
April 3: Adam Lind takes his first swing
When the Nationals passed over left-handed first basemen like Brandon Moss and Luis Valbuena to back up the frequently injured and underperforming Ryan Zimmerman this winter, some fans started to get a little restless. (OK, really restless.) So when the news broke in mid-February that Adam Lind, a slugger coming off a down year with the Seattle Mariners, would join the club on a one-year deal with a 2018 mutual option, the reaction from just about everyone not named Clint Robinson was great excitement.
As expected, Lind edged Robinson in the competition for a bench role in the Opening Day lineup. It didn’t take long for him to signal to any doubters that general manager Mike Rizzo had made a good signing, and the Nats had made a good choice in putting him on the roster. Lind’s first swing as a Washington National was a pinch-hit home run to right-center field, a two-run blast that put the Nats on top for good after they entered the seventh-inning stretch trailing the Miami Marlins 2–1.
The wide grin on Lind’s face as he rounded the bases was priceless. The fans roared. The dugout erupted. Lind, whose 2016 season had been so frustrating, who remained unsigned until just days before the start of spring training, had announced himself with one swing of the bat as a pivotal piece of the Nats’ pennant race and a comeback player to watch. He’s gone on to become something of a pinch-hitting wunderkind, but his Opening Day blast was certainly his biggest and best of the year to date.
April 14: Jayson Werth feels the love
Sometimes, a walk-off win is just too exciting for one person. When Daniel Murphy singled home Bryce Harper to beat the Philadelphia Phillies in extra innings, veteran outfielder Jayson Werth was that one person.
After Harper slid belly-down across home plate, waving his arms to call himself “safe” (he was), Werth — who had been waiting in the hole — dove on top of his younger teammate and gave him a big bear hug, as the rest of the team poured out of the first base dugout and onto the field to celebrate. It was a photo finish in more ways than one as the Nats continued their sprint out of the gate to run up an early division lead they would never relinquish.
Harper and Werth, of course, are good buddies. Werth was one of just two current and former professional teammates of Harper to serve as groomsmen in his wedding last winter (with Ian Desmond; Harper’s older brother Bryan, a pitcher in the Nats minor league system, was also in the wedding party), and the two posed for a promotional photo before the season like John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell in Step Brothers. That pose was fun, but this one was better.
April 25: Trea Turner fulfills his destiny
Upon reading Trea Turner’s scouting report, everyone with much baseball sense back when he debuted late in the 2015 season likely had the same question: “So, when’s he gonna hit for the cycle?” The answer, as it turned out, was April 25, 2017.
Turner was having a whale of a game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the major leagues — and prime real estate for a toolsy young player who is comfortable both popping monster home runs and burning down the basepaths. He had already singled. He had already doubled. He had already homered. And when he slugged a ball down the right field line, he was off to the races. Carlos Gonzalez was slow to retrieve the ball and fire it back into the infield, but it didn’t matter: Turner made it to third without any contest, sliding head-first into the bag just for good measure, and there it was. Turner said after the game he didn’t realize right away he had hit for the cycle, and the Florida kid wasn’t thinking about it much on a brisk Denver night: “I was trying to survive the cold,” he said. Setting Colorado’s basepaths on fire, well — we suppose that’s one way to keep warm.
Just for good measure, Turner came to the plate for that at-bat with the bases loaded, leaving Scott Oberg with nowhere to put him. Those three runs batted in would end up providing the Nats with their final margin of victory in the 15–12 contest.
April 30: Anthony Rendon makes a little history
How many players do you think have gone 6-for-6 in a game while batting in 10 runs? Well, the list doubled in size as Anthony Rendon put the hammer to the New York Mets in a Sunday game he will never forget, joining Jim Bottomley in the annals of major league history.
Rendon had been scuffling a bit to start the season. There didn’t seem to be much cause for alarm: Rendon is often a slow starter, the Houston native warming up along with the weather. Even still, there had been points in the month where the normally sharp defender had looked a little disinterested, and the sterling plate discipline had given way to a bit of impatience. In short, it hadn’t been a great month for a player the Nats would need to have the season they hoped to have.
It took just one crazy game to jump-start what has blossomed into an MVP-worthy campaign for the young third baseman. As the Nats smashed the Mets 23–5, exacting a little revenge as they salvaged a series loss, Rendon seemed to be providing an entire lineup’s worth of offense on his own. He broke a 1–1 tie in the first inning by singling home two runners off a 100 mph fastball from Noah Syndergaard, then smashed his first home run off the season as he took Sean Gilmartin deep to left in the third inning. Then he hit his second home run of the season in the fourth, punishing Gilmartin again. Two hits (including a bases-clearing double off the scoreboard that missed the seats by about a foot) later, he came to the plate again. Facing an epic blowout, the Mets had given backup catcher Kevin Plawecki the unenviable task of soaking up the last couple innings of the game — which meant facing the suddenly blazing-hot Rendon in his sixth at-bat of the game. On a 2-2 count, Plawecki left a 70 mph curveball well up in the zone, Rendon took a mighty swing, and…well, you know the rest.
May 5: Matt Albers’ big moment (finally) arrives
There are times when, as a professional ballplayer, you really don’t want to make history. And for Matt Albers, appearing in what might have been his 103rd game finished as a major league pitcher without ever recording a save, this was one of those times. With injuries and poor performances ravaging the Nats’ bullpen in the early going, manager Dusty Baker turned to Albers — whose mark of games finished without a career save was creeping perilously close to Ryan Webb’s record of 105 — to finish off the Phillies in the ninth inning.
Albers, a rotund right-hander who had already logged time in six different major league organizations, settled for a minor league deal with a spring training invitation over the winter from the Washington Nationals. Coming off a miserable season with the Chicago White Sox, Albers offered a resúmè virtually indistinguishable from close to a dozen other non-roster invitees hoping to grab a bullpen spot they knew might not even be available in the first place. And…he didn’t get it. Albers was released from his contract as the Nats prepared to break camp and head north at the end of March. With no other offers in hand, Albers chose to sign a new minor league contract and head to Syracuse for a cold April with the Nats’ Triple-A affiliate. But the spectacular implosion of Jeremy Guthrie, the Nats’ first choice among their non-roster invitees to join the major league team, in an early-April spot start led management to replace him on the roster with Albers, who had impressed in spring training. The thought was that if nothing else, he could be utilized in a long relief role out of the bullpen. But pitching like no one else in the bullpen in those first few weeks, Albers quickly became one of Baker’s go-to guys and was increasingly entrusted with higher-leverage situations, culminating in the game he had to save in Philadelphia.
Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it much better, as it turned out. Cesar Hernandez blasted a long foul ball before Albers, appearing just a little shakier than he had during his rock-solid April, hit him with a pitch. That brought the tying run to the plate, and it could have been the moment when the big righty unraveled. After all, his miserable 2016 campaign in Chicago had also started brilliantly — also with a 0.00 ERA through April. May was when it had all begun to fall apart. Was being called upon to close, something he had never done even as a minor league pitcher, the tremor that would set off another collapse? Albers took a deep breath. Then he struck out Aaron Altherr. Then he struck out Odubel Herrera. Then an 88 mph slider induced Maikel Franco into a routine groundout to third base. They say in baseball, you should act like you’ve been there before, but when Albers’ face broke into a giddy grin as he high-fived catcher Matt Wieters and he sauntered back toward the mound, smiling and shaking his head in near-disbelief, could anyone really blame him?
May 10: Matt Wieters has cool new friends now
The Nats signed free agent Matt Wieters during spring training, hoping the four-time All-Star and former Baltimore Oriole would buttress their defense and provide an offensive replacement for Wilson Ramos, who signed with the Tampa Bay Rays after his own All-Star season in 2016. Wieters got off to a hot start with the Nats in 2017, but after an impressive April in which he hit .301, his finest hour was yet to come.
For some forsaken reason, the Nats have to play their Baltimore cousins every year, part of Major League Baseball’s “natural rivals” configuration that forces interleague play during the regular season — something, it must be said, many old-school fans consider to be an abomination. And in this game, Wieters was playing against the Orioles in front of his home crowd in Washington, D.C., for the first time. The Orioles had clipped the Nats in the two games played at Camden Yards, and they were looking to make it three in a row. Wieters had something else in mind.
For the first time all season — it would only happen four more times over the course of the year — Wieters delivered the Nats’ first hit of the game, driving a single to right field. He had the Nats’ last hit of the game, too. With one out in the ninth inning, the bases loaded, and the Nats trailing by a run, Wieters slapped a groundball through the right side of the infield, bringing home Bryce Harper as the tying run and Daniel Murphy to win it. The home faithful at Nationals Park erupted and visitors from Baltimore hung their heads. Sometimes, what makes a hero into a villain, or a villain into a hero, is nothing more than a simple costume change.
May 14: Max Scherzer does not care about pain
For what would not be the last time in the season, power pitcher Max Scherzer ended up getting a taste of his own medicine, in what was otherwise a routine outing against the Phillies in the second game of a doubleheader. Drilled in the leg by a sharp comebacker off the bat of Michael Saunders, Scherzer stumbled off the mound and crashed onto the infield grass. Nats fans held their breath — it takes a lot to knock Scherzer down, and an injury to their ace could have dramatically changed the course of the season.
Scherzer got back up and took a few steps, and then he went down again, rolling around on his back, face contorted in pain. An eerie silence fell over Nationals Park. In the press box, the stunned beat writers started generating ledes in their heads. For a few agonizing minutes, it looked like the worst had happened.
Then, somehow, Scherzer got back up again. Umpire Andy Fletcher handed him a baseball. He finished out the fourth inning, and then he came back out for the fifth inning and struck out the side. On nine pitches. He became the 79th pitcher on record to throw an immaculate inning in the major leagues, and he did so with a goose egg on his knee that — mere minutes earlier — had looked like it could be the end of his season. The Nats went on to win the ballgame. Max Scherzer is a monster.
May 29: Bryce Harper punches a jerk
OK, so this one isn’t going to go down as the finest moment in Nats history, or in what will hopefully be a long and storied career for Bryce Harper, future Hall of Famer. But at the same time, for a team that rarely gets into brawls, rarely goes off on the umpires, and generally conducts itself with grace and aplomb on the field, this was a moment in which the Nats made a statement: Don’t mess with us.
The real story behind this moment began in October 2014, when Harper launched a dramatic home run off San Francisco Giants reliever Hunter Strickland in Game 1 of the National League Division Series to break up what had been a shutout into the seventh inning. The Giants went on to win the game, but a defensive Strickland, asked the next day about surrendering the moonshots to Harper and teammate Asdrubal Cabrera, said, “I would throw the same pitch again today and see what happens again.” Now, for some reason known only to him, Strickland did indeed throw Harper the same pitch again in Game 4, and Harper duly deposited it into McCovey Cove to tie the game. After taking a moment to admire his handiwork, Harper appeared to exchange some unfriendly looks, and perhaps some unkind words, with Strickland as he ran a 360-foot route around the frustrated reliever. (As Strickland’s consolation prize, the Giants again went on to win the game, and then the National League pennant, and then the World Series.)
Fast-forward to two and a half years later. Harper is stepping into the box against Strickland for the first time since the 2014 NLDS. The score is 2–0, Washington. There are two outs. Strickland rears back and drills Harper in the hip with a fastball clocked at 98 mph. Harper steps out, points his bat at Strickland, and then tosses the stick aside, takes off his helmet, and charges toward him. The helmet goes well wide of Strickland. Harper’s fist doesn’t. The two men only have seconds to trade a couple of blows before their teammates separate them, with ex-Nat and Giants first baseman Michael Morse the only casualty, the would-be peacemaker flattened by former Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardzija an instant after getting in between his current and former teammates. Harper and Strickland were suspended (Samardzija, somehow, was not), Morse sadly lost the rest of his season to concussion symptoms, and the Nats went on to sweep their old foes in the series. No one has thrown intentionally at Bryce Harper since.
July 14: Matt Grace under pressure
(skip to 13:35)
This is a redemption story, and it starts in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a forgettable game the Nats lost on May 31, 2015. The series against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park was a bad trip for the Nats from the get-go, with Harper downed in the first game on a hit-by-pitch and pitcher Gio Gonzalez somehow, inconceivably, getting hit-by-pitch twice in the second game. In the third game, it was rookie southpaw Matt Grace who would be made to hurt.
Grace had been holding his own as a fill-in for the traded Xavier Cedeño and the injured Felipe Rivero in the Nats’ less-than-stellar bullpen early in the 2015 season. But on May 31, coming on in relief after the Reds took a one-run lead, he was utterly hapless. He walked Joey Votto, then gave up back-to-back RBI doubles, followed by another (intentional) walk, followed by an RBI single. Before he could pitch to Tucker Barnhart, manager Matt Williams came out to the mound and relieved him. Grace was sent down to Triple-A the next day, and for the rest of 2015 and 2016, his only major league playing time was as a September call-up, one of a handful of minor league relievers given the opportunity to pitch a few innings in mostly meaningless games.
But with the Washington bullpen ranking as the worst in the majors in the first months of the 2017 season and injuries a factor, Grace was finally getting another look in The Show. Nobody could mistake him for a dominant pitcher, but he was finding a groove and not appearing overly outmatched. And improbably, Grace found himself jogging in from the bullpen for a one-out save in a 5–0 game with the bases loaded. The game — are you listening, Hollywood screenwriters? — was at Great American Ball Park, and the batter was Barnhart, the same Red whom Grace had not been allowed to face in the game that had derailed his first bid to establish himself as a major league reliever. Grace came set, delivered, and watched as Barnhart slashed the first pitch he saw on the ground. A sliding stop by second baseman Stephen Drew, a quick throw to first, and the game was over — a most unusual first career save in a most poignant setting.
July 17: Ryan Zimmerman touches ’em all
Few thought Ryan Zimmerman would be an average, or even an above-average, offensive first baseman this year. Perhaps no one expected him to turn in an MVP-worthy season. Zimmerman missed significant time in 2014 and 2015 and slumped through 2016, when he was the lowest-rated everyday first baseman in the major leagues. The Nats signed Adam Lind in part to give them an everyday-capable option at first base in case Zimmerman’s woes continued.
Well, Zimmerman went into the 2017 season with something to prove — and boy, did he. Posting his best season numbers ever with the stick, Zimmerman had perhaps his proudest moment of the season when he surpassed Vladimir Guerrero of the Montreal Expos, one of the greatest players to ever put on a uniform for the Montreal–Washington franchise, to stand alone as the franchise leader in home runs hit. He lashed his 235th career homer off Reds starter Scott Feldman, a bomb to left-center field, to eclipse Guerrero’s mark.
One fan in particular thought it was a pretty cool moment: Vladimir Guerrero. The retired Expos great tweeted:
Records are made to be broken, congratulations to Ryan Zimmerman, being No. 2 is not bad 😃⚾️ https://t.co/QmFbrsmSDd
— Vladimir Guerrero (@VladGuerrero27) July 17, 2017
July 31: Gio Gonzalez gets deep
Baseball was probably the last thing on Gio Gonzalez’s mind when he took the mound in Marlins Park at the end of July. It would have been the 25th birthday of his friend Jose Fernandez, the Miami Marlins ace who died in a cocaine-fueled late-night boating accident last September, leaving behind a girlfriend pregnant with the couple’s first child. Gio’s own wife, Berenice Lea Moures, was in the late stages of her own pregnancy. He prepared for his start knowing that at any moment, Berenice could go into labor. If that happened, Gio told his manager, he would leave immediately — his family took precedence over baseball in his life.
Oftentimes, when a professional athlete’s mind is occupied with other things, it’s not hard to tell. Absentminded baseball players might swing and miss at a ball they would have taken if they were focused on the game, or unthinkingly airmail a throw, or be careless in their pitch-calling or selection. On this day, that was not the case. Even though Gio had lots to think about other than baseball — his late friend, the young woman and child his friend left beyond, his wife and the child she was carrying — he was doing something remarkable. He was getting outs — and the Marlins weren’t getting hits.
Gio carried his unlikely no-hitter as far as the ninth inning, in front of a sparse but enthusiastic crowd not far from his hometown of Hialeah, Florida. But with three outs still to collect, former batting champ and frequent Nats bugbear Dee Gordon hit a clean line drive into center field for a leadoff single. Gio grimaced and smacked his glove, the crowd cheered, and Dusty Baker trudged out to the mound to let his starter know his day was done. And then something remarkable happened: Fans in Marlins Park rose to their feet to give a standing ovation to the opposing pitcher as he departed the field. Slugger Giancarlo Stanton, the next Marlin to bat, joined in the applause, understanding what this moment meant to the Florida native. Gio raised his glove to acknowledge Stanton, then doffed his cap to the crowd. Sean Doolittle induced Stanton into a game-ending double play to preserve Gio’s shutout win. It was, Gio said after the game, an “emotional” and “special” night.
August 22: Sean Doolittle, peer-reviewed closer
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Players rarely choose to be traded, and Sean Doolittle was no exception. The veteran reliever had spent his entire career with the Oakland Athletics. He had even signed a team-friendly deal to stay in an A’s uniform into the 2020s. But when the Oakland front office saw an opportunity to make a deal with the Nats for two intriguing prospects and talented-but-struggling reliever Blake Treinen, they took it, trading Doolittle and fellow setup man Ryan Madson to Washington. Their new manager immediately began using Doolittle as his closer, with Madson (who reportedly confessed he feels uncomfortable in the ninth inning) setting him up.
Being promoted from the seventh and eighth innings to the ninth somewhat cushioned the blow of being uprooted for Doolittle, who hadn’t been a full-time closer since 2014. The fiery-bearded southpaw, erudite and well-spoken, quickly established himself as a fan favorite as he employed a nasty running fastball — with just the occasional changeup or slider mixed in — to run up saves as no member of the Nats’ bullpen had been able to do before his arrival. Some saves came easier than others; there was his first for the Nats in Anaheim, where the clearly nervous newcomer let in a run before overpowering Los Angeles Angels sluggers Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to lock it down, and the contest against the Marlins in which the tying run got to third base before Dee Gordon lined a ball down the left field line, speared on a dive by rookie outfielder Andrew Stevenson to end the game.
Doolittle’s efforts didn’t go unappreciated by fans, or by his teammates, who had watched in growing dismay as the bullpen blew no fewer than 14 saves before the All-Star Game. And after one of Doolittle’s more routine saves, securing a 4–3 finish over the Houston Astros in interleague play at Minute Maid Park, Anthony Rendon wandered up behind the closer as he was being interviewed by about the win and put his hand on Doolittle’s shoulder. “Hey, you’re really good,” he told his new teammate before walking back toward the dugout, leaving Doolittle smiling sheepishly. The Nats’ official Twitter account summed it up best in a tweet with video of the moment:
Agree to agree. pic.twitter.com/6AvE63kWLQ
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 23, 2017
August 26: Adrian Sanchez the indestructible
Things could have gone very different for Adrian Sanchez — in at least a few different ways. The infielder was plucked from minor league obscurity to fill the roster spot vacated by Trea Turner when the Nats’ starting shortstop was hit by a pitch and placed on the disabled list. Despite never being a heralded prospect and not posting greatly impressive numbers in the high minors, Sanchez did an able job when called upon…including in a game on MLB Players’ Weekend against the Mets that could well have ended in tragedy.
First, let’s get this out of the way: Getting hit with a major league fastball is no joke. A rock-hard baseball traveling at 150 percent of freeway speed can cause some serious hurt. And while batters most fear an errant fastball to the head or neck, there really aren’t many worse places to be hit than squarely in the chest, where the impact can snap ribs, puncture lungs, and even stop a heart. And stunningly, the same day Sanchez faced off against Mets reliever Jeurys Familia, a Milwaukee Brewers minor-leaguer named Julio Mendez — like Sanchez, a native of Venezuela, and like Sanchez, an infielder — was hit in the chest by a pitch while playing in a rookie league game. That game was discontinued as Mendez was given CPR and taken to the hospital in critical condition after experiencing a cardiac episode.
It might sound trite to say Sanchez could have died, but it’s not untrue. “El Chamo,” as the nickname on the back of his jersey read, went down hard as he foul-tipped a 96-mph pitch back into his chest, having instinctively tried to bunt the ball away from his body when he saw it coming in way inside. The crowd at Nationals Park held its breath as team trainer Paul Lessard checked on Sanchez. Miraculously, he was all right — well enough, in fact, to get back up, resume the at-bat, and single home his third run batted in of the day, his best career outing to date, before being removed for a pinch-runner. After the game, he stayed overnight at a local hospital for observation before being cleared to return to action. It’s good to be good, but it’s better to be lucky.
September 8: Michael A. Taylor returns the favor
September 25, 2015, was a bad day for Michael A. Taylor — certainly not the worst in his young career, but definitely not a good one. Playing center field against the Phillies, a diving Taylor misplayed a ball struck by rookie Aaron Altherr, which fell beneath his glove and scooted past him for what was scored an inside-the-park home run — with the bases loaded.
Not quite two years later, Taylor hit his own inside-the-park grand slam, and fittingly, it was against the Phillies. Having a monster day both at the plate and with the glove, Taylor hit a sharp line drive over the head of center fielder Odubel Herrera, who mistimed his leap and deflected the ball off his glove. Taylor cruised around third and slid safely into home as the relay came in, to the jubilation of fans at Nationals Park.
Oddly enough, though, while it was the first official inside-the-park grand slam in Major League Baseball since Altherr’s, it wasn’t the first time Taylor had cleared the bases and come around to score on a ball that didn’t leave the yard. Exactly two years earlier, on September 8, 2015, Taylor hit a groundball up the middle for a bases-loaded single, which went under the glove of Mets center field Yoenis Cespedes and rolled to the wall, allowing every runner to score on the play. The official scorer chose to rule it a single for Taylor and a three-base fielding error on Cespedes, denying Taylor the inside-the-park slam. We don’t know what the scorer will decide on September 8, 2019, but personally, we’re looking forward to watching Taylor hit that day.
September 10: Victor Robles runs ’til they tag him
The Nats pulled off one of the biggest September surprises this year when they promoted top prospect Victor Robles directly from Double-A to the majors, giving the 20-year-old Dominican center fielder his first cup of coffee in The Show. For those who follow baseball prospects, Robles is one of the guys, a five-tool player who is very advanced for his age and can flat-out hit, run, and throw. Needless to say, he’s a very, very fun young player to watch.
Robles has said of his style as a batter that he is unafraid of crowding the plate, even if it means getting hit by a pitch (something that has happened to him 89 times across four seasons in the minor leagues). Of his mentality as a runner, he has said he is always thinking third base when he puts a ball in play; in fact, his aggressive baserunning has sometimes gotten into trouble, at least once leading to him being benched in a game after he was picked off one time too many. (He’s still learning. We’ll cut him some slack.)
So it was fitting, in a game in which Robles got his first career start as a major league player, that he reached base twice: on a hit-by-pitch and on a double that he tried to stretch into a triple. Off the bat, it looked like Robles might have had a home run for his first career hit, and it missed by just a couple of feet (in some ballparks, it surely would have gone out) as it banged high off the scoreboard in right-center at Nationals Park. The ever-determined speedster would have been safe at third, it appeared, but he overslid the bag and was called out on a close play. The baserunning mistake ended the inning, but it gave Robles both his first career hit and his first career RBI. The Nats ended up winning the game against the Phillies by a run — and clinching their second straight National League East division crown the same day.