Today is a new day and lessons learned

A year ago at this time, the Padres crushed the Washington Nationals in a Friday night game on June 23, in a 13-3 drubbing. On Saturday, ex-teammate Juan Soto was making gestures into the Nats’ third base dugout. Maybe that fired up the boys from D.C. because they won that game 2-0 by besting Matt Waldron and of course Hunter Harvey got the save. On the Sunday game a year ago, the Nats won the series with MacKenzie Gore dominating by a final score of 8-3. Some in San Diego felt that the Nats have taken advantage of their team before. Huh?

The history for some goes back to 1973 when Padres fans felt that Washington, D.C. was trying to steal their baseball team in a sale to relocate them to D.C. as the Washington Stars. When NL owners voted their approval of the Padres sale to D.C. on Dec. 6, 1973, it was all a formality until San Diego’s Mayor, Pete Wilson, threatened to sue if the Padres lease was broken on the stadium. That eventually killed the deal. In the 2008 season, the Padres and Nationals were neck-in-neck for the worst record in baseball. The Nats finished with 102 losses — the Padres with 99, and the Nats won the Stephen Strasburg sweepstakes and drafted the San Diego State phenom. Then on December 19, 2014, Padres GM, AJ Preller, and the Nats GM, Mike Rizzo, put together a 3-team blockbuster that fleeced Joe Ross and Trea Turner from the Padres with the Nats sending Travis Ott and Steven Souza Jr. to the Tampa Bay Rays, and Tampa sent Wil Myers and Gerardo Reyes to the Padres. Preller and Rizzo teamed up again on a trade at the deadline in 2022 in the Juan Soto blockbuster with Josh Bell in which the Nats got Gore, CJ Abrams, James Wood, Robert Hassell III, and Jarlin Susana.

History will judge the Soto/Bell trade in hindsight, however the early returns look like it was a historically bad deal by the Padres. It has been compared to the worst trade in NFL history when the Cowboys traded Herschel Walker to the Vikings. Again, time will tell.

There is a lot of history there between the cities separated by 2,650 miles. They must have hated to see the Washington Nationals win a World Series before them. The Padres have existed for over 54 years without a World Series win. The Nats got one in their 15th season, and did it with Strasburg as the MVP. He was born in San Diego and grew up in the suburbs and attended West Hills High School in Santee, California before he headed to the Aztecs at San Diego State.

So sure, there are fans who harbor a lot of resentment and remember how close they were to losing their baseball team to Washington in 1973, and one of them got into a shouting match with Jesse Winker after the game. The fan yelled at Winker, “I’m 66. What are you, 26?” 

Rewind a few minutes, and the Padres had just walked-off on the Nats by a final score of 7-6. The Nats scored three runs in the top of the 10th inning and took a 6-3 lead into the bottom of the 10th inning. Kyle Finnegan had pitched two games in a row and was unavailable. This would be Harvey’s chance for another save in San Diego. Easy, right? A 3-run lead. Nothing easy about it with the ghost runner on second base. Harvey had his first batter in a 1-2 count on all fastballs and threw him a curveball that Donovan Solano hit for a long double. With two on, the tying run stepped into the batter’s box. The rookie Jackson Merrill, from Maryland, singled on a curveball and made the score 6-5. Uh oh. The next batter, Ha-Seong Kim walked, and Tyler Wade bunted them over to third and second base for a sacrifice bunt and one out. David Peralta popped out for two outs. Nats’ manager, Dave Martinez, made the wise choice to walk the batting champ, Luis Arraez, with the intentional base on balls.

With bases loaded and two outs, it was Harvey on fumes at this point, having thrown 17 pitches. He had to face Jurickson Profar who was 0-4 in the game and a dangerous bat. Harvey immediately got up on him 0-2 and then tried to get him to chase two out of the zone to make it a 2-2 count. Profar fouled off two more fastballs and had seen all fastballs to this point. For some reason, Harvey went to the splitter and threw it to the same spot on the outside edge as the fifth fastball, and that sped up Profar’s bat — and he pulled the extreme outside pitch to the right-center gap out of the reach of Lane Thomas who was all twisted up in his route. The cruelest part of baseball is one team had to lose that game.

With Profar’s antics after the game, there could be some bad blood spilling over to today. These teams were separated by just a half game in the standings yesterday for the Wild Card, and maybe Profar gave the Nats some bulletin board material. He claims he was disrespected by the intentional walk of Arraez. He did some acting in the batter’s box on two inside pitches. He was San Diego’s hero to some last night, a villain to others who don’t like him.

Yes, it was a heartbreaking loss for the Nationals. Teams suffer many of them. Harvey’s own history as a closer has been well documented. The son of Angels’ closer, Bryan Harvey. You have heard all of the stories. Blown saves happen. It’s like tearing a loss from the jaws of victory. Harvey will take most of the blame. The final pitcher usually does. All of the hits off of curveballs or the splitter happened because the batters get paid too. That is sports.

Maybe that tweet above will be the case. That person was talking about losing before Profar hit the ball. Some wait for failure to justify their negativity. They find their own happiness in others’ pain. Look at Finnegan’s blown save on Saturday turned into a gutsy save on Sunday. That same Twitter account threw in the towel before even May 23 of 2019 and again in the sixth inning of Game 7 of the 2019 World Series. They delete the tweets when they are proven wrong. You can either wallow in a loss or look at it that this was just one loss in a season when every team will lose at least four dozen games. It is what Harvey and the Nats do today, tomorrow, this weekend, and the rest of their schedule that should matter more. The Nats have 83 more games to play. Win 47 games the rest of the way, and it could be the Nats in the postseason.

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