ATLANTA -- To call the 2019 Nationals season a roller coaster almost feels like a bit of an understatement.
When a team rebounds from 19-31 and reels off the best 80-game stretch in club history, the lows tend to get low and the highs tend to get quite high. But the Nationals are heading back to the postseason after missing out last season, and it’s time to look back at how they turned around from one of the most disappointing teams in MLB to perhaps one of the biggest threats in the National League playoffs.
Here are the Nationals' top 10 moments of a wild 2019 season:
1. Scherzer pitches with broken nose
During batting practice the day before his June 19 start, Max Scherzer bunted a ball that bounced off his bat and hit himself in the face, breaking his nose, blackening his right eye and leaving a large bruise on that unflinching scowl. That did not stop Scherzer from taking the mound just 24 hours later and shutting down the Phillies for 10 strikeouts in seven shutout innings with a broken face.
2. Seven-run ninth-inning comeback against the Mets
The Nationals have made a habit of comebacks this season, but none was more memorable than what they pulled off against the Mets on Sept. 3, storming back from six runs down in the ninth to pull off a come-from-behind victory and stun their division rivals. After giving up five runs in the top of the ninth, seven of the eight Nats who came to the plate reached base during the bottom half, capped by a walk-off three-run homer from Kurt Suzuki.
3. Barrett returns to mound for first time in four years
After he got back to the dugout, Aaron Barrett broke down in tears. That’s when the magnitude of it all set in. After arm injuries had kept him from the game for four years, Barrett returned to the mound on Sept. 7 to toss a scoreless inning for the Nationals in one of the best moments of the season for Washington and throughout baseball. It was Barrett’s first appearance in a game since Aug. 5, 2015.
4. Strasburg homers, dances in dugout
Observe Stephen Strasburg’s public persona through the years for a moment, and it will underscore just how unusual it was to see him on a Thursday night in Atlanta on July 18, dancing in the dugout to celebrate his home run. Yet, there was Strasburg, going down the dugout dancing line, swaying from side to side to the joy of the rest of his teammates. There were times this summer when it appeared no team was having as much fun as the Nationals, but no moment may have brought greater joy than seeing Strasburg let his guard down and celebrate a 3-for-3, five-RBI night.
5. Corbin pays tribute to Skaggs
On the back of the mound before delivering his warmup pitches on July 2, Patrick Corbin used his finger to write the number 45, thus beginning one of the most emotional moments of season. After the sudden death of his best friend, Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, Corbin wore his jersey number in tribute and then tossed seven brilliant innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts.
6. Turner hits for cycle for second time
Trea Turner possesses a rare combination of power and speed, which makes him seem more capable than most of putting together performances like this. On July 23, he became just the 26th player in MLB history to hit for the cycle twice in his career, both times against the Rockies.
7. Parra slam as start of Baby Shark
Gerardo Parra became a cult hero among Nationals fans this season for hatching the idea of the dugout dance line after home runs, for loosening the mood around the clubhouse and for changing his walkup song to “Baby Shark,” which brings Nationals Park to life to clap along to with each at-bat. That all started on May 11 with his first big moment of the season, a go-ahead grand slam to beat the Dodgers for his first career hit with the Nats, two days after he joined the team.
8. Rendon hits go-ahead grand slam vs. Atlanta
This has been a special season for Anthony Rendon in what could be his last in D.C. The fans have shared their admiration several times during this career year, lately with chants of “M-V-P” or earlier in the year, when they implored management to “lock him up.” So after his go-ahead grand slam against the Braves on July 29, Rendon came out to acknowledge the fans with a curtain call, a shared experience between the fans and a star player proving himself to be among the game’s elite before their eyes.
9. Down to last strike, Nats come back to stun Phillies
The reputation the Nationals have garnered for their comebacks may have begun on the night of April 9, when they came back after being down to their last strike in the ninth inning against the Phillies. Victor Robles hit the game-tying homer, and then Juan Soto launched a three-run homer in the 10th, stunning the Phils.
10. The clincher
From the crack of the bat, Turner thought he had it. But Brad Miller didn't stop drifting deeper onto the left-field grass, thinking he still had a play. Then Miller pulled up. He watched the ball soar a Statcast-projected 378 feet over his head and into the visitors' bullpen. Turner's grand slam put the Nats ahead of the Phillies, 6-4, in the second game of a doubleheader Tuesday, another marquee moment in a season full of them. It cemented the 6-5 win that, when paired with a Cubs loss, sent Washington to the National League Wild Card Game.
"I was like, 'Why are you running?!'" Turner recalled. "But as soon as he gave up a little bit, we all knew what the ramifications were where we were at in the game, and it was a big one."