June 4th In Nationals History

during a game at Nationals Park on June 4, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Adam LaRoche celebrates scoring the winning run on Steve Lombardozzi’s sacrifice fly in Washington’s 3-2 comeback victory over the New York Mets on June 4, 2013 at Nationals Park.  

Coming off an amazing 2012 season in which the Nationals shocked the baseball world by winning 98 games to capture the National League East title, hopes were high in Washington as the 2013 season began. The Nationals had fortified an already strong roster by trading for lead off man and centerfielder Denard Span, had added a veteran closer in Rafael Soriano and brought in solid starter Dan Haren to add to a young starting rotation that was already one of baseball’s bests.

Things did not start out well for the Nats in Davey Johnson’s final year at the helm of the team. Washington stumbled out of the gate and stood at 28-29 entering play on June 4, 2013, seven games behind the first place Atlanta Braves.

Facing the Nats this day four years ago was a New  York Mets team that had also experienced problems in the early part of the 2013 season. The Mets came to Washington for a two game set sporting an unimpressive 22-32 record after having just been swept in a three game trip to Miami, being outscored by the Marlins 24-8 in the process.

On the mound for Washington in the game was Jordan Zimmermann, who was en route to his perhaps his finest season in a Nats’ uniform. The stoic righty finished 2013 with a 19-9 record and a 3.25 ERA, tying St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright for the most wins in the National League. Zimmermann’s effort earned him a fifth place finish in National League Cy Young Award voting that year.

Zimmermann did not disappoint on this evening,  going eight innings and giving up only four hits while striking out four Mets.  Unfortunately he left the game trailing 2-1, as errors by Zimmermann and Adam LaRoche gave the Mets two unearned runs in the top of the fifth.

With Mets closer Bobby Parnell looking to end the Mets’ three game losing skid, the heart of the Nats’ lineup ensured that the New Yorkers’ nightmare was far from over.  Ryan Zimmerman led off the bottom of the ninth with a double, and advanced to third on a wild pitch. LaRoche atoned for his fifth inning error with a single to drive in Zimmerman, and the score was tied at 2-2.  Ian Desmond, who had homered in the bottom of the second, continued the rally with a double to move LaRoche to third.  With their options limited, the Mets chose to walk Roger Bernadina to set up a force at any base.   Steve Lombardozzi was next up for Washington, and the scrappy infielder battled Parnell to a 2-2 count before hitting a liner to left field that was deep enough to score LaRoche with the winning run in a thrilling victory for the home team.

The 2013 Nats would never gain traction until the season’s final months in which they played .630 ball in winning 34 of their final 54 games.  Washington finished 10 games behind Atlanta in the East, in large measure due to the Nats’ losing 13 of the 19 games played between the teams.

 

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Nationals by the Numbers- June 3rd

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It was all smiles for rookie Nats’ outfielder Brian Goodwin on Friday night in Oakland. Goodwin had four hits, including his first Major League home run, to pace Washington to a 13-3 rout of the A’s.  The win was the ninth in their last 11 games for the Nats.

When a team is 11 games ahead in its division in early June, has won all four games so far on its west coast road swing and is pacing the Major Leagues in many offensive categories, there are a lot of good developments to focus on. This week’s “Nationals by the Numbers” looks at some gaudy offensive numbers put up by Washington’s lineup, a career season in the making for the Nats’ longest tenured player, a milestone for the Nats’ skipper and continued dominance by Washington’s unmatched pair of mound aces.

On Wednesday night in San Francisco, Max Scherzer allowed only five hits and one run with 11 strikeouts and no walks in a complete game 3-1 victory over the Giants.  Scherzer achieved all of this while throwing only 100 pitches.  The Nats’ star’s gem was one of only three since 1913 where a pitcher has thrown 100 or fewer pitches while allowing one or fewer runs, walking no one and striking out at least 11 batters.

James Shields, then with Tampa, was the past pitcher to do the trick, in a complete game shutout of Oakland on July 31, 2012 that was achieved with only 98 pitches being thrown by the big righty.  Toronto’s Dave Stieb, who threw 90 pitches while allowing only one run and fanning 11 Yankees with no walks on August 4, 1999 in a 2-1 Jays’ win, is the only other pitcher in this exclusive club.

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Seven Nationals’ players have had a game where they’ve had at least four hits, including both a triple and a home run. Rookie outfielder Brian Goodwin is the most recent entrant to the group, as he went 4 for 5 with his first Major League home run and a three bagger in Washington’s 13-3 rout of Oakland.  Goodwin is the second player to achieve the feat in 2017. Back on April 25, 2017 at Colorado, Trea Turner hit for the cycle in Washington’s 15-12 victory.

Other Nationals’ to do the trick are Brad Wilkerson (cycle) and Ryan Church in 2005, Elijah Dukes and Cristian Guzman (cycle) in 2008 and Ryan Zimmerman in 2009.

9

On Friday, the A’s became the latest squad to be dominated by Washington starter Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg threw seven strong innings, allowing only two runs on four hits while fanning seven, in the rout.

On the year, Strasburg has allowed three or less earned runs in nine of his 10 starts. The tall hurler has also been a workhorse so far this year, throwing seven or more innings in seven of his 10 appearances.

10

There have been ten instances in 2017 where a team has had 20 or more hits in a game, and Washington leads the way with three.  In addition to Friday’s demolition job in Oakland, the Nats had 20 hits on April 19th in a 14-4 win over the Braves and a team record tying 23 in the 23-5 slaughter of the Mets on April 30th.

Not much has gone right for the residents of Citi Field so far in 2017, but they do have one feather in their cap. They are the only team besides the Nationals with multiple 20 hit plus games in 2017. The Mets have two.

15

Ryan Zimmerman hit home runs in game one and game three of the Nats’ series in San Francisco, giving him 15 at the end of play on May 31st. The 15 round trippers in the first two months of the season is a career high for Zimmerman, topping the 11 home runs he had in April/May of 2010.   Zimmerman also had 11 four baggers in April/May of 2009.

1800

Friday’s victory was the 1,800th of manager Dusty Baker’s career, the second most among active Major League skippers (San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy has 1812 following last night’s Giants win at Philadelphia).

Baker’s first came all the way back on April 6, 1993 in a 2-1 Giants victory of St. Louis at Busch Stadium.  Barry Bonds and Matt Williams drove in runs for San Francisco, and John Burkett and three relievers combined to shut down the Cards on opening day.  Three players currently on the Nats’ 25 man roster (Trea Turner, Joe Ross and Koda Glover) had not even been born yet when the game was played.

 

Monday Musings- May 29th

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Ryan Zimmerman, Dusty Baker and Davey Lopes celebrate Washington’s turning a 3-3-5 triple play in last season’s 4-1 Nats’ win over the Giants at AT&T Park on Friday July 29th. The victory was one of only eight in the Nats’ last 18 games played in San Francisco.

Happy Memorial Day to all, with a special thanks going to all military members and their families who have sacrificed so much so we can be free.

As the Nats begin their nine game road trip out west, here’s a look at some of the things on my mind on this holiday morning.

TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD

On Friday and Saturday against the woeful San Diego Padres, all-star hurlers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg threw two of the best games ever by Nats’ starting pitchers.  Coming off his strong performance against Seattle on Tuesday, there was hope that number five starter Joe Ross could lead the way to a sweep of San Diego.

Those hopes were dashed, as the young Padres rocked Ross for 12 hits and five runs in only four innings pitched for a 5-3 win.  The game marked only the second one in Nats’ history where a starting pitcher has thrown four or fewer innings and give up at least 12 hits. On June 28, 2015 in game two of a doubleheader at Philadelphia, Tanner Roark gave up 12 hits and eight runs in 3.1 innings pitched as Washington fell to the Phillies 8-5.

REUNION BY THE BAY

Three very popular ex-Nationals will go up against their former team in the three game set in San Francisco.

Giants’ closer Mark Melancon was only in Washington for a few months, but the stoic late inning reliever made an impression on the Nats and their fans with his ability to throw strikes and stay calm under pressure.  So far this year, Melancon is 0-1 with 10 saves and 2.51 ERA.   After putting up a sparkling .809 WHIP figure during his time pitching for the 2016 division winning Nats, Melancon has struggled somewhat in that category in 2017.  His WHIP so far this season is 1.256.

When healthy while in DC, centerfielder Denard Span was among the most productive and popular players for the Nats.  Span has struggled for the most part this year for the offensively challenged Giants, hitting only .250 with a .294 on base percentage.  The left-handed swinger has hit three home runs on the year and has driven in 10 runs, but he seems to no longer be the stolen base threat he was when playing for the Nats.  Span has been thrown out in his only two steal attempts so far this year.

Mention “Beast Mode” to any Nats fan from the earlier part of this decade, and the name Michael Morse comes to mind immediately.  Morse’s power and infectious enthusiasm made him a fan favorite during his time in Washington.  Unfortunately he has not found the success he once had in DC, but he’s back in San Francisco this year trying to get back on track. So far in 34 at bats in 2017, Morse is hitting only .206 with a single home run and 13 strikeouts.

OFFENSIVE NUMBERS

Like their California cousins from San Diego, the 2017 Giants are an offensively challenged squad.  San Francisco ranks at or near the bottom in many categories so far this season:

CATEGORY                          GIANTS’ MARK                  RANK                     LEAGUE AVERAGE

Runs per game                            3.44                              14 of 15                        4.60

Home runs                                      42                                   15                                60

On base percentage                     .288                           14 (tie w/SD)                    .322

On base plus slugging                 .640                                   15                               .741

One Giant player who is immune to his team’s struggles is all-star Buster Posey.   The talented backstop is hitting .333 with seven homers so far this season.

Perhaps we are headed for some low scoring affairs over the next few days, as the Nats have not exactly lit up the scoreboard for the most part in recent seasons while playing in San Francisco.  Washington is 8-10 over the past five seasons at AT&T Park, scoring three or fewer runs in 10 of those 18 contests.  Only one current Nationals player with more than 10 at bats at the park has an OPS higher than .800.  The surprise is that player is backup catcher Jose Lobaton, whose .842 mark is far and away the highest for Washington.  Jayson Werth (.787) and Daniel Murphy (.762) have held their own at San Francisco, while Ryan Zimmerman (.693), Trea Turner (.665), Bryce Harper (.653) and Michael A. Taylor (.575) have struggled.

MOORE, MOORE, MOORE

San Francisco lefty Matt Moore takes the mound this afternoon against Washington’s Tanner Roark in the first game of the series. Moore is 2-5 with a 5.28 ERA, but has allowed three or fewer earned runs in his last four starts and in seven of his 10 overall. Moore has had trouble keeping the ball in the park in 2017, allowing 10 in 58 innings pitched.

TIME TO CELEBRATE

Happy 41st birthday for former Nationals utility man Jerry Hairston, who hit .268 with four homers and 24 RBI for the 2011 Nats’ team.   Hairston played for nine teams during his 16 year Major League career, hitting .257 and stealing 147 bases.

Nationals by the Numbers- May 28th

San Diego Padres v Washington Nationals

Stephen Strasburg’s 15 strikeout gem on Saturday helped the Nats to a 3-0 win over the San Diego Padres for their fourth win in five games in the team’s current home stand.

In this week’s edition of “Nationals by the Numbers” we look at, among other items,  outstanding efforts by the team’s two aces, strong months of May for two key components of the Nats’ lineup and the team’s unique position at this relatively early stage of the season.

.379

When Adam Eaton went down with a gruesome knee injury on April 28th, Michael A. Taylor was given the opportunity to take over the job. And while no one expected Taylor to fill Eaton’s role completely, there was hope that the talented youngster could at least be a positive force in the Nats’ outfield. So far, especially in games before the home crowd, Taylor is filling that bill.

In 58 at bats at Nationals Park this year, Taylor is hitting .379 with two doubles, a triple, four home runs and 11 RBI.  His two run home runs in each of the last two games have helped propel Washington to back to back victories over San Diego, and a more aggressive approach at the plate seems to be paying off for the Florida native.

A big test awaits Taylor as the Nats head out on the road for a nine game western swing to San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles.  In road contests so far this year, Taylor is hitting only .164 in 55 at bats with no home runs and only two RBI.

.80

Throw strikes and work fast…..that manta has been repeated by countless pitching coaches to their charges at all levels of baseball for years and years.

Over the past four games in which he’s registered three saves, Nats’ closer Koda Glover has taken that message to heart.  Of the 40 pitchers he’s thrown in those outings, Glover has been in the zone 32 times for an 80% strike percentage.  On the year, Glover is throwing 66% of his pitches for strikes, slightly behind Shawn Kelley’s 67% mark among Nationals’ relievers.

1.095 

Nats’ third baseman Anthony Rendon is a talented all-around player, who regularly appears on highlight reels showing baseball’s best defensive plays.  If the Texan keeps up the pace he’s setting at the plate so far this month, he might be featured on those shows for more than just his glove.

In 75 at bats so far in May going into Sunday’s game, Rendon has put up a 1.095 OPS with a .317 average,. six homers, 17 RBI, seven doubles, a triple and three stolen bases. The month has been the best of Rendon’s career so far, eclipsing the .935 OPS he put up in September 2014.

In Tuesday’s 10-1 thrashing of the Seattle Mariners, the Nats registered their seventh 10 plus run game of the 2017 season. With 113 games left to play in the campaign, the Nationals have already posted more double digit run games than the 2005, 2010 and 2011 teams did in a full season.

The Nats’ record for double digit run games in a season is 14, set last year.  The 2012 and 2015 squads had 11 such games each.

8.5

The Memorial Day weekend is traditionally seen as a a time where the contenders and pretenders are starting to separate from each other.  Washington’s 8.5 game lead in the National League East over Atlanta puts the Nats’ squarely in the “contenders” category, and in a much better position than a Nats’ team has ever been at this stage of the season.

Following games on the last Saturday of May in 2012, the Nats were 28-18 and had a 2.5 game lead over second place Atlanta in the division.  The only other Washington team to be alone in first place at this stage of the season was the 2015 squad, whose 28-21 record had it on top by 1.5 games.

11.7 

Max Scherzer’s 13 strikeouts against San Diego on Friday gave him a 11.7 SO/9 figure so far in the 2017 season. If that record holds, it will beat Scherzer’s career best of 11.2 set during his Cy Young Award 2016 campaign.  The determined righthander also is on pace to set a career best in WHIP.  His .937 mark in that category is ahead of his previous best of .968 set last season.

The one thorn in Scherzer’s side over the past few years has been giving up the long ball, and he’s surrendered 1.3 per nine innings pitched so far this year. That equals his career high, set in 2011 while Scherzer pitched for Arizona.

58

So far in his career, Stephen Strasburg has dominated his home town team of San Diego the way that Southern California winter weather dominates the climate in the northeast.

In 43 innings pitched against the Pads, Strasburg has fanned 58 including a career best 15 on Saturday.  The talented righty is 6-1 with a 2.93 ERA lifetime against San Diego.

Nationals by the Numbers- May 21st

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Pittsburgh rookie Josh Bell homers against Washington’s Tanner Roark on May 18th at PNC Park to lead the Pirates to a 10-4 victory over the Nationals. The home run was one of ten hit against the Nationals so far on their road trip to Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

A Major League baseball season is full of peaks and valleys for all teams, and the Nats experienced some valleys over the past week. This week’s “Nationals by the Numbers” looks at some of those unsightly results, the work of a Nationals stalwart who is aging well and the top level performance Washington is getting from its best hitter off of the bench.

.170 

The Nationals are 1-4 so far on their road trip, and the team has struggled in many facets of the game.  The poor record on the trip is not hard to understand when one looks at how three important Nationals players have fared at the plate in those games.  Bryce Harper (3-20), Ryan Zimmerman (4-18) and Anthony Rendon (2-15) are hitting a combined .170 in the five contests, with only four extra base hits and four RBI between them.

.354

One Nationals hitter who is not slumping recently is centerfielder Michael A. Taylor. Despite going 0-4 in yesterday’s contest, Taylor is hitting .354 with two doubles, two homers and five RBI over his past 31 at bats.  Taylor is still striking out at a high rate, however.  Among players with fewer than 100 at bats so far this year, Taylor’s 36 strikeouts in 90 at bats is the fourth highest total in the Major Leagues.  Only Tampa’s Rickie Weeks (40 strikeouts/77 at bats),  Matt Davidson of the White Sox (39 strikeouts/98 at bats) and Kansas City’s Brandon Moss (38 strikeouts/96 at bats) have worse results than Taylor in this category.

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Jayson Werth turned 38 on Saturday, but his .869 OPS so far in 2017 shows that he might be getting better as well.   He’s put up a higher OPS figure than that number only three times in his long career.  Werth’s career best was a .931 mark that he had for the Nationals in 2013.  While playing for the Phillies, Werth had a .921 OPS in 2010 and a .879 OPS in 2009.   So far in May, Werth has been red-hot.  He has hit .315 with a .422 on base percentage and a .519 slugging percentage figure for an impressive .940 OPS.

1.04

Weather permitting, Washington’s Stephen Strasburg looks to end the Nats’ skid today against the Braves in Atlanta. If the Nats’ all-star’s last four games in Atlanta are a guide, we very well may see a curly W being put in the books this afternoon.  In those four starts, Strasburg is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched.

3

While Harper, Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy have grabbed most of the headlines associated with the Nationals’ hot start at the plate in the 2017 season, the contributions of bench player Adam Lind should not be overlooked.  Lind, with three, is the only player in the Major Leagues with more than one pinch-hit home run so far this year.  He is hitting a robust .333 in 45 at bats, with four doubles and 14 RBI (the seventh highest total on the team) to go along with his three round-trippers.

4

Saturday’s loss was Washington’s fourth in a row, the longest losing streak through the first quarter of the year for the first place Nats.   While some overly nervous fans may be ready to push the panic button, such streaks are common place even among top level teams.  In their 2016 National League East championship year, the Nats had four streaks of four or more losses in a row. Washington dropped four straight at Wrigley Field against the Cubs from May 5th through May 8th last year.  From June 18th through June 25th, the Nats lost a season high seven games in a row on a road swing to San Diego, Los Angeles and Milwaukee.  In August Washington dropped four straight games against Atlanta and Baltimore, and the Nats also finished on the wrong end of the scoreboard four in four straight games in September while facing the Braves and the Marlins.

59 

With 10 home runs allowed in five games on their current road trip, the Nats have allowed more home runs this year than only two National League teams (the Phillies have permitted 62 long balls, with San Diego surrendering 60).  The National League average for home runs allowed this year is 50. The last time Washington was not above league average in home runs permitted in a season was back in 2010, when the Nats permitted 151 home runs against a league average of 150.

68

Their has not been a lot of top level starting pitching on display during the Nats’ road trip, but an exception to that rule came on May 18th in the Pirates 6-1 victory over the Nats.  Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole allowed only one run and three hits in seven dominant innings to pace the Pirates to victory. Cole’s pitching game score of 68 in the contest was the second highest of the year so far against the Nats, trailing only Mike Leake’s 76 from St. Louis’ 6-1 victory over Washington on April 12th.

Monday Musings

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Michael A. Taylor’s two run home run was the deciding blow in Washington’s 6-5 victory over Philadelphia on May 14th.  The win gave the Nats a split of their day-night twin bill against the Phils, and moved Washington 7.5 games ahead in the National League East.

We’re not yet to Memorial Day, let alone to the Fourth of July or to the trade deadline, but forgive us if we’re thinking October already in the Nation’s Capital.

Washington’s fast start to the 2017 season has the Nats at 24-13, 7.5 games ahead of the slumping Mets in what has turned out to be, at least to date, a fairly non-competitive National League East.  And while it is never wise to count one’s chickens before they hatch, it is not going too far out on a limb to predict that there will be October baseball in Washington in 2017.

Since the 1995 season, four six teams besides the 2017 Nationals have finished play on May 15th with greater than a 7.5 game lead in their division.  Two of the teams (last year’s Cubs and the 2007 Red Sox) won the World Series, and the other two (the 2001 Mariners and the 1998 Braves were playoff squads).  The Mariners (116 wins), Braves (106) and the Cubs (103) cracked the century mark in victories, while the Red Sox won 96.

 

UP NEXT

Stephen Strasburg takes the mound for the Nats tomorrow against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.  The hard-throwing righthander is 3-2 with a 2.51 ERA in his career against the Buccos, and has fanned 60 batters in only 43 innings pitched.  The Pirates’ .532 OPS against Strasburg is the lowest of any National League opponent.

The Nats will be facing righthander Chad Kuhl, who is 1-3 with a 5.81 ERA on the year.  Opponents have put up a healthy 1.613 WHIP rate against Kuhl in his seven starts.

The Nats’ Bryce Harper is a home run threat wherever he plays but to date, he’s not been able to hit a long ball at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. In 49 career at bats in Pittsburgh, Harper has hit .265 with three RBI but has yet to go deep.  Perhaps tomorrow will be the day the Nats’ rightfielder makes a splash in the Steel City!

 

 

Nationals by the Numbers- May 14th

Another dramatic Bryce Harper home run against the Phillies gave the Nats their second straight walk-off win in Washington’s 6-4 victory on May 13th at Nationals Park.

The latest “Nationals by the Numbers” highlights late inning heroics by members of the Nats’ powerful lineup and some positives coming out of what has been to date a much maligned Nats’ bullpen corps.

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Bryce Harper contributed to Washington’s game winning rally on Wednesday with a double to left field off of Baltimore’s Brad Brach.  Six of Harper’s nine doubles in the 2017 have been hit to the opposite field.

7

In Washington’s comeback win over Baltimore on Wednesday May 10th, catcher Matt Wieters went 3 for 5 and drove in the winning runs against his former teammates.  The game was Wieters’ seventh multi-hit game of the 2017 season.  Only three catchers (the Giants’ Buster Posey with 11, Miami’s J. P. Realmuto with 10 and Brian McCann of Houston with 8) have more multi-hit games than Wieters.

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Wieters’ heroics on Wednesday might not have been possible without some assistance from Nats’ centerfielder Michael A. Taylor, whose eighth inning two run home run off of Baltimore’s Alec Asher drew Washington within two runs at 6-4.   Taylor’s laser blast came on the first pitch he saw from Asher, marking the ninth time in his 23 homers that he has gone deep on the first pitch of an at bat.  20 of Taylor’s home runs have come when he’s been ahead in the count.

12.3

Nats’ reliever Shawn Kelley got the win in Saturday’s game, throwing one inning and fanning two batters in the process. Kelley now has 15 strikeouts in 11 innings pitched on the year for a 12.3 SO/9 ratio. That number almost equals his career best 12.4 mark set in 2016 when Kelley was the Nats’ primary set-up man.

31

Stephen Strasburg struck out nine Orioles’ batters on Wednesday night, giving him 31 career games at Nationals Park with nine or more strikeouts. In those 31 games, Strasburg has posted a 17-5 record with the Nats winning six of the nine contests where Strasburg did not figure in the decision.  The nine strikeout game was Strasburg’s first at home since July 21, 2016, when he lost a 6-3 decision to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

32

Reliever Matt Albers struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s win over Baltimore.  Albers’ effort marked the 32nd time in team history that a Nationals’ reliever has struck the side without allowing anyone to reach base.  Washington had only one such performance in 2016, and it came in a losing effort. On September 20th, Rafael Martin fanned all three Diamondbacks he faced in the ninth inning of Washington’s 14-4 loss at the hands of Arizona.  Drew Storen is far and away the Washington leader in this category with nine such games. Henry Rodriguez and Tyler Clippard tie for distant second with three games each.

33

Harper’s walk-off two run homer against the Phillies on Saturday night was the fifth of his career, and the 33rd in Nationals’ history.   Six of those have come against Philadelphia, the most among any opponent.  Harper and Ryan Zimmerman (with 10) are the only Nationals with multiple walk-off home runs in their careers in Washington.