Aug 22, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
After watching his team get swept by a Nationals club riding a 10-game winning streak, the opposing manager complimented D.C.’s red-hot baseball team.
“Everything that goes in a game is bouncing their way,” he said. “And to their credit, they are taking advantage of it.”
Sounds about right. Except the opposing manager wasn’t Arizona’s Kirk Gibson, it was Seattle’s Mike Hargrove. And it wasn’t said Thursday after the Nats won their 10th straight game, it was said on June 12, 2005 after the inaugural Nats won their 10th straight game.
There are some legitimate similarities between the only two 10-game winning streaks in Nationals history. The 2005 team won five of its 10 straight games by only 1 run, riding a dominant pitching staff and a few timely hits. This 2014 squad has won seven of its 10 straight games by only 1 run, also riding a dominant pitching staff and some timely hits.
There are also some distinct differences between the two, such as the comparative talent disparity from one club to the other. With due respect to that ’05 roster, it couldn’t come close to matching its current counterpart.
The Nationals’ starting lineup on June 12, 2005 that produced a 3-2 victory at RFK Stadium:
CF Brad Wilkerson
LF Ryan Church
RF Jose Guillen
1B Nick Johnson
3B Vinny Castilla
2B Junior Spivey
C Brian Schneider
SS Jamey Carroll
P Tony Armas Jr.
Talk about some blasts from the past. Armas wound up the winning pitcher that Sunday afternoon, but only after needing 107 pitches to complete five scoreless innings. Spivey, acquired earlier that week from the Brewers for pitcher Tomo Ohka, launched his sixth homer of the season (his first with the Nationals) to give them an early 2-0 lead. Gary Majewski and Luis Ayala pitched the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to set things up for Chad Cordero, who retired the side on seven pitches to earn his 19th save.
Oh, and do you know who was the Mariners’ starting shortstop that day? A young slugger by the name of Mike Morse. Yes, that Mike Morse, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and was not serenaded by fans singing “Take on Me” at any point in the game.
All of Washington was abuzz over this long-awaited ballclub not only playing in the District, but winning at an astonishing rate. The Nationals were 24-9 at RFK Stadium to that point, capping their longest homestand of the season with 12 wins in 13 games while taking over first place in the NL East to a joyous crowd of 37,170.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Wilkerson, one of the holdovers from the Expos’ roster during their final, nomadic days. “We feel energized by our situation now. To walk off and know they recognize what we do is just a great feeling.”
The Nationals left town after that 2005 and headed west for the start of a 9-game, 3-city road trip. The winning streak ended the following night with an 11-1 thumping in Anaheim, but they were right back at it the next night, beating the Angels 6-3 in a game better remembered for Frank Robinson asking umpires to check reliever Brendan Donnelly’s glove for pine tar, inciting a bench-clearing brawl and a war of words between Robinson, Angels manager Mike Scioscia and the emotional Guillen.
The Nationals were the talk of baseball back then, a surprise contender in mid-June that ultimately would fade during the second half and finish in last place despite an 81-81 record.
These Nationals are again the talk of baseball, but the tone is different this time. This isn’t so much surprising as it is confirmation of this team’s immense talent and ability to win a lot of games.
But it’s fun to think back and recall what this all felt like the last time it happened.
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