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Counting down the Nats’ ‘houses of horror’
Music fans of a certain age are mourning the death on Sunday of long-time radio host Casey Kasem. Long before the days of podcasts, teenagers and young adults would ritually tune in each week, usually on Sundays, to hear the genial Kasem count down the top 40 songs in the nation.
Nationals fans, meanwhile, are grieving after a road trip that started with promise and excitement ended in a season-long four-game skid. After watching their team take three of four in San Francisco from the league-leading Giants, last weekend’s three-game sweep in St. Louis brought back painful memories of the 2012 Division Series and the disappointing 2013 season.
The Nats’ current seven-game losing streak at Busch Stadium, dating back to that fateful NLDS, is nothing new. Throughout their history, they’ve had one place or another where they could not win a ball game. Bad hitting, bad pitching or just plain bad luck have haunted the Nats in at least one ballpark every season.
So in the spirit of the late, great Casey Kasem, here’s a countdown of the Nats’ top houses of horror in any given season, with the gory details. We’ll make it a top five to avoid being too long or depressing, and we’ll also spare the pain of recounting the last two seasons in St. Louis.
So, as Kasem would say, “On with the countdown…”
No. 5: Coors Field, 2006. The 91-loss Nats went 0-8 against a Rockies team that finished 10 games under .500 at 76-86, including a four-game sweep Sept. 7-10 at Coors. The NFL’s Denver Broncos would have been envious of the composite score of 43-27. The Nats were swept despite outhitting the Rockies 47-44 in the series.
No. 4: AT&T Park, 2008. Any time a team loses 102 games, it has trouble anywhere. But the Nats went 0-7 against a San Francisco Giants team that would lose 92 games of it own. Washington went 0-3 in the big ballpark by the Bay to begin an 0-6 West Coast road trip and a nine-game overall skid in late July.
The most maddening of the losses came July 24, when San Francisco’s Matt Cain and Washington’s Tim Redding hooked up in a pitchers’ duel. The Giants’ Dave Roberts drove in the winning run in the eighth, singling through the middle to score pinch-runner Eugenio Velez in a 1-0 Giants win. The Nats stranded all four of their baserunners and went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.
No. 3: Oriole Park at Camden Yards, 2010. The Nationals were trying to rebound under Jim Riggleman after successive 100-plus loss seasons, but they had tough luck in interleague games. The Nats were 5-13 against the American League in 2010, including three straight one-run losses in Baltimore that capped a 3-12 stretch against the AL.
Most frustrating was a June 25 contest in which the Nats blew a 6-0 lead in the final three innings. Tyler Clippard took a 6-3 lead into the eighth, but gave up a two-run, pinch-hit homer to Scott Moore and a game-tying single to Corey Patterson. Baltimore walked off in the ninth when Christian Guzman couldn’t turn a double play and instead overthrew Adam Dunn at first, allowing pinch-runner Jake Fox to score the winning run.
No. 2: Angel Stadium of Anaheim, 2011. Davey Johnson had a rough debut with the Nats on the West Coast, losing three straight to the Angels. Despite homers from Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa in Johnson’s first game, the Angels won in the tenth on Maicer Izturis’ single off Sean Burnett.
The next night, the Angels pounded Nats pitching for 15 hits in an 11-5 win. Future Nat Dan Haren outdueled Jordan Zimmermann 1-0 in the series finale. Each team collected just four hits, but the Angels pushed across a run in the fourth when Bobby Abreu scored on Howie Kendrick’s double play ball.
No. 1: Dodger Stadium, 2012. The Nats found some success just about everywhere during their run to baseball’s best regular-season record, but their trip to Los Angeles at the end of April was their toughest stretch of the season. The Dodgers’ 4-3 win in second game of this series will be remembered as the start of Bryce Harper’s major league career, and the beginning of the end for that of Henry Rodriguez.
After a 3-2 loss in the series opener on April 27, Harper was called up to help break the team out of a hitting slump. He doubled in his third at-bat and later had a sacrifice fly to put the Nats ahead in the ninth, but Rodriguez let loose two wild pitches in the bottom of the inning, including one that let in the tying run. Matt Kemp won it for the Dodgers with a 10th-inning homer off Tom Gorzelanny. The next day, Chris Capuano and two relievers shut out the Nats 2-0 on four hits.
The Nats struggle against certain teams every year, even on their way to the playoffs. They need to put their struggles against the Cardinals behind them and focus on an improved Astros team and a crucial NL East series against Atlanta.