A second consecutive 103 loss season in 2009 made the Nats the worst team in baseball yet again and while there were many painful moments in the campaign, there were some to remember as well.
BEST OF TIMES- A DYNAMIC DUO
The Nats were far from an offensive power in 2009, but they featured sluggers in the three and four spots in their lineup that didn’t have to take a back seat to anyone. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn brought production to the Nats’ order, as both had superb years.
In his fourth full year with the Nats, Zimmerman hit 33 homers with 106 RBI and put up a .888 OPS. He hit 20 home runs from July 1st to the end of the year, and ended the Nats’ 5-4 win on September 6th against Florida with a booming two run home run to left-center to continue the legend of “Mr. Walk-Off”.
Nats’ newcomer Dunn hit 38 round-trippers and knocked in 105 runs. The tall Texan hit 10 home runs in the month of May alone, and had a first half of the year (23 homers, 61 RBI, .943 OPS that should have earned him a spot on the National League’s all-star team.
The pair’s 71 combined home runs was the fourth highest total in the Major Leagues, trailing only Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth (81), Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun (78) and Tampa Carlos Pena/Evan Longoria (72).
BEST OF TIMES- SUMMER SLAM(S)
Only 13 players in Major League history have hit two grand slams in one game, with Nats’ 2009 left-fielder Josh Willingham being the last one to do so. On July 27th at Miller Park, “the Hammer” sent Bernie Brewer and the home team’s pitching staff running for cover as he hit two slams and drove in eight runs to pace the Nats to a 14-6 victory.
Willingham’s first slam capped a six run fifth inning off of Brewers’ starter Jeff Suppan and one inning later, his homer off of Mark DeFelice gave Washington a 13-5 lead.
BEST OF TIMES- FINISHING WITH A KICK
The Nats lost 103 games on the year, but it could been a lot worse if the team had not closed the year with a seven game winning streak. The team swept divisional rival New York in the season’s final home stand, with Justin Maxwell’s game ending grand slam (on a 3-2 count) off of Mets’ closer Francisco Rodriguez providing the highlight moment in the final game of the year at Nationals Park.
The Nats followed that sweep with a four game sweep at Atlanta, a series that included two extra-inning wins by Washington to end the year.
WORST OF TIMES- PITCHING A FIT
The Nationals’ staff was at the bottom of most pitching categories, finishing last in the National League in ERA, walks allowed, strikeouts and hits allowed. The team’s pitching was particularly brutal in road games, as the Nationals posted a 5.37 ERA in road games. Other than the emergence of lefty John Lannan (3.4 pitching WAR) in the rotation and up and coming Tyler Clippard (1.4 pitching WAR) in the bullpen, the Nats’ performance on the mound in 2009 was a disaster of epic proportions.
WORST OF TIMES- HANDS OF STONE
Washington’s performance on the mound was weak in 2009, and the players in the field behind the Nats’ pitchers didn’t help things too much. Washington’s 143 errors was the most in the National League, and led to 83 unearned runs being scored by Nats’ opponents. Zimmerman played a very good third base and Maxwell and mercurial Nyjer Morgan played passable defense in center field, but there were holes at almost every other position on the diamond for the Nationals in their fifth season in DC.
WORST OF TIMES- FOUR MONTHS OF HELL
From the opening of the season in April through trade deadline day on July 31st, Washington posted an almost unimaginably poor 32-71 record. Included in that stretch was a brutal month of May when Washington won only 9 of 29 games, and an almost as bad July when Washington went 9-18. The Nats were particularly weak against division bully Philadelphia, dropping 15 of 18 contest against their tormentors from the City of Brotherly Love.