The trajectory of Hunter Strickland's relationship with Washington, D.C, has been an interesting one.
Nationals fans first became acquainted with the reliever in 2014, when he was a member of the San Francisco Giants. In his playoff debut, Strickland served up three home runs in as many appearances during the NLDS against Washington - including two off the bat of Bryce Harper, who didn't shy away from soaking in the moment by watching the ball fly before trotting around the bases.
San Francisco won the series in four games, but Strickland held on to his grudge against Harper. Three years later, the Giants reliever plunked him and sparked a brawl that resulted in the ejections and subsequent suspensions of both players.
That figured to be the end of the drama, especially after the 2018-19 offseason saw Strickland sign with the Seattle Mariners of the American League and Harper leave Washington for the Philadelphia Phillies. But the Nationals rekindled the fire when they traded for Strickland last July to help pad their bullpen for a playoff run.
It all set the stage for Sept. 24, when the Phillies were in D.C. for a five-game series. Strickland faced Harper in the second game of a doubleheader after insisting to reporters that the brawl was behind him. As host Tim Shovers recalled on Monday's episode of the Nationals Talk podcast, what ensued was perhaps the most ironic moment in the history of the franchise.
"It ended up being the night that the Nats clinched a playoff berth, during that week where they won eight games in seven days," Shovers said. "It's 6-4 after six, in comes Hunter Strickland on the mound as the Nats are nine outs away and they also need the Cubs to lose in Pittsburgh.
"Up comes and pinch hits for the Philadelphia Phillies in Nationals Park to face Hunter Strickland wearing a W is Bryce Harper, who then homers off of him - almost identical to the home run he hit off of him in Game 1 of the 2014 division series. It is the most ironic moment in Washington Nationals history. I defy you to come up with second place. I'm always going to associate that moment with Strickland and Harper and we'll see if they ever have an at-bat against each other again."
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Is there any moment that can compare? One that comes to mind is former Nationals starter John Lannan putting together one of the best performances of his career against Washington. Once their Opening Day starter, Lannan lost out to Ross Detwiler for the fifth-starter job in 2012 before being unceremoniously demoted to the minors and non-tendered the following offseason.
He signed with the Phillies in 2013 and faced the Nationals three times, including a July 8 start in which he tossed eight shutout innings. While Lannan doesn't carry the pedigree of Harper, watching him shut down the Nationals' lineup was still an odd moment for fans to see.
Have any ideas that might top the list of most ironic moments in Nationals history? Send them to Nationals Insider Todd Dybas' mailbag for the chance to have your suggestion mentioned on an episode of the Nationals Talk podcast.
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