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Wilson Ramos' June 21 walk-off homer against Seattle was a high point of the year.
Guess what that means? It's time to vote for your favorite moments of the year in NatsTown!
We'll break this up into three parts over the next three days. Today we'll look at the candidates for Best Moment of 2011. Tomorrow we'll run through the choices for Worst Moment of 2011. And then on Friday we'll break out the Strangest Moments of 2011.
Here are my finalists for Best Moment of 2011...
1. JUNE 21: WILSON RAMOS' WALK-OFF HOMER VS. SEATTLE
After reeling off eight straight wins to put themselves on the precipice of a .500 record, the Nationals suffered a tough loss to the Orioles on June 19 and then two nights later found themselves in a 5-1 hole to the Mariners with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. And then ... magic. Jerry Hairston singled in a run. Michael Morse roped a comebacker off closer Brandon League, forcing the Mariners to bring in a cold David Pauley to finish the game. Danny Espinosa greeted Pauley with another RBI single. And then Wilson Ramos sent a pitch soaring into the night, a three-run, walk-off homer to cap the greatest comeback in Nationals history and give his team its ninth win in 10 games. The Nats would go on to win their next three, putting themselves two games over .500.
2. JUNE 27: DAVEY JOHNSON NAMED MANAGER
Of course, that wild winning streak became noteworthy not because of all the dramatic victories but because of Jim Riggleman's shocking resignation moments after the Nationals swept the Mariners. Chaos and confusion reigned for several days as the club tried to figure out how to clean up this mess. Then, a 68-year-old former World Series-winning manager who hadn't won a big-league uniform in 11 years returned to the dugout and brought instant credibility and respect to the organization. Few teams could experience a midseason managerial resignation like that and actually emerge in a better place, but in hiring Davey Johnson the Nationals managed to do just that.
3. AUG. 15: NATS SIGN TOP FOUR DRAFT PICKS
In what has become an annual mid-August tradition, the Nationals front office (not to mention the full media corps) gathered at the ballpark into the wee hours of the morning waiting to see if the organization's top draft picks would sign before MLB's midnight deadline. This year's deadline day didn't feature the No. 1 overall pick as was the case in 2009 (Stephen Strasburg) and 2010 (Bryce Harper). But in some ways, this deadline day proved more dramatic, with the Nationals signing all four of their top picks (Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer, Brian Goodwin and Matt Purke) in the final minutes before midnight, shelling out a combined $16.5 million in the process. "We're the talk of the industry right now," Mike Rizzo said. "This just solidifies us as, to me, one of the great scouting and player development organizations in baseball. We feel really good about ourselves tonight."
4. SEPT. 6: STEPHEN STRASBURG'S TRIUMPHANT RETURN
Three hundred eighty-one days since he last set foot on a major-league pitching mound, Stephen Strasburg was back in his rightful place. And anyone unaware of what had transpired over those previous 381 days would never have known the right-hander was making his first start back from Tommy John surgery. With a fastball that topped out at 99 mph and his trademark curveball baffling opposing batters, Strasburg tossed five scoreless innings against the Dodgers and let the world know he was officially back. By the end of the month, he had made five successful starts, posting a 1.50 ERA and a ridiculous, 24-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
5. SEPT. 20-22: NATS SWEEP FOUR-GAME SERIES IN PHILLY
For all the progress the Nationals made over the course of 2011, many wouldn't have considered this franchise to have truly made progress until it overcame perhaps its toughest hurdle: Beating the hated Phillies, kings of the NL East for the last five years. So this four-game sweep over three September days at Citizens Bank Park proved as cathartic a series as this team and its fans had experienced in quite some time. It also ensured the Nationals would finish the season with a winning record (10-8) against Philadelphia, no small accomplishment.
So, those are my five finalists for Best Moment of 2011. Now it's your turn. Vote for your top moment in the poll in the top right corner of the screen, then give your explanation in the comments section...