Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals play host for yet another milestone

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In the near ten years that the Washington Nationals have existed the franchise has seen themselves involved in a host of player milestones, yet they’ve been on the receiving end of each and every one of them. It is a somewhat unprecedented feat that few organizations can claim in recent years.

Tuesday night marked just the latest in that string of events. Albert Pujols hit a pair of home runs off of Nationals’ starter Taylor Jordan, the 499th and 500th of his career (GIFs below). He became the 26th player to join the elusive 500 Home Run Club in doing so and the third youngest at 34 years and 96 days (only Alex Rodriguez and Jimmie Foxx did so sooner). For Pujols it was a historic evening. For the Nationals it was just another loss.

Pujols

The night hardly was the first time they’d been on the receiving end of a Pujols milestone, however. Pujols now plays for the Los Angeles Angels and his trips to frequent Nationals Park are fewer and further apart thanks to the fact that the two teams play in opposite leagues. Pujols was a more common opponent for the Nationals earlier in his career, however, when he was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. On August 26, 2010 as a member of the Cardinals Pujols hit the 400th home run of his career at Nationals Park, a solo shot in the 4th inning off of Jordan Zimmermann.

April 22, 2008. The Nationals were in Atlanta to take on the Braves, with future Hall of Famer John Smoltz on the mound. In the 3rd inning Smoltz struck out Nationals second baseman Felipe Lopez, marking the 3,000th strikeout of his illustrious career. The moment had come almost twenty years after he’d made his MLB Debut. His catcher, Brian McCann, had been just four years old when Smoltz struck out his first batter in  July 1988 (Darryl Strawberry). Smoltz is just one of sixteen players to top the 3,000 strikeout mark in their careers, an even more exclusive club than the one Pujols just joined. Washington won that day, 6-0, but still played the role of victim for another milestone.

June 4, 2009. The Nationals were hosting the San Francisco Giants in a doubleheader thanks to rain the previous day. Randy Johnson took the mound for the Giants in the first game, quickly holding them without a hit through the game’s first four innings. He’d end up allowing one run on two hits over six innings before leaving the game, only to watch the Giants hold on for a 5-1 victory. This was the 300th win of Johnson’s career. In doing so he’d become just the 24th player to reach that mark and only the 6th left-hander.

August 7, 2007. Washington was in San Francisco to take on the Giants for a four game series. Barry Bonds had just tied Henry Aaron’s career home run mark the day prior to Game 1 with a shot against the San Diego Padres. The Nationals held him off the board in that first game, but didn’t see the same luck in Game 2. Mike Bacsik was on the mound for the Nationals, making his 15th start of the season (for an idea of just how poor their ‘07 season had been going). He managed to get one out in the 5th inning before Bonds stepped to the plate. One swing and he forever became tied to history as Bonds sent home run #756 in the bleachers in deep right-center field.

Washington has seen it’s share of positive milestones as well – Stephen Strasburg’s 14 strikeout MLB Debut comes to mind – and will continue to see numerous others as the years progress along and their players grow. They’ve been on the short end for most so far in relation to individual player milestones. Pujols was the latest, but he certainly won’t be the last.

(h/t to David Huzzard of Citizens of Natstown for the idea behind this post)

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