TOPPS NOW: Max Scherzer’s 5th Straight 200K Season, Joins Elite Company

A limited edition TOPPS NOW card commemorating  Max Scherzer's fifth consecutive season of 200+ strikeouts is available until Thursday afternoon.
A limited edition TOPPS NOW card commemorating Max Scherzer’s fifth consecutive season of 200+ strikeouts is available until Thursday afternoon.

Tuesday night at Nationals Park was “Scherzday” and fans can always expect that the Nationals’ ace will put them in a position to win every fifth day. Max Scherzer did just that and he had me on my feet cheering all the way upstairs in section 408.

Scherzer entered the game tied for the league lead with 198 strikeouts and made some history in the third inning when he caught the Cleveland Indians’ catcher, Roberto Perez, looking on a slider at the knees. It was just Scherzer’s second strikeout of the night, but it also marked his fifth consecutive season with 200+ strikeouts.

Scherzer pitched seven innings, while allowing just three hits two runs (one earned) and racking up 10 strikeouts. It was his tenth game of the year with 10 or more strikeouts.

He arrived at that line in impressive fashion allowing no hits through six and a third innings as he made an athletic defensive play in the fifth inning to throw out third baseman Jose Ramirez. The defensive play of the day, however, went to Ben Revere who, according to Statcast, ran 109.8 feet to rob Perez of extra base-hits with a leaping grab at the wall in center field.

Scherzer lost his bid for a third career no-hitter in the seventh inning after Francisco Lindor singled up the middle and he took a hard fought 3-1 loss as the Nationals mustered just one run on a Jayson Werth home run.

Topps Now released a limited edition baseball card on Wednesday afternoon commemorating Scherzer’s fifth consecutive season with 200 strikeouts. The card is only available until 1 p.m. on Thursday before it is sold out.

The Moment:
Max Scherzer turned in another high-quality outing, striking out 10 batters over seven frames, while yielding one earned run. Despite that effort, Scherzer took the hard-luck loss to the Cleveland Indians, but in doing so, he became the first pitcher of the 2016 season to eclipse 200 strikeouts. Additionally, Scherzer joins Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander as the only active pitchers to crack 200 Ks in five straight seasons.

Denard Span Catches Up With Nationals Fans at a Charity Meet and Greet

Denard Span hosted a meet and greet at The Big Stick on Saturday afternoon benefiting the Denard Span Foundation
Denard Span hosted a meet and greet at The Big Stick on Saturday afternoon benefiting the Denard Span Foundation.

Denard Span signed a three-year contract with the San Francisco Giants during the offseason and he returned to Nationals Park on Friday night as a visitor for the first time since last season.

Span became a fan favorite during his three year stint with the Washington Nationals. His remarkable defensive plays in centerfield earned him a spot as a finalist for Gold Glove awards in 2013 and 2014. When he was not busy #Spanning in the outfield, he solidified his place in the lineup as an effective leadoff hitter and base stealer.

He received his first ovation at Nationals Park on Friday night when Jerome Hruska, the Nationals P.A. announcer, welcomed him back to the ballpark as he read the starting lineup and “Smooth Operator” by Sade played in the background.

Jerome Hruska, the Nationals P.A. announcer, welcomed Denard Span back to Nationals Park as he read the starting lineup.
Jerome Hruska, the Nationals P.A. announcer, welcomed Span back to Nationals Park as he read the starting lineup.

Some fans welcomed Span back in a more intimate setting on Saturday afternoon at The Big Stick (20 M St. SE)–the site of a “Welcome Back For DSPAN” meet and greet event benefiting the Denard Span Foundation.

According to Carolynn Smith, the director the foundation, Span received multiple requests on social media to appear at events in Washington when they came to play the Nationals. Span was “very happy to hear there was so much support,” Smith said, and agreed to hold a fundraiser for the foundation.

The charity’s mission is to “provide hope and encouragement to single parents while empowering them to raise confident children within strong families and better communities.”

Fans wearing Curly Ws, orange and black, and customized t-shirts shook hands, got autographs and caught up with Span while supporting his charity.

Span signed autographs for fans who attended the meet and greet.
Span signed autographs for fans who attended the meet and greet.

Tracy Tran learned about the event from members of the Half Street Irregulars (HSI) fan club and he attended the event with members from that group.

HSI, he said, held numerous fundraisers for the Denard Span Foundation at their hangout spot in centerfield. One such event took place in August 2015 where members of HSI helped volunteer and fundraise for a “back to school project” which served over 100 families by providing needy families with food and drinks, backpacks and school supplies.

“It was cool seeing Span again,” Tran said. “He really appreciated the support when he was a Nat and the generous donations to his foundation.”

“Denard was very happy and couldn’t believe all the fans that showed up to see him on his trip back,” Smith said. “We received a very generous amount of donations that will help us with our financial goals for the foundation.”

DenardSpan Foundation__Final for invite to ChristmasAnother fundraiser will be taking place November to serve needy people in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Click here to learn more about the Denard Span Foundation and find out how you can support the foundation’s mission.

TOPPS NOW: Daniel Murphy Named the NL Player of the Month of July

A limited edition TOPPS NOW card commemorating Daniel Murphy's stellar performance in July was released Monday afternoon.
A limited edition TOPPS NOW card commemorating Daniel Murphy’s stellar performance in July was released Monday afternoon.

It was announced that Daniel Murphy was voted the National League Player of the Month for July in an August 3 press release on MLB.com, marking the second time he received this honor in his career.

Murphy’s only other Player of the Month award came this season in May 2016. His stellar performance landed him a place on Topps Now baseball card #121 alongside Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. The latest card features Murphy and Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts who received the American League honor.

Murphy was featured on a Topps Now card after he took home NL Player of the Month Honors for May.
Murphy was featured on a Topps Now card after he took home NL Player of the Month Honors for May.

The second baseman for the Washington Nationals played in 22 games in July and he led the Major League in doubles (11) and extra-base hits. Two of his extra-base hits were especially memorable and they both set the table for thrilling extra-inning games.

The Nationals began a series with the Cincinnati Reds on July 1 and Murphy had an immediate impact. The Nationals were down 2-1 in the the sixth inning of the Friday night game and with Jayson Werth standing on second base, Murphy hit his 21st double of the season over the head of Jay Bruce in right field to tie the game 2-2. The Nationals went on to win the game in the 14th inning on a walk-off double by Ben Revere.

Murphy was also involved in one of the most memorable moments of the season in a game he did not start on Sunday, July 17. The Nationals were down 1-0 in the ninth inning and they were down to their final out when Murphy entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Ben Revere. Murphy was down to his last strike before he connected with a pitch from Mark Melancon and launched his 18th home run of the season over the right field wall to force extra innings. The Nationals ended up losing that game in the 18th inning.

Fans can add the latest limited edition card to their collection by placing their order on the Topps Website before Tuesday, August 9 at 3:30 p.m.

The Moment:

Daniel Murphy took home the NL player of the month award for July; his second Player of the Month award so far in 2016. Murphy, who’s enjoying a career year, slashed .346/.372/.744, with six home runs for the month. Mookie Betts earned the AL Player of the Month honors for July, which is the first award in his young career. Betts slashed .368/.415/.653 for the month, with five home runs and five stolen bases.

TOPPS NOW: First 3-3-5 Triple Play in MLB History

A limited edition TOPPS NOW card commemorating the first 3-3-5 triple play is available on Sunday until 1:30pm.
A limited edition TOPPS NOW card commemorating the first 3-3-5 triple play is available on Sunday until 1:30 p.m.

Staying up late to watch the West coast games the Washington Nationals have played this season has been easy since I began watching the games at the Buffalo Wild Wings by my apartment in Crystal City. The atmosphere is more exciting than in my apartment and the wings are much better.

My roommate and I left the restaurant in the seventh inning and made it back to our apartment just in time to seemingly watch the Nationals squander a 4-1 lead and a quality start from Max Scherzer.

Oliver Perez came in to start the eighth inning and gave up singles to the first two batters he faced from the San Francisco Giants. Dusty Baker made a call to the bullpen and Blake Treinen responded by walking Buster Posey to load the bases which prompted another call to the bullpen.

It was hard for me to even watch the rest of the inning as Sammy Solis came into pitch with the bases loaded. Danny Espinosa and Ryan Zimmerman also entered the game to complete what MASN commentator Bob Carpenter called, “a triple switch.” What unfolded next was the result of confusion stemming from a liner off the bat of Brandon Crawford that was caught by Zimmerman.

Zimmerman caught the ball and stepped on first to retire Posey who was caught off first. He then threw the ball to third base and Anthony Rendon stepped on third to retire Denard Span and complete the triple play.

It was the first ever triple play in Nationals history and the first ever triple play in Nationals history and the first ever 3-3-5 triple play in MLB history.

Any Nationals fan who watched that sequence of events would tell you about the extreme swing of emotions that enveloped them over the course of that half inning.

One way to relive the excitement from Friday night is to watch this video with three different broadcast feeds of the historic play including the WJFK feed where Charlie Slowes shouts, “It’s a triple play. It’s a triple play. It’s a triple play. It’s a triple play.”

Fans can also relive the moment with a limited edition Topps Now card commemorating the first ever 3-3-5 triple play in MLB history. The card features Ryan Zimmerman celebrating in the dugout with his teammates after the triple play. The card is only available online until 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 31.

The Moment:

With the Washington Nationals clinging to a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning vs. the San Francisco Giants, Brandon Crawford lined a pitch from Sammy Solis that was caught by Ryan Zimmerman, who subsequently stepped on first base and then threw to third base for the first 3-3-5 triple play in MLB history. The defensive play by Zimmerman helped preserve the game as the Washington Nationals defeated the Giants, 4-1.

Giveaway Review: Dusty Baker Bobblehead (Grade: A-)

The only other manager of the Nationals to be featured on a stadium giveaway bobblehead was Davey Johnson (2013).
The only other manager of the Nationals to be featured on a stadium giveaway bobblehead was Davey Johnson (2013).

The first 25,000 fans who arrived at Nationals Park for the series opener between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers on July 19 received a Dusty Baker bobblehead.

Dusty became just the second manager of the Nationals to be featured as a bobblehead. Davey Johnson received the bobblehead treatment in 2013. The bobblehead celebrated the successful 2012 season when the Nationals made the playoffs and he was named National League Manager of the Year.

Baker’s predecessor, Matt Williams, who was fired after the 2015 season was not featured on a bobblehead after winning the same award in 2014. The Nationals celebrated their 10-year anniversary with bobbleheads commemorating “great moments in history” which may explain his omission.

The announcement of a Dusty Baker bobblehead in February was as surprising to me as the possibility of having a Daniel Murphy “fans choice” bobblehead. Dusty had not managed a single game for the Nationals and Murphy had not played a game for the Nationals.

Any preseason skepticism is now out the window as Dusty continues to lead a team that sits atop the National League East.

Dusty seemed indifferent to the giveaway and said, “I don’t know if it looks like me. Just give them away. I don’t care.”

The truth is the bobblehead was very well done and very detailed.

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The most eye catching feature of the bobblehead is the toothpick sticking out of the manager’s smiling face. A stadium giveaway bobblehead distributed by the Cincinatti Reds in 2011 following the team’s division title also featured the manager chewing a toothpick and came with toothpicks and a container to hold toothpicks.

Hundreds of toothpicks were also scattered along a table by the Center Field Gate so fans could pick up “Dusty toothpicks.” Many fans grabbed them and posted photos of their Dusty Baker game faces on social media.

The bobblehead also includes the detailed gray sweatbands that Dusty wears on both of his forearms featuring a stitched signature and a drawing of his likeness. The sweatbands are called MIMSBANDZ which were specially designed by James Mims and have been worn by many other baseball players including Barry Bonds, Ozzie Smith and Tony Gwynn. Dusty Baker was the first Major League player to wear MIMSBANDZ in 1986.

Dusty is featured wearing a red cap and a white home uniform with the red and blue trim. He is leaned up against the dugout railing and is depicted nonchalantly crossing his legs. The pose really captures Dusty’s easygoing personality.

The box features two photos of a smiling Dusty Baker in his uniform and also includes a quotation from Baker called a “Dustyism.”  

The side panel of the box says, “You’ve got to think it–and believe it–for it to happen.”

The Washington Nationals also tweeted out a handful of so-called “Dustyisms” over the course of the day.

#Dustyisms has not been a very popular hashtag on Twitter and most Nationals fans do not really point out his quotations or mannerisms and identify them as “Dustyisms.”  

This was a very well done promotion, but it seemingly went a little too far for the sake of creating a catchy hashtag.

Grade: A-

Topps Now: Bryce Harper Starting NL Outfielder in 2016 MLB All-Star Game

Bryce Harper was the leading vote getter among National League outfielders and will start the All-Star Game.
Bryce Harper was the leading vote getter among National League outfielders and will start the All-Star Game.

Topps announced the production of Topps Now cards this week to celebrate the players who were voted in as starters for the 2016 All-Star Game taking place Tuesday in San Diego.

Cards for the American League (AL) infielders voted in were announced on Wednesday. Cards celebrating the National League (NL) infielders who received the most votes were announced on Thursday. Finally, cards for the leading AL outfielder and NL outfielder vote getters were announced on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Bryce Harper was the only player from the Washington Nationals to be named a starter for the All-Star Game by the fans and he is featured on the newest Topps Now card.

Daniel Murphy, the league leader for his position in batting average (.349), home runs (16), and RBI (64), was narrowly edged out by Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs who won by just 88 votes.

Harper received more All-Star Game votes in 2015 than any other player in NL history. This season, the NL Player of the Month for April received the most votes among outfielders this season finishing with 2,865,095 votes.

Ironically, the next two leading vote getters, Yoenis Cespedes (2,816,146 votes) and Dexter Fowler (2,767,109 votes), will not participate in the game as a result of injuries.

The back of the Topps Now card shows the vote totals for the National League outfielders.
The back of the Topps Now card shows the vote totals for the National League outfielders.

This card is a great souvenir to celebrate the success and popularity of Harper. It also will serve as a reminder that All-Star Game voting matters. If another three Nationals fan had used their maximum allotment of votes, the National League team may have fielded two All-Stars from Washington.

Topps will also release Topps Now cards for the All-Star Game starting pitchers. Terry Collins, the manager of the New York Mets, has the authority to name the starting pitcher for the National League. Perhaps Collins was impressed with Scherzer’s nine strikeout performance against the Mets on Saturday night and will give Scherzer the honor.

Another blog post will follow if Scherzer, who was named as a replacement for Stephen Strasburg, is announced as the starting pitcher.

This limited edition baseball card will be available on the Topps website until Sunday, July 10 at 1:30 p.m.