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The forgotten home run: Kurt Suzuki’s go-ahead blast in Game 2 of the World Series

The forgotten home run: Kurt Suzuki’s go-ahead blast in Game 2 of the World Series

The Nationals and Astros were in the midst of a pitching duel between two all-time greats.

Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander had each tossed six frames with just two runs allowed. Verlander took the mound for the top of the seventh to face the bottom of the Nationals’ lineup. 36-year-old catcher Kurt Suzuki stepped up the plate 1-for-2 with a single on the night.

On his 100th pitch, Verlander threw a 1-0 fastball over the heart of the plate and Suzuki got every bit of it. With a smooth uppercut, Suzuki sent a pitch 381 feat off the facing of the brick wall above the leftfield seats at Minute Maid Park. It silenced the crowd of 43,357 and gave Washington the momentum it so desperately needed.

It was a moment that could’ve lived in Nationals lore forever, had the team gone on to win a nail-biter. But the Nationals’ offense exploded, scoring nine more runs over the next three innings to blow out the Astros 12-3 in front of their home crowd. Adam Eaton and Michael Taylor joined the home run parade. Every starter not named Victor Robles ended up reaching base at least twice.

Three months later, Suzuki was at the Nationals’ annual WinterFest event at their home stadium. He sat down with NBC Sports Washington’s Nationals Talk crew and reflected on his big moment getting buried under the offensive onslaught his team brought upon Houston.

“Honestly, I was hoping we’d score a ton of runs because I didn’t want to play a nerve-wracking game,” Suzuki said. “I wanted it to be a nice, easy win, go right back into it and to tell you the truth, when I hit that home run it was just like—I was just so in shock that I was just like, ‘Oh, I just hit a home run. Cool, we’re winning. Like, what?’

“You weren’t just really like, ‘Ahh, this is so exciting.’ You’re just kind of in shock that I’ve hit a home run in the World Series and it gave us the lead in the seventh inning. It was pretty neat.”

CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO KURT SUZUKI'S FULL INTERVIEW ON THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST

It may not be an iconic moment in Nationals history, but Suzuki’s home run brought the team one step closer to winning the World Series. It was without a doubt the biggest hit of his career.

"It feels great," Suzuki told reporters after the game. "I've waited 13 seasons for this moment to be able to play in the World Series. I kind of joked with a lot of the guys, Anthony [Rendon] in the training room, 'Now I've got energy now.' This is the last series of the season now, no matter what. We're playing for it now. If you can't get up for these games, I think you're in the wrong sport, you should retire or something, because this is it."

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Why is Trea Turner’s name on a replica Super Bowl trophy in the Nationals’ clubhouse?

Why is Trea Turner’s name on a replica Super Bowl trophy in the Nationals’ clubhouse?

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Yan Gomes walked by a bright, silver emblem which represented his personal joy and has sat in the middle of the Nationals clubhouse as a beacon of trash talk this spring. He stopped, then rubbed his shirtsleeve over it to maintain its gleam.

At first glance, the replica looks precisely like the Vince Lombardi Trophy. And, it’s central location in the clubhouse makes it impossible to miss, which is the point.

“That’s Yan flexing on all of us,” Max Scherzer said, shaking his head.

The trophy is to commemorate Gomes’ fantasy football victory from last year. No one will disclose the cost to enter, but it’s steep. So high that the team split into two leagues last season: The A group, populated by well-heeled veterans, and the B group, who do not have the same cash.

Three names are on the trophy: Gomes, batting practice pitcher Ali Modami, and, in a late addition, Trea Turner.

Gomes and Modami were the co-owners of the winning team. Turner was added to the trophy via trolling tape. His name is hand written and spread across the bottom of the trophy’s base, beneath Gomes and Modami. Why? This is Gomes’ way of simultaneously mocking and thanking Turner for his contribution to the championship after he made a bad trade which vaulted Gomes and Modami to the title.

“I had three good running backs,” Turner said. “So, I traded Nick Chubb, who was doing great at the time, George Kittle, and Carson Wentz for Deshaun Watson, Keenan Allen and John Brown. I needed wide receivers, so I gave up one of my running backs and tight ends for two wide receivers, basically, but...shouldn’t have done it.”

Nothing was formal about the split between who was in the A or B league. No service time requirements or particular stats. It was more about making a financial decision. Erick Fedde, commissioner of the B league, considered his personal fate before choosing.

“I didn’t need my girlfriend killing me for spending a lot of money on fantasy football,” Fedde said.

So, he organized the B league, mostly populated by what he called the “swing guys,” who were mostly young at the major-league level or still in the minor leagues. Carter Kieboom, Tanner Rainey, Jake Noll, Tyler Mapes and Scott Copeland were in the league. So was Javy Guerra, Joe Ross and Austin Voth. Among the biggest challenges? Organizing the draft.

“It was so difficult,” Fedde said. “We were trying to make sure we got the minor-league season done or the big-league guys that were either called up or they weren’t flying. We had a big-league day game like two days after the minor-league season ended, so hopefully everybody was home by then. That was the hardest part. I remember we did our group chat, we did picking names out of the hat with all the guys who were in the big leagues at the time then sent the video to everyone who was down in the minors still. It’s a lot of work being the commissioner of that league.”

Fedde was in four fantasy football leagues last season. He, similar to Turner, became partly responsible for delivering a championship via ill-advised trade in the Nationals B league.

“I made the bad trade this year to the champion,” Fedde said. “Copeland won. I gave up Tyreek Hill. Traded him away because I was like 0-4 to start the year. I needed healthy players. That ended up biting the league in the butt.”

Turner tried to defend his decision-making, which flipped the A league in Gomes’ favor, claiming a bad start did not push him into a panic move.

“I still to this day, I’ll argue for it because I gave up a strength of mine to improve a weakness,” Turner said. “It just didn’t work out. I’m not mad about it. He thinks it’s so funny to put me on that trophy, but he just got lucky.”

Did Turner know he would be on the trophy?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Turner said. “He texted me as soon as he won. I knew that was going to happen. He’s having the time of his life. I’ll let him enjoy it.”

Gomes again walked by the trophy later Wednesday and paused for a minute. He shot a look across the clubhouse, then moved on. Turner lurked with revenge on his mind.

“Next season is coming up here pretty quick,” Turner said. “He’s going to have to redo it all again or else he’s going to be wearing it himself.”

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Mark Lerner ribs Davey Martinez after walking in on his World Series ring fitting

Mark Lerner ribs Davey Martinez after walking in on his World Series ring fitting

The Nationals haven’t seen what their World Series rings will look like just yet, but on Wednesday players and coaches were fitted for the highly coveted jewelry they’ll be receiving during their first homestand in April.

Manager Davey Martinez’s ring sizing was caught on camera, and an unexpected guest arrived as he was trying a sample ring on.

Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner had to poke fun at his skipper, saying, "Oh no, no, no. He's not getting one. He was never on the list.” Martinez wasn’t recognized by the ring specialist—something that wasn’t a first for him this offseason despite being the reigning World Series-winning manager—but settled on a size-10 ring for his left index finger.

The Nationals are set to receive their championship rings April 4 before their contest with the New York Mets that afternoon.

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