Pete Kozma off Drew Storen. Chase Utley off Blake Treinen. Albert Almora off Sammy Solis and Anthony Rizzo off Oliver Perez.
Those are some of the clutch hits that have gone against the Nationals in pivotal NLDS games of the past and helped make heroes for opponents in the process. They had long been seared in the memories of their fans.
On Wednesday night in Los Angeles, though, Washington finally got its own heroic playoff performances en route to a 7-3 win in 10 innings. The Nationals' NLDS Game 5 victory sends Washington to its first NLCS, where they will face the Cardinals.
The main person responsible for ending the franchise's yearslong spell of heartbreak? Howie Kendrick, who blasted a go-ahead grand slam in the 10th inning off Joe Kelly.
Kendrick was signed before last season, but he featured in just 40 games because of injury. It appeared his career was just about over. Instead, the 35-year-old rebounded in 2019 with one of the finest offensive campaigns he has ever put together, batting .344 with 17 home runs in 121 contests.
Because of his extra-inning long ball to dead center in Game 5, Kendrick will no longer have to live with recollections of his defensive gaffes at first base in Game 1 or his atrocious baserunning blunder as his team attempted to come back in Game 3. He instead becomes an embodiment of this Nationals run: able to push past layers of failure and frustration to find a breakthrough.
Kendrick is clearly the No. 1 reason Washington fans can progress past the haunting mental images of Kozma capping a two-out Cardinals rally in the 2012 NLDS decider with a go-ahead knock to right field, and Utley giving the Dodgers an edge late in Game 4 of the 2016 NLDS when the Nationals had a chance to advance. But other players contributed in big ways, too.
Fans will long remember Anthony Rendon's home run off Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning to pull the Nationals within one, as well as Juan Soto's jack on the very next pitch to tie the game. To get to the NLDS, of course, Soto provided a two-run single that scored another on an error in the NL wild card game.
There was also the play of starter Stephen Strasburg, who bore down after an awful first frame to keep the game competitive until late. He showed mettle in his six-inning performance that few pitchers anywhere, let alone for Washington, can dispense in October. A typically shaky bullpen then held the Dodgers scoreless for an additional four innings.
As the Nationals approach the uncharted territory of the NLCS, they have a band of extremely confident postseason heroes around which to rally.
They may not beat the Cardinals. They may not even get close to beating the Cardinals. They have assured themselves at the very least, however, of being viewed in D.C. as the ones who broke the first-round curse and began a new era for the organization. That much will be clear when Nationals Park hosts Game 3 next Monday and fans in Washington can show their full appreciation.