How did this happen?
The Washington Nationals have won the World Series. Relive the process, and the story of the 2019 World Series Champions.
I'm not going to talk about Bryce Harper. He left, he's overrated, the Nats did better without him, end of story. What I will discuss is the team that just won the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
On Thursday, May 23, after getting swept in a four game series by the New York Mets, the Washington Nationals were a dismal 19-31. They had given up 259 runs, the most in the National league, and were already ten games back of Harper and the first place Philadelphia Phillies. With a starting rotation as strong as theirs is, it was frankly very surprising that they were getting absolutely bullied.
A few weeks passed before the Nats got hot. They pulled off a 17-4 run, which jumped them all the way to second place in the division, six games behind the Braves (the Phillies had fallen to third, and would not make the playoffs). Washington would keep a strong pace up with a few hot stretches down the stretch. That included an eight game winning streak to end the season, in which they beat the Phillies five straight time.
So how did they do it? How did this seemingly hopeless team rally together to not just make the playoffs, but to pull off one of the greatest upsets this game has ever seen, and then sweep their way to a World Series appearance? They started scoring runs, and they sure as hell stopped giving them up.
After the All Star break, the Nationals scored the third most runs in the MLB (behind only the Astros and Yankees), simply because they were getting on base. They weren't bashing away home runs like many of the teams ahead of them, but they were getting the job done. Post All Star break they were top five in the MLB in hits, doubles, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. It just continues: top five in walks, total bases, and plate appearances, while striking out the third least in the MLB.
With their rotation starting to roll down the stretch, the Nats had momentum riding their huge winning streak into the playoffs. In the Wild Card game vs. the Milwaukee Brewers, they set an example for something they would do quite a few times through the playoffs: rally. Down 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Juan Soto knocked a bases clearing single into right. Who could have known that that was only the beginning of playoff heroics by Soto and his teammates.
Then, it was the Dodgers. Los Angeles had the weight of the world on their shoulders to not only win the series, but to win that World Series that has been eluding them since 1988. After dominant wins in games one and three separated by a 4-2 Nationals win, the Dodgers were in control. That is when everything changed. The heart and sole of their team, Max Sherzer pitched seven innings of one run baseball, and the Nationals came out on top 6-1. In game seven Washington once again fell behind. Back to back home runs by Soto and Rendon off of Clayton Kershaw (mark this down as another playoff collapse for him) in the bottom of the eighth though brought Washington level.
In the top of the tenth Adam Eaton walked, then Anthony Rendon followed that with a ground rule double. Next, an intentional walk of Juan Soto. With an 0-1 count, Howie Kendrick drove an inside pitch off of Joe Kelly deep to center field. Grand slam. 7-3 Nats. Season over for the Dodgers, NLCS for the Nats.
Next was the St. Louis Cardinals, who had upset the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. They never had a chance to beat the Nats. In the four game sweep, Washington outscored their opponent a total of 20-6. The Nationals were going to their first ever World Series. A dominant performance gave them a little rest before their toughest test yet.
Like many, Itsjustsports had the Astros winning the World Series going into the postseason, and that was not going to change before their matchup with the Nats. In a shocking twist to common predictions, the Nats won both games one and two in Houston. Even then though, who was really going to bet on this rag tag group, the oldest team in the MLB? Game three went to the Astros, then game four, then game five. The Nats scored just one run in each of those games.
Not this time though. This was not going to be just another heartbreaking moment in the Nationals dismal history. Fans would not have to angrily change the subject every time the 2019 World Series was brought up. Like they did in four World Series games, the Astros scored in the first inning. For a team that does not rely on home runs to score, the Nats broke their own formula in game six. Long balls from Adam Eaton, Juan Soto, and Anthony Rendon helped the Nats rally to a commanding 7-2 win.
Washington had rallied all postseason, so why not do it in game seven of the World Series? With a 2-0 lead going into the seventh inning, the Astros were in control. Zack Greinke had given up just one hit, and it looked like the 'Stros were going to win their second World Series in three years. Boom. Solo shot from Anthony Rendon to left, 2-1 ballgame. Then a walk and bat flip from the youngster Soto, and that would be all for Greinke. A.J. Hinch prematurely pulls his starter, and brings in lights out reliever Will Harris. With an 0-1 count, Kendrick connected on a low and away cutter from Harris. As Joe Buck eloquently put it, "This ball is... gone for a home run!" as it knocked off of the right field foul pole. 3-2 Nats.
There was no turning back from there: one run in the eighth and then two more in the ninth sealed the win for the Nats. In a year where it looked like everything would go wrong, and in a World Series where the road team won every single game, the Washington Nationals were world champions.