Nats capture first ever World Series title


Courtesy of USA Today

Jamie Stewart-Aday

The Washington Nationals are World Series champions, defeating the Houston Astros in a thrilling seven game series. The win is the Nationals first since they were founded in 2005, and the first championship for a DC team since 1924, when the Walter Johnson-led Senators took the crown.

The season got off to a rough start for the Nationals, who were a meek 19-31 with just over two-thirds of their season remaining. At this point in the season, they had less than a 0/1 percent chance to win the World Series. They turned it around though, posting the best record in baseball for the remainder of the season.

This surge earned the Nats a playoff spot as a wild card team, placing them in a winner take all game against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers got out to an early 3-1 lead on the backs of a pair of home runs, but the Nats erased that lead in the bottom of the eighth inning on a three-run single by young phenom Juan Soto, who was below the legal drinking age at the time (he would turn 21 during the World Series). 

This put the Nats in the National League Divisional Series (NLDS) against the stacked Los Angeles Dodgers, who nearly everyone considered the favorite to make the World Series. After dropping two of the first three games, a Ryan Zimmerman home run powered the Nats to a decisive game five in Los Angeles. 

The Nats again fell in an early hole, and were down 3-1 entering the eighth inning, and they were facing future hall of famer and arguably the best pitcher of his generation, Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw, however, was no match for the middle of the Nats order, and home runs on consecutive pitches by Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto tied the game at three apiece. The game would remain tied entering extra innings, where a Howie Kendrick grand slam would win it for the Nats, propelling them to a 7/3 win and trip to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) against the St. Louis Cardinals. That game would end up being the third of five elimination games the Nationals won this postseason.

The Cardinalls proved no match for the Nats, who won the best of seven series four games to none. The NLCS featured near no-hitters by the Nationals’ Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer and a monstrous seven run first inning in the decisive fourth game.

That steamrolling earned the Nationals a date with the Houston Astros in the World Series. After taking the first two games in Houston, the Nats dropped three straight in front of the home crowd in DC. Now down three games to two, the Nats needed to win two straight games in Houston in order to win the series.

The Nats won game six 7-2, using a strong start by World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and clutch home run by Rendon to overcome umpiring controversy that threatened to cost the Nationals multiple runs. 

That win set the stage for a decisive game seven, with the Nats throwing Max Scherzer against the Astros’ Zach Grenkie. The game was the first World Series game seven featuring former Cy Young award winners as starters for both teams. 

Scherzer battled through five innings, giving up two runs. Grenkie, on the other hand, mowed through the Nats lineup, only allowing one hit through six innings. But a seventh inning home run by Rendon led Astros manager AJ Hinch to pull Grenkie out of the game, a decision that would prove fatal two batters later when Howie Kendrick hit the game winning two run home run. With the blast, Kendrick became the first player to hit game winning home runs in the seventh inning or later of multiple winner-take-all games in the same postseason.

The Nats would add on three more runs on singles by Juan Soto and Adam Eaton in the eighth and ninth innings and get four shutout innings of relief pitching by Patrick Corbin and Daniel Hudson, who would strike out Michael Brantley for the 27th and final out of the game.

The Nats historic season was marked by unmatched team camaraderie, most notably through the dugout dance parties that occurred every time a National hit a home run and the “Baby Shark” dance that enveloped the stadium every time Gerrardo Parra came to the plate.

The Nationals could lose Strasburg and Rendon this offseason, but right now they couldn’t care less. 94 year old owner Ted Lerner finally got his championship. Lifetime National Ryan Zimmerman got his championship. And Nats fans, who endured years of irrelevance followed by years of heartbreaking playoff losses, will finally get to go to a parade.