The Washington Nationals are world champions following Wednesday night’s game seven against the Houston Astros and looking back it has truly been a remarkable run for the 2019 Washington Nationals.
Going into the season, Washington was not even considered a contender by many sources around the league, following the departure of their former superstar right-fielder Bryce Harper who signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in the offseason, a team that the Nationals play 19 times in a season. The Nationals have never made it past the divisional round with Harper on the team, and the thought was that they would not even be able to make it to the playoffs without him, let alone win the divisional round.
During the regular season, Washington’s record dipped to as low as 19-31 toward the end of May. There were talks of firing their manager Dave Martinez, and rumors spread that the Nationals would be sellers at the trade deadline, looking to move players such as stud pitcher Stephen Strasburg and third baseman Anthony Rendon, who will enter free agency. The Nationals rallied behind their lack of hype from fans and worked on their team chemistry, having the roster come together to leapfrog Harpers’ Phillies in the standings for the National League East, claiming the wild card spot for the division.
The Nationals handed the Phillies the loss that mathematically eliminated them from postseason contention in September, and that alone felt like sweet revenge against their fleeing slugger, but they were not done after that. The Nationals played in five elimination games this postseason, defying all the odds to make it to their first World Series in franchise history.
Strasburg was awarded World Series MVP for his remarkable performance in the fall classic, but it was arguably his incredible efficiency throughout the postseason that earned him the award. Strasburg is the only pitcher in MLB history to go 5-0 in the postseason and only the third pitcher to win five games. Another member of the bullpen for Washington, pitching ace Max Scherzer, dominated throughout his career, and finally has a World Series ring to show for his efforts. Scherzer, Strasburg and the remainder of the Nationals’ bullpen kept even the Astros’ best bats on ice through the postseason when it mattered most.
Rendon was also in the talk for the World Series MVP. Rendon faced a lot of crucial moments in the postseason. When the lights were the brightest and his team needed him to come up big, he did so just about every time. During game six, with the Nationals leading 3-2, Rendon blasted a ball to deep left to bring in two runs and extend their lead to 5-2. Once again in the ninth inning, Rendon stepped to the plate and sent home two more runners on a double that put the Nationals up 7-2 and put them in the driver’s seat to force game seven.
Washington’s offense struggled to find life early in game seven. They trailed 2-0 entering the seventh inning, and Astros’ pitcher Zach Greinke was running through the Nationals’ batters with every passing inning. With the threat of American League front runner for the Cy Young, pitcher Gerrit Cole, waiting on the bench for Houston, the Nationals had little time to right their offensive woes. Rendon stepped up to the plate and took one of Greinke’s pitches yard, cranking a solo shot to cut the lead in half and give the Nationals a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Once Rendon popped his single, Washington turned the tide, as second baseman Howie Kendrick cranked in a two-run home run to give the Nationals a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Nationals added more insurance runs to take a 6-2 lead. Mysteriously, Cole never appeared in game seven, which was likely his last game as a Houston Astro. This series was the first time in the history of American sports that the road team won every game of the series, as the feat hasn’t been accomplished in either hockey or basketball.
As the 2019 MLB season wraps up, we now turn our attention to the offseason which could flip the league upside down when you consider some of the big names that will be free agents very soon such as Strasburg, Cole, Rendon, JD Martinez, Madison Bumgarner, Aroldis Chapman and more. Those players are all lined up to sign monster contracts this winter and it would be surprising if any of those players remain where they currently are.