The Washington Nationals made history Wednesday night winning their first ever championship in franchise history, including when the franchise was the Montreal Expos. They defeated the Houston Astros 6-2 in game seven in comeback fashion like they had done virtually all season. This World Series marked the first time ever neither home team won a single game in their home stadium.
Game Seven Recap
The Astros got on the board first with a solo blast from Yuli Gurriel in the first inning off Max Scherzer, who was starting three days after being scratched from his game 5 start with neck spasms. Mad Max battled through a challenging lineup over five innings of two run ball. The Stros tacked on another run in the 5th.
On the other side, and rather unexpectedly, Zack Greinke was pitching the game of his life. The crafty veteran has been one of the best pitchers of the last decade, but never had the postseason success he had in the regular season.
Greinke only gave up one hit through 6 innings and came out for the 7th with his pitch count in the upper 60’s. It looked like he could go the distance. The leadoff hitter, Anthony Rendon, worked a favorable count and smashed a Greinke breaking ball into the left field seats to reduce the deficit to 2-1. Juan Soto batted next and worked a walk. Strangely, with his pitch count now at 80 pitches, Greinke was pulled by manager AJ Hinch for Will Harris , who was superb all postseason out of the bullpen. (Notably, Gerrit Cole was left on the bench.)
Harris came in having allowed only one run in the entire postseason. He promptly gave up a two run opposite field home run to Mr. Clutch, Howie Kendrick. Kendrick, who hit the game winning grand slam in game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, added to his legacy Wednesday night by giving the Nationals a 3-2 lead.
Houston fans were stunned as the game had felt like an Astros victory, until it didn’t. The Nats tacked on insurance runs in the 8th and 9th innings behind the relief pitching of Patrick Corbin and Daniel Hudson, who closed out the game.
As Hudson got the final out in the bottom of the 9th inning, he through his glove toward the Nationals dugout whilst the Nationals stormed the field in celebration. The team of comebacks, came back against all odds again, this time to win the World Series. Remarkably, soon to be free agent Gerrit Cole never through a pitch in the final game of the season.
The Nationals were 19-31 on May 22nd. At that time, they had a 20% chance to make the playoffs in the National League East, the second lowest odds behind only the lowly Miami Marlins. They would go on to play incredible baseball for the rest of the season to the tune of a 74-39. Had they played at that pace the whole year it would have been good for 106 wins.
Stephen Strasburg rightfully won the World Series MVP winning both his starts on the road in Houston. Every game he pitched this postseason the Nationals won. He looked virtually unhittable for the entire month of October – be it on short rest, out of the bullpen, or however he was needed. It was a prophecy finally fulfilled for the ace who was famously shut down 9 years ago by his rookie season innings limit, just when the Nats looked to be favorites for the World Series behind his arm. This year, he finally got another chance and didn’t waste it.
Juan Soto, Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick elevated an elite lineup all postseason forming the best 3-4-5 combination this October. It’s crazy to think, Soto just turned 21 and has his best baseball ahead of him. Rendon will become a free agent, but we’ll be shocked if he isn’t back in Washington on a big time deal.
According to oddsmakers, the Nationals had a 13% chance to win Wednesday night in the 7th inning down 2-0. They had a 20% chance to make the postseason in May, and a 15% chance to win game 5 in LA. These Nationals didn’t care about odds, because when their backs were against the wall, they were able to respond, all season long. Funny how far chemistry goes when an egotistical star leaves town. (Another Bryce Harper dig).
For a city who hadn’t seen a title across any sport in decades, they have three in the last three years between the hockey Capitals, the WNBA Mystics and now, their beloved baseball Nationals. Congratulations, DC, you’ve arrived on the sports map.