Another baseball season has come and gone, however, this season ended in more surprising fashion than recent seasons.
The last time Washington won a World Series was in 1924, and they did so as the Washington Senators.
After moving to Montreal and riding out a 50-year period with no trophies to display, the Nationals entered postseason play with a huge chip on their shoulder.
This World Series matched up the red hot Nationals with the 2017 World Series champions, the Houston Astros.
The Astros came into the series as huge favorites with a starting pitching rotation that had dominated all year long behind stars Gerritt Cole and Justin Verlander.The first two games were played at Minute Maid Park in Houston and offered two fabulous pitching matchups.
Nats ace Max Scherzer took the mound in Game 1 against Gerritt Cole, and it was Stephen Strasburg versus Justin Verlander in Game 2. Surprisingly, it was the visiting Nationals that took not one, but both of the first two games in Houston. The Nationals had gone through the gauntlet of Cole and Verlander and had survived both.
Games three, four, and five were all to be played in Washington with the Nats having to win just two at home to clinch their first title in the club’s history.
In Game 3, the Astros finally started playing like a team that had won 107 games in the regular season, with a 4-1 victory.
The next game was not much better for the home Nationals. It was an 8-1 loss which included an Alex Bregman grand slam to seal the game and even up the series for the Astros.
Game 5 was looking like the game the Nationals would take the lead again behind Max Scherzer, however, he was scratched on game day due to neck and back tightness. Instead it was Joe Ross who took the mound opposite of Gerritt Cole and (as expected) the Astros dominated again.
A must win Game 6 for Washington provided a great pitching duel between Strasburg and Verlander, two of the best in the business.
It was the Nationals pitcher who stole the show by pitching one of the great World Series performances in recent memory.
Strasburg gave up only two runs (both in the first inning), pitched 8.1 innings, while striking out seven and allowing five hits. The Nats evened the series which leads to the best two words in sports: Game 7.
The Nationals best players stepped up at the right time. Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto, who had both been clutch throughout the series, had some big hits to keep the Nats momentum going.
In the top of the 7th, down one run, it was the 36-year-old Nationals DH Howie Kendrick who hit a two run home run to give Washington the lead. A Soto single scored a run in the eighth and Adam Eaton scored two in the ninth to secure the victory, and the championship, for the Nationals.
As Astros won three in a row at one point in the series, the hot bats of the Nats came back to win the last two games in what was a very back and forth set of games.
Nationals manager Dave Martinez acknowledged the desire of his players to never quit or give up after a rocky start to the season.
“I believe in these guys and they believe in each other. The biggest thing for us is never quit,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said in a press conference. “We were 19 and 31 – we didn’t quit then and we weren’t going to quit now.”
Although the Nationals faced elimination at five points in the postseason, they were able to endure all the Astros threw at them.
“We stuck together – I know that. We had nothing left to lose, people had written us off,” said Rendon. “We just kept fighting and were happy to come out on top.”
Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who allowed a combined four runs over 14-1/3 innings during his two starts, was named the Most Valuable Player of the World Series.
“It’s just surreal – and to be able to do it with this group of guys is something special,” Strasburg said in a press conference, who earned wins on the road in both his starts, including a do-or-die Game Six.
“Guys went out there and scored some runs for me. It was a big team win.”
“They say good things come to those who wait,“ Ted Lerner, former Nationals owner, said to the hundreds of thousands of fans at the parade in Washington. “95 years is a pretty long wait, but I’ll tell you, this is worth the wait.
Nationals star first-baseman Ryan Zimmerman echoed the words of Lerner and was very thankful to finally have a World Series championship win under his belt.
“Like Mr. Lerner said it was worth the wait,” Zimmerman said. “The fans, we grew up together. I came here when I was 20-years-old, right out of college. You guys hadn’t had baseball in a long time. You were learning how to be baseball fans again.”