RICHMOND- It took 95 years, it took 7 games, it took it all. For the first time in nearly a century, a baseball team from Washington DC brought the title home.
A 6-2 win over the Houston Astros in Game 7 gave the Washington Nationals their first World Series title in franchise history. A run that no one could have predicted given the circumstances this team was in.
Bryce Harper, their big star, was released prior to the start of the season and subsequently signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, who did not make the playoffs.
To make things worse, the Nationals were sitting at 19-31 in May, and shouting heads in the media called for the firing of manager Davey Martinez. But all that changed once the wins piled up.
The Nationals won when it mattered in June, July, and August and while they did not win the division. they won enough to clinch a Wild Card berth against the Milwaukee Brewers. General Mike Rizzo told the Washington Post that clinching that playoff berth gave them new life and a chance.
“It’s gratifying to see how these guys really took to the program and really all bought in,” Rizzo said in the clubhouse. “It’s really a remarkable thing when you can be playing that poorly and still keep your head up and stay together as a unit.”
From then on, the men in red looked like a team of destiny. Juan Soto delivered a bases-loaded single against Milwaukee closer Josh Hader that scored three runs and enabled the Nationals to beat the Brewers 4-3 in the NL wild-card game.
That set up a matchup with the defending NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers and their pitching ace Clayton Kershaw.
It took all 5 games, but the Nationals preserved thanks to Howie Kendrick’s grand slam in Game 5 in the top of the 10th inning that broke a 3-3 tie as the Nationals preserved 7-3.
That bucked the trend of losing the NLDS for the Nationals as they moved on to face the St.Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. A four-game sweep propelled the DC faithful into the Fall Classic for the first time in their franchise history.
They would be going up against Houston who had won the World Series two years prior and had two of the top pitchers in the league with Gerritt Cole and Goochland native Justin Verlander.
After two games, the Nationals were up 2-0 heading home. However, the motto for this series would be road-field advantage. The Astros won all 3 games in Nationals Park, which meant win or lose, the series would end in Houston.
The Nationals, like they had done all throughout the regular season and through the postseason, refused to surrender.
Heading into Game 6, the national media chose to focus on who would be the MVP for the Astros neglecting to remember that it takes 4 to win the World Series and not 3.
The Nationals responded thanks to a huge outing from World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg. The former #1 overall pick joins elite company thanks to his 5-0 record in the postseason. Strasburg’s dominance in a 7-2 win set them up for an epic game 7.
This game, however, would be Max Scherzer’s night. The all-star pitcher could not pitch in Game 5 due to back issues but received enough medication that allowed him to pitch in Game 7 against Houston’s Zack Grienke.
The Astros took a quick 2-0 lead before Anthony Rendon and Kendrick took over to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead that would not be given back. Houston neglected to use Cole during the night which very well could have ended his tenure with the Astros as he will be a free agent this offseason.
By the end of the night, the Astros were forced to watch the nation’s capital celebrate their first World Series championship in nearly an entire century. They have nothing to be ashamed of having won over 100 games the past three years. They will be back.
Meanwhile back in DC, fans went wild in Nationals Park and in the downtown streets. Bars exploded and beer sales rocketed into the night sky. A parade is scheduled soon for the Nationals and an invitation to the White House might soon follow.
For now, a night that was 95 years in the making will be cherished. The red, white, and blue reigns supreme, and all it took was one more Curly W. Congratulations Washington DC, your Nationals…….are World Champions.