Photo courtesy of: Famartin/ Wikimedia Commons
The Washington Nationals are world champions, for the first time in franchise history. In one of the most thrilling series of all time, the Nationals beat the Houston Astros after battling through seven intense games of World Series baseball.
The Nationals were considered underdogs for the entire postseason tournament, however they proved everyone wrong, one game at a time. The Nationals had to start as a National League wild-card team. This means the team had to play in one game, a “win or go home game,” against the Milwaukee Brewers to determine who would move on to the first official round of the MLB postseason.
In the wild-card game, the Nationals had to play with their backs against the wall after giving up two runs in the first inning. In the eighth inning of the game, it looked like the Nationals season was almost over since they were down three to one in with only three outs left. However they fought back. Twenty-year-old Nationals outfielder, Juan Soto, was batting against the National League reliever of the year, Josh Hader, with two men on in the bottom of the eighth.
Soto sent a ball over the wall on a two strike count that scored three runs for the Nationals, giving them a four to three advantage late in the game. Nationals closer, Daniel Hudson, came on and saved the game for Washington in the ninth inning. The Nationals had overcome the Brewers in a thrilling wild game with a late comeback in the eighth.
The winner of the National League wild-card game would have to play the best teams in the national league in the next round, the divisional round of the postseason. Therefore, the Nationals would be tasked with playing a best of five series against the LA Dodgers, who finished the regular season with 106 wins, the national league best.
In their first game against the Dodgers, the Nationals lost six to zero and were only able to produce two hits against the Dodgers pitching. Game two went a lot differently for the Nationals. Behind their second best pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals were able to get 10 hits and scored four runs to beat the Dodgers four to two.
The two teams traded blows for the next two games until it was game five. Whoever won this game would move on to play the St. Louis Cardinals in the semi-final or National League championship series of the postseason. The Nationals had to face Walker Buehler, one of the Dodgers’ hottest pitchers, in this vital game. Buehler pitched his best in the matchup against the Nationals, allowing only one run in six and two thirds innings pitched. Again, the Nationals had to play, facing elimination, with their backs against the wall.
It was three to one in the eighth inning and again, led by the young star Juan Soto, the Nationals fought back to tie the game in the eighth. The game would eventually go into extra innings. It was the tenth inning when the Nationals veteran middle infielder, Howie Kendrick, sent the home faithful, at Dodger Stadium in LA, into disarray. Kendrick had hit a grand slam against Dodgers closer, Kenley Jansen, and after a strong inning from Nationals closer, Sean Doolittle, the underdog wild-card team had beat the most dominant team in the National League.
The next step for the Nationals would be beating the St. Louis Cardinals to advance to the World Series. The Cardinals had just come off of a hard fought series against the Atlanta Braves, where the Cardinals won in five games. The Cardinals did not put up much of a fight against the Nationals is the NL championship series. In a best of seven series, behind strong starting pitching, the Nationals swept the Cardinals, winning four straight games to advance to the World series.
After making quick work of the Cardinals, the Nationals had to wait a few days to find out who they would be playing in the World Series. The Houston Astros and the New York Yankees were playing in the American League championship series to see who would represent the AL in the World Series. The Astros and Yankees had to play all seven games to determine who would move on to the World Series. In game seven, the Astros were able to beat the Yankees and move on to the World Series against the Nationals.
Very few people in the baseball world believed that the Nationals could beat the Astros. The Astros had been the best team in the MLB all season long and they had just beaten the Yankees, the supposed second best team in baseball. The Astros were seemingly unbeatable and it looked like they had a clear path to their second world series in the past five years.
In the first two games of the World Series, the Nationals proved the baseball world wrong. They won game one by a score of five to four, behind their ace starting pitcher, Max Scherzer. In this game, the Nationals had beaten Gerrit Cole, an Astros pitcher who will soon receive the American League Cy Young Award, given to the best pitcher in the AL.
In game two, the Nationals didn’t make it close. They won the game twelve to three. Stephen Strasburg was the pitcher for the Nationals that day and because of his six innings, only giving up two runs, the Nationals were able to rally to take a commanding two to zero series lead.
The Nationals had won back to back games in Houston, meaning the next three games would be in Washington. With this home field advantage, and only two more wins away from the title, the Nationals had turned the tables. Now the Astros were the underdogs, and they would be forced to battle back at the Nationals home field in Washington.
Games three and four of the series did not go as planned for the Nationals. The first game in Washington, game three, the Astros were able to win four to one. In game four, it was more of the same for the Astros. The team dominated Washington eight to one and all of a sudden the series was tied two games to two games with only one game left in Washington.
Game five was a vital game for both teams. The series was tied and whoever won this game would be one win away from the title. Max Scherzer was scheduled to pitch in game five, however hours before the game, Scherzer was ruled out due to an injury in his lower back. The Nationals would have to start Joe Ross, an inexperienced starter. The Astros won game five eight to one and the series was headed back to Houston.
Games six and seven would be played in Houston, but if the Astros won in game six, the series would be over before game seven. It seemed like a steep hill to climb for the Nationals, they had just been beaten three times in front of their home crowd and the Astros had gained momentum going back into Houston. In game six, the Astros were starting one of their most dominant pitchers, Justin Verlander. He would be going against Stephen Strasburg, who already got a win in Houston earlier in the series.
The Nationals were able to get to Verlander early in the game and ended up winning game six by a tally of seven to two. In this game, Strasburg was able to pitch in the ninth inning giving up only two runs all game. The series, once again was tied and was headed into game seven. Whoever won game seven would be world champions.
For game seven, the Astros would start pitcher, Zach Greinke. Max Scherzer, apparently recovered from injury, would start for the Nationals.
In the second inning of the game, the Astros were able to get a run early off a solo home run by first baseman Yuli Gurriel. Greinke was turning in a masterful performance pitching into the seventh inning. The Astros were up two to zero with only three innings left to secure the win. Problems arose however when Astros brought in relief pitcher Will Harris upon Greinke getting tired.
Before he was able to get one out, Nationals third baseman, Anthony Rendon, hit a two run homerun over the left field wall to make the game one to two. After Harris walked, Soto he was taken out of the game. Astros closer, Roberto Osuna, came into the game to face Nationals infielder, Howie Kenrick.
Kenrick turned the tide of the whole game with a two run homerun to right field, putting the Nationals on top three to two.
The team worked together for the next three innings behind Patrick Corbin, a Nationals starting pitcher who had been brought in in relief of Scherzer. They battled to score three more runs in the eighth and ninth and win the game six to two.
Nationals pitcher, Strasburg, was named World Series MVP after two dominant starts. The Nationals had beat the Houston Astros in the World Series and are now champions of the world.