The Unlikely Story of the 2019 Washington Nationals: World Series Champs

For the first time in the team’s history, the Washington Nationals have won the World Series. Since their inaugural season in 2005, the Nats had never made it passed the first round of the MLB postseason, and quickly earned a reputation as a disappointing playoff team. However, the script was flipped in 2019.

 The season started out bleak for Washington as one of the biggest faces in baseball, Bryce Harper, decided to leave the Nationals after spending his first seven years in the big leagues with the team. Harper ended up signing a $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, division rival of the Nationals. The decision left almost all Nats fans feeling betrayed and created a negative feeling around the team. This carried into the season and the Nationals found themselves twelve games under .500 at the end of May, and many called for manager Dave Martinez to be fired. General manager Mike Rizzo chose to keep Martinez at the helm, a decision that clearly paid off in the end.

 The Nationals made a miraculous late push and snuck into the postseason as a wild card team where they had to face the Milwaukee Brewers in one elimination game. After trailing the entire contest, 20-year-old phenom Juan Soto delivered an incredibly clutch hit late in the game off of all-star pitcher Josh Hader, an unlikely moment that was the first of many for this championship team. 

While baseball fans enjoyed that moment, the consensus was that the Nationals’ heroics would come to an end as they faced the Los Angeles Dodgers, heavy favorites in this series considering LA dominated the regular season, winning a whopping 106 games.

To everyone’s surprise, the Nationals were able to force a deciding game five in Los Angeles to see who would advance to the next round. The Nats were once again down late, but two back-to-back home runs hit by MVP finalist Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto tied the game at three. The game stretched into extra innings, and made it possible for one of the most iconic moments in playoff history to occur. In the top of the tenth inning, the Nationals loaded the bases for 36-year-old Howie Kendrick, who had been previously struggling in the series. Kendrick then launched a grand slam to center field, eventually sealing the win, and giving Washington a chance at the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. 

There isn’t much analysis to be had about this series, as Washington made quick work of the Cardinals, sweeping them in four games of pure domination. Next up, the World Series– and the daunting Houston Astros . The Astros were widely considered the best team in baseball this past season, with their pitching rotation spear-headed by the two best hurlers on the planet, Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. 

Games one and two took place in Houston and were started by Cole and Verlander respectively, but the Nats countered with great performances from their own duo on the mound, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Washington secured the win in both contests. With a 2-0 lead in the series, the Nationals returned home to play the next three games in front of an anxious home crowd. The ‘Stros fiercely answered back by winning those three games, taking a quick 3-2 lead back to their home ballpark. Game six was taken by the Nationals by a score of 7-2 behind an incredible 5-RBI game from Anthony Rendon and another good start from Stephen Strasburg. With the series now tied 3-3, it was time for the best two words in sports: game seven.

 The Astros sent former Cy Young award winner Zack Grienke to the mound in the winner-take-all game, countered by Washington’s Max Scherzer, who won the award three times. Houston struck first in front of their home crowd and held a 2-0 lead heading into the seventh inning when Anthony Rendon delivered once again with a solo home run off of Grienke to cut the Astro lead in half. Later in the inning, NLDS hero Howie Kendrick stepped up to the plate and crushed a two-run homer to right field off of Astros reliever Will Harris, giving the Nats a 3-2 lead along with all the momentum. The Nats ended up adding three more runs and Washington closer Daniel Hudson entered after an incredible relief performance by Patrick Corbin. Hudson finished the game off with ease, and after a strikeout of Michael Brantley, celebration ensued. 

There is a long list of people who contributed to this magical world series run. Each and every player had a role on this team, and of course it is imperative to mention the coaching staff and front office. It had been a struggle for this franchise in the past, and they were faced with obstacles throughout the whole year which they repeatedly conquered. All in all, congratulations to the Washington Nationals– World Series champions.

Nationals Manager Dave Martinez holding the World Series trophy. Image via Bleacher Report.