Written by Darcy Waskiewicz, Sports Editor
In a season filled with inconsistency, the Washington Nationals have made sure to keep one thing consistent throughout – their ability to make a comeback. In fact, the team’s entire 2019 Major League Baseball season can be considered one giant comeback. Now, playing in the team’s first World Series, the Washington Nationals continue to prove just how special this team is.
In order to really understand how impressive the Washington Nationals’ 2019 season has been, where the team was at the start of the season must be taken into consideration. In late February as teams prepared for Spring Training in March, the Nationals lost superstar right-fielder Bryce Harper to free agency when he signed with division rival, the Philadelphia Phillies. Harper was not only known for his dynamic swing, but also his strong defensive ability and arm, and both left a whole in the National’s batting order and outfield.
Many were doubtful that the team would be able to recover from this loss, and, in the beginning, they were right. The Nationals had a rough start to the season, losing more games than they won, and the team finished May with a record of 24-33. After May, though, something shifted, and the Nationals went on to have a record of 18-8 with four win-streaks of three or more games in the month of June.
After that, the Nationals never slowed down, barreling through opponents and striding towards the top of their division, with only the Atlanta Braves ahead of them in the standings. A big part of this was due to the team’s dynamic starting pitchers. Thirty-four-year-old Max “Mad Max” Scherzer led the team with an ERA of 2.92, followed by Patrick Corbin, Stephen Strasburg and Anibal Sanchez. The team secured the National League’s first wild card spot and kept a tight grip on it until the season ended in September.
The Nationals went on to play the Milwaukee Brewers in a wild card game that had a Brewers’ win written all over it, at least until the bottom of the eighth inning. The Brewers looked like the better team that game with a 3-1 lead for most of the game, but a series of fortunate plays for the Nationals loaded the bases for 20-year-old superstar Juan Soto. Soto proceeded to single into right field, a play that was bobbled by Brewer right fielder Trent Grisham. With one swing, Soto had cleared the bases and given the Nationals a 4-3 lead that took them to the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Many expected the Dodgers, the best team in the National League, to dominate the NLDS, but the Nationals proved people wrong yet again. The Nationals showed their ability to make a surprising comeback when they forced a game five in the best-of-five series. It looked like the Dodgers had the series locked down with a 3-1 lead until Nationals’ players Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto hit back-to-back homers off of the Dodgers’ All-Star pitcher Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning, tying the game and ultimately leading to extra innings. The Nationals continued to shock when veteran Howie Kendrick hit a grand slam off of Kershaw in the tenth inning, knocking the Dodgers out of the playoffs and moving on to the team’s first National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Nationals had no need for a comeback anytime during the series against the Cardinals, shutting down the Cardinals’ usually offensive lineup and sweeping the team in four games. Throughout the NLCS, the Nationals dominated, claiming the lead in all four games they played against the Cardinals with huge offensive outbursts, and soared into the team’s first World Series appearance.
The Nationals first became a team when the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington in 2005. Since then, the team has won four National League division titles in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017, but the team has never made it past the NLDS until this year. The team made history with their dramatic win against the Dodgers, and every game since has added to their historic run.
In order for the team to win the World Series, the Nationals must rely on their dynamic pitchers and impressive defense to shut down the red-hot Houston Astros, the best team in the MLB during the regular season. As the Nationals play in their first ever World Series, they look to continue using their element of surprise and their ability to make a comeback to defeat the Astros.