For the first time, the Washington Nationals are heading to the World Series. After four games, the Nationals swept the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first National League Pennant. The victory punched their first-ever ticket to Major League Baseball’s big dance. This is the first World Series appearance for the Washington Nationals since arriving in D.C. in 2005 and a first for the entire franchise. Formerly the Montreal Expos, the team did not appear in the World Series since being formed in 1969.
Although technically not apart of the history of the franchise, the World Series will return to the nation’s capital for the first time since 1933. The Washington Senators (Now Minnesota Twins) appeared in the 1933 World Series against the New York Giants.
Clinching The Pennant
Game Four of the NLCS was all Nationals, led by starting pitcher Patrick Corbin. Corbin began the game striking out the side in order. Nationals Park did not disappoint, as the crowd was loud throughout the game. Washington’s bats continued to be hot and scored seven runs in the first inning. The scoring came from mostly gap shots and defensive mishaps from the Cardinals. The lack of defensive support from St. Louis drove starter Dakota Hudson out of the game before making it through the initial inning. After eight batters and only 15 pitches, he was relieved by Adam Wainwright.
Corbin continued to hammer through the Cardinals lineup as he struck out seven of the first ten batters he faced. He continued his dominance through the fourth inning before letting up his first hit. After Corbin’s ninth strikeout to Marcell Ozuna, Yadier Molina hit a home run on the first pitch of the at-bat to right field. Corbin found his composure again and struck out Paul DeJong to retire the side.
The fifth inning saw some struggles for Corbin as he loaded the bases with no outs and allowing three runs. He ended the inning with two strikeouts to the big bats of Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna. Corbin was just what the doctor ordered to send the Nationals into the next round. He pitched 6.0 innings, allowed four runs, recorded twelve strikeouts, and left the game to his bullpen up by three runs.
Bullpen Continues to Shine
Once the ball was handed off to the bullpen, the stellar pitching performances for the Nationals continues. The sixth inning by young reliever Tanner Rainey retired three straight. Rainey threw 16 pitches with multiple surpassing the 100 mph mark.
Sean Doolittle was subbed in to start the seventh inning and did the same to the Cardinals batting order. Three up, three down. Doolittle returned in the eighth and retired the first two batters. Cardinals clean up hitter, Marcell Ozuna found his first hit of the contest with a single through the infield. The Nationals then turned to their closer acquired at the trade deadline, Daniel Hudson.
Hudson did not start his appearance the way he wanted, as he hit his first batter in the postseason, Yadier Molina. Hudson, after a full count against Paul DeJong, walked him and loaded the bases. The fans in Nationals park were most definitely showing an enormous sense of anxiety. The St. Louis manager Mike Shildt chose to pinch-hit with long-time Cardinal Matt Carpenter. Hudson aggressively pitched to Carpenter and quickly got ahead in the count. Hudson would find a way to survive the eighth, however, as Carpenter would ground out to second.
The closer had some help from his defense to close out the ninth and clinch the National League Pennant. Hudson allowed a shallow hit into the left-field that was played perfectly by Juan Soto for the first out. As the Cardinals season hung in the balance, Matt Wieters popped up in the infield, and suddenly the Nationals are one out away from the playing in the World Series. Not a single person is sitting in Nat’s Parks as Tommy Edman hits a ball directly to Victor Robles. Out three. The Nationals have done it. The Nationals are the Champions of the National League.
“This is about as good as it gets, but we’re not done yet.”Ryan Zimmerman during the NLCS game 4 post-game. The Washington Nationals clinch first World Series appearance.
Incredible Outings by Nationals Rotation
The Washington Nationals possessed the best performances from there starting pitching throughout the playoffs. Game one starter of the NLCS saw Anibal Sanchez lead quite a journey with a no-hit bid into the bottom of the eighth inning. The no-hitter was finally broken up by pinch hitter Jose Martinez with a single. Other names in the Nationals rotation have overshadowed Sanchez’s outstanding play. Sanchez has posted a 0.71 ERA in his two postseason starts. He has recorded 14 strikeouts in 12.2 innings pitched.
The Nationals lost no momentum when they relied on one of their aces’ Max Scherzer in game two. Scherzer’s play was just as good as his counterpart in game one. Mad Max matched Sanchez with a one-hitter of his own, only to have it broken up in the seventh inning. Max and Anibal made postseason history during the series as both are the only pitchers to have multiple outings of 6 innings pitched and only have one or fewer hits allowed. So far, in these playoffs, Scherzer has posted a 1.64 ERA in four appearances. In 22 innings, he has remarkably recorded 33 strikeouts.
Washington was in full control in game 3 of the NLCS, due to the pitching of Stephen Strasburg. With the help of the explosive offensive production and Strasburg’s twelve strikeouts, the Nationals easily won 8-1. The 90 Million plus spent by the Nationals to solidify their rotation has been the main reason Washington will be battling for there first chance at the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Bullpen No Longer a Risk?
The biggest question for the Washington Nationals heading into the postseason was their bullpen. However, that has not been the case this October. The Nationals bullpen has been everything but questionable. With great performances out of the pen led by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson, the team has been lights out in the late innings. Due to the outstanding pitching of the Nationals starting pitchers, the bullpen has only seen a total of 8.2 innings in the NLCS. When the ball was handed off a Washington reliever, however, they were incredible. The bullpen recorded only allowed four hits, two bases on balls, and recorded eight strikeouts.
Run Support Doesn’t Disappoint.
During the NLCS, the entire Nationals squad lit up the bats, and averaged .269 throughout the series, crushing the Cardinals batting average of only .121. The outstanding play of Howie Kendrick with his doubles only offense has helped the Nationals work their way through the entire postseason. Kendrick recorded four doubles on five hits during the National League Championship Series and led the team with four RBI’s. The fantastic outing was enough for Kendrick to earn the NLCS Most Valuable Player Award.
The role players of the Washington Nationals have been stellar in their appearances as well. Players like Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Eaton, and Yan Gomes have helped carry the Nationals to their first World Series appearance. Ryan Zimmerman has been with the Nationals since 2005. Zimmerman’s play accelerated during the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The soon to be free agent has a chance to complete his tenure in Washington with a remarkable storybook ending, a World Series Championship.
The Magical 8 Spot
The Nationals saw a ton of success throughout the NLCS from the bottom part of there lineup, especially from the eighth slot. Washington had two home runs during the NLCS coming from the batter in the 8 spots, as both Michael A. Taylor, and Yan Gomes hit one out of the park.
Keep the Fire Burning
The biggest issue the Washington Nationals now face will not be just the winner of the ALCS, but themselves. D.C. will now face a long wait for the World Series to start next Tuesday and could be an issue for this red hot Nationals team. Washington will have to find a way to hold onto that momentum, awaiting the winner of the Yankees and Astros series.
To ensure the team does not lose focus, the Nationals will need to rely on the experience and leadership of the organization. Regardless of which group represents the American League, the experience is in favor of the Nationals. The Washington Nationals do not lack experience. No other team in the majors is older by average age. The older guys will need to keep some of their young stars away from the media during this downtime.
Nationals Hoping History Does Not Repeat
Washington hopes not to repeat the same fate as the 2007 Colorado Rockies. The Rockies found themselves in the World Series after breezing through the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2007 NLCS. The pennant win had Colorado awaiting nine days to begin World Series play, as the Boston Red Sox went the entire seven games against the Cleveland Indians. The Boston Red Sox swept the Rockies, and the momentum that was so clear throughout the postseason for Colorado was nowhere to be found.
“Often bumpy roads lead to beautiful places, and this is a beautiful place.”Washington Nationals Manager Dave Martinez after game 4 NLCS victory.
Breaking Down the Possible Opponents
Looking ahead, the Nationals will await either the Yankees or the Astros for the World Series. The Yankees seem to be struggling with starting pitching so far in this ALCS and have relied heavily on their versatile bullpen. During Game One of the ALCS, the Yankees broke a postseason record by using nine pitchers in one game. If the Nationals happen to play the Bronx Bombers, they need their bats to continue to roll against the struggling starters.
If the Astros win the series, the World Series will feature plenty of marquee matchups between big-name starting pitchers. The Houston Astros have a rotation that can arguably only be matched by the star-studded rotation of Washington. Names like Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke would face the Nationals batting order. Verlander, and Cole both reached 300 strikeouts in the regular season, and are both front runners for the AL Cy Young Award. Houston’s offense finished third in the majors and broke the franchise record with 288 home runs. This team is extremly well-rounded and would be a tough matchup for the Nationals.
The World Series is set to start Tuesday, October 22nd, a full week after the Nationals Game four victory. The fans in Washington have a lot to celebrate after Tuesday’s victory but will have to anxiously await to see if history will be made in the nation’s capital.
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