In February (just a few months removed from his last game as a member of the Washington Nationals), outfielder Bryce Harper held a press conference with his new team, the Philadelphia Phillies. Harper, when talking about the future of the Phillies, misspoke Freudian-style and said “We want to bring a title back to D.C.”
Well, his words came true. He was just no longer a part of the “we.”
On Wednesday, October 30, the Nationals beat the Houston Astros in Game Seven of the World Series. It was the first World Series win in Nationals franchise history, dating back to their days north of the border as the Montreal Expos. After starting the year going 19-31 through their first 50 games, the Nationals were able to turn it around and clinch a wild card spot.
From there, they were able to mow through the rest of the National League, beating the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series.
Both the Astros and the Nationals were praised for their strong pitchers and young stars in the lineup. The Astros boasted a starting pitching rotation that included All-Star Gerrit Cole and former Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman highlights a lineup filled with strength and pure talent.
The Nationals rotation featured four-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, along with the talented Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. The lineup’s young star to counter the Astros was the 21-year-old Dominican superstar who took the MLB by storm, outfielder Juan Soto.
In the 2019 World Series, the road team won every game through Game Seven for the first time in MLB history. The Nationals were able to take the first two games in Houston thanks to strong and consistent hitting.
In Game One, Ryan “Mr. National” Zimmerman, the first draft pick in the franchise’s history, hit a home run in his first ever World Series at bat. Soto, the young phenom, drove in three runs in his first World Series game.
In Game Two, the Nationals’ strong offensive lineup drove in 12 runs early in the game, which helped them close out Houston for the first set.
Houston’s answer, a three game winning streak in the Nationals’ ballpark, was the result of strong pitching performances from their starters.
Once back in Houston, the Nationals defeated the Astros on their home turf again and took Games Six and Seven.
Scherzer and Corbin combined to pitch eight innings in Game Seven, showcasing the Nationals uniquely strong pitching rotation. Allowing only nine hits and two earned runs, the pair of pitchers led Washington to raising its first Commissioner’s Trophy.
In dramatic fashion, all six Nationals runs were scored in the last three innings. After Anthony Rendon hit a solo home run in the seventh inning, Howie Kendrick followed it up with a two-run home run off the right field foul pole. Hits from Soto and Adam Eaton allowed more runs to pile on for the Nationals to gain a four run lead.
All of this added up to an overwhelming, unpredictable defeat for the Houston Astros.
Strasburg was awarded the World Series Most Valuable Player after pitching a combined 14 innings, 12 hits, four runs, three walks, 14 strikeouts and a 2.51 earned run average in Game Two and Game Six.
The Astros offense struggled, combining to hit for a mere .222/.259/.407 off Strasburg. He is set to become a free agent this winter, as he recently opted out of the remaining four years and 100 million dollars left on his contract.
Changes in the coming offseason will only make these two teams stronger and more competitive. The Nationals will most likely push hard to resign Rendon this summer, as the All-Star third basemen is set to hit free agency after having a .319 batting average and hitting 34 home runs.
Superstar Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole left Game Seven saying that he is “technically unemployed” by the Astros, and he will be hard to replace.
As they look to prepare for the March and spring training, these two teams will need to fortify their bullpens and lock up unsigned hitters to help them return to baseball’s biggest stage in the 2020 MLB season.