Steve Reacts: The 2019 Washington Nationals

With all the movie assessing and NFL blogging that I’ve been doing between October 30, 2019 and now, I’ve been totally behind on my blogging of Major League Baseball. Especially since that I blogged my predictions for Major League Wild Card Play-In games, the Divisional Series round, the Championship Series round, and of course this most recent World Series matchup between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros.

Of course, I picked the Nationals to win, based on having the starting pitching to counter the starting pitching that the Astros had, as well as the fact that the Nationals had the type of pitching staff that could neutralize Alex Bregman & Company. And of course, I got the winner correct, but was off by two games, as it went the Series went the full seven games. Matter of fact, no home team oddly enough won a game during that series. So much for homefield advantage.

The fact that no home team won during this past World Series is odd. Especially considering that the Astros were tough to defeat at Minute Maid Park (a combined 65-22 record heading into the World Series). And while the Astros seemed to poise to steal (no pun intended) Game 1 of that series, Sean Doolittle came in during the bottom of the eighth inning to settle things down for the Nationals, by retiring all the batters that he faced. They won 5-4.

The Nationals then won Game 2 via the commanding score of 12-3 to go back to Nationals Park with a 2-0 series lead and a chance to win it in front of their home crowd. However, they of course failed to win any of three home games, and they were outscored in those three games via a combined score of 19-3. Now it was the Astros’ turn to go home and win it in front of their home crowd.

Game 6 was looking up for the Astros, as they appeared to be on the way to being the first home team to win a game in this series, by virtue of 2-1 lead heading into the top of the fifth inning. But Adam Eaton and Juan Soto happened, as they each hit a home run off of Justin Verlander to turn a 2-1 Nationals deficit into a 3-2 Nationals lead. They then never looked back, as Stephen Strasburg kept the Astros off the board for the rest of the game, by authoring one of the greatest postseason pitching performances, ever.

In a must win game, Strasburg allowed no runs from the second inning onward, while striking out seven. Plus, the game marked second time in which he beat Verlander head-to-head in the World Series. Oh yeah, and Anthony Rendon added four more RBIs to extend that 3-2 lead to 7-2, which ultimately became that game’s final score. 

The 7-2 Nationals victory forced a Game 7 for the fourth time in six seasons, with the 2017 Astros being the last team to win a Game 7 prior to them being involved in another Game 7. And just like the prior game, they scored two runs, except they were up 2-0 and with an excellent chance to win. Especially with how Zach Greinke was pitching through six innings. 

But after allowing a one-out home run by Anthony Rendon and a one-out walk to Juan Soto in the top of the seventh inning, Astros manager A.J. Hinch brought in his top relief pitcher, Will Harris. However, Hinch’s reliance on Harris backfired, as Howie Kendrick (my pick for World Series MVP) delivered another clutch hit, as he hit an 0-1 pitch (no balls, one strike) to the right field foul pole to turn yet another 2-1 Nationals deficit into yet another 3-2 Nationals lead. The Nationals then added three more insurance runs in both the eighth and ninth innings, with an RBI single by Soto scoring Adam Eaton in the former and a two-run single by Eaton scoring Yan Gomes and Victor Robles in the latter. The Nationals ultimately extended their lead to 6-2 and three outs away from the top of the Major League Baseball mountain.

Nationals closer Daniel Hudson then came in to face the top of the Astros order in George Springer, Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley, which is no easy task for any pitcher in the league. However, he made quick work of Springer, as he got him to pop out to Asdrubal Cabrera on two pitches. One out.

Next was Altuve, the 2019 ALCS MVP, by virtue of his walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth off Aroldis Chapman. But there would no magic in the bottom of the ninth for Altuve against Hudson, as Hudson mowed down the 2019 ALCS MVP on three straight strikes. Two out.

It was then Brantley’s turn and he was the Astros’ last hope of making a game of it. And matter of fact, Brantley gave Hudson a tough at-bat, as he almost had a solo home run to right (the ball went foul) and fouled off another pitch to stay alive in the at-bat. The latter of those two foul balls was the sixth pitch of that at-bat.

Next would be pitch number seven in the battle between Hudson and Brantley. And with a number of possible outcomes, there was no telling how it was going to end.

However, Hudson tied him up with an 88 MPH pitch that hit the glove of Gomes for the final out. Four years of playoff failures are now history, as the Nationals are now champions.

In the year 2019 ABH (After Bryce Harper), the Nationals had a storybook season, by first overcoming a 19-31 start to their regular season to ultimately claim the top Wild Card spot in the National League playoffs with a 93-69 record. 

They then followed that up by erasing a 3-0 deficit against the Milwaukee Brewers to win 4-3 in the 2019 National League Wild Card play-in game, erasing a 2-1 series deficit in the 2019 NLDS to dethrone the reigning two-time league champion Los Angeles Dodgers and out-toughing the St. Louis Cardinals in a 4-0 sweep in the NLCS. And of course, it culminated in being road warriors in the fortress known as Minute Maid Park, by defeating the heavily favored Astros in seven games. And as you all know by now, a team that was once the Montreal Expos is now champion as the Washington Nationals.

Gone is the bad taste of a strike ruining the season of the 1994 Expos. Gone is all the futility of 2005 through 2011 hanging over the Nationals’ heads. And gone are all the bad memories of the four playoff seasons (2012, 2014, 2016, 2017) that ended in failure. 

Congratulations to the 2019 Washington Nationals on a World Series championship season that was both well-deserved and a long time coming. And while it was as an unlikely of a championship season in the history of sports, it doesn’t make it any less unforgettable. Matter of fact, the unlikelihood of it all makes their 2019 World Series season totally special.