The Washington Nationals won their first World Series championship in franchise history Wednesday, defeating American League champion Houston Astros in seven games.
The Astros were the MLB’s best regular season team, finishing with a final record of 107-55. Early in the season, the Nationals were often written off, sitting second-to-last in the National League on May 23 with a 19-31 record following a sweep at the hands of the New York Mets.
Throughout the regular season, the Nationals were led by the offensive prowess of third baseman and regular-season MVP candidate Anthony Rendon, who batted .319 with 34 home runs and 126 runs batted in. Throughout the postseason, the Nationals’ best player was homegrown starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg, the first overall selection in the 2009 MLB draft. Strasburg became only the second pitcher in MLB history to record five wins over the course of the postseason, finishing with a 5-0 record and 47 strikeouts across 36.1 innings pitched.
Strasburg’s performance throughout the series in Games 2 and 6 secured him the World Series MVP award, becoming the first overall pick to win the award for the team that drafted him.
The Nationals also relied heavily on star left fielder Juan Soto, their highest ranked prospect, who turned 21 earlier this week. Soto hit .277 and hit five home runs throughout the postseason run, including three in the World Series.
Thirty-six-year-old veteran second baseman Howie Kendrick was the surprise leader of the Nationals throughout their postseason run. The former Los Angeles Angel hit a two-run go-ahead home run in the National’s do-or-die National League Division Series Game 5 on the road against National League favorite Los Angeles Dodgers, who won 106 regular season games. Kendrick went on to win National League Championship Series MVP following his performance in the Nationals’ four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.
This victory marks the first World Series championship in the history of the Nationals franchise, including the years spent as the Montreal Expos from 1968 to 2004. No team from Washington, D.C., had appeared in the World Series since the Washington Senators lost to the New York Giants in 1933. The Washington Senators also won the World Series in 1924, taking down the New York Giants in seven games.
The Nationals finished the regular season with a record of 93-69, earning a wild card berth. They defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Wild Card Game, the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS to secure the National League Pennant.
Washington came into this series as underdogs, an upstart team with moderated expectations going up against a Houston Astros team that seemed on the verge of a dynasty. The last few Astros’ teams featured the same strong core of second baseman Jose Altuve, outfielder George Springer and third baseman Alex Bregman. The Astros’ young and talented core led them to a 2017 world series victory before they appeared in the American League Champion Series against eventual champion Boston Red Sox in 2018.
Since their World Series victory, the Astros have also developed one of the most formidable starting rotations in baseball led by 2019 American League Cy Young Award favorites Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, as well as former Cy Young winner Zach Greinke, who pitched a stellar outing in the Game 7 loss.
This World Series marks the first seven-game series in U.S. sports history in which the road team won every game. The Nationals took the first two games in Houston, and the Astros took the next three in D.C. The Nationals then wrapped up the series with the latest two victories back in Houston.
Game 7 featured a marquee pitchers’ duel between former Cy Young winners Max Scherzer for the Nationals and Greinke for the Astros. Scherzer was initially slated to start Game 5 before being a late scratch with an injured shoulder on the morning of the game. Scherzer showcased this injury rust, allowing two early runs in the second inning and never regaining his all-star form. Nevertheless, key seventh-inning home runs by Rendon and Kendrick opened up the scoring for the Nationals, eventually winning the game 6-2.
This storybook season reached a victory that seemed unlikely on many occasions, including when the Nationals trailed three games to two in the World Series. This championship is D.C.’s second this year, as the Washington Mystics also took home the WNBA championship.