Nobody ever expected the Washington Nationals to come as far as they did. On May 23, 2019, they had 19 wins and 31 losses—one of the worst ways to start the year. In fact, they were on pace to lose one hundred games. They were counted out, big time. They were the laughingstocks of the National League.
The Nationals got the last laugh, having won the seventh and final game of a best four-out-of-seven series six runs to two to secure their very first franchise World Series title.
They endured a LOT. The Nationals worked extremely hard to clinch a Wild Card spot. In fact, May 24 was the day they turned their season around. They finished in second place out of five teams in the National League East Division, behind the Atlanta Braves.
The big test came on October 1, 2019. Late in a Wild Card game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee was leading three runs to one. That all changed when the Nationals rallied back to take the Wild Card game and advance to the National League Division Series.
The second part of the big test came when they had to face the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had the second-best record in Major League Baseball (they had won 106 games out of 162, while the Houston Astros, who had the best record, had won 107 games). The way the Dodgers played, they seemed to be the favorites to win. In addition, the Washington Nationals have never won a playoff series before. They kept getting eliminated in the Divisional Series every time they made the playoffs.
Their so-called “narrative” of the Nationals never having won a playoff series was at risk of ringing true once again when the Dodgers were leading them in the fifth and final game of the NLDS. The Dodgers spent much of the game up three runs to zero. That all changed when Anthony Rendon hit to second base and Juan Soto hit to first base, driving Rendon in. Rendon and Soto struck again with solo home runs of their own. Howie Kendrick’s grand slam (four-run home run) sealed Los Angeles’ fate. The Nationals had won their first playoff series.
Then came part three. The Nationals ended up sweeping the Cardinals, who had eliminated the Braves in dramatic fashion and were adamant they would win. Then came the dramatic World Series against Houston. The team prevented a rally from the Astros in Game One, then had a dramatic win in Game Two. As Houston defeated them in all three games in D.C., people counted them out. Again, the Nationals got the last laugh by battling back against two separate two run deficits in the last two games of the series, winning their first title.
So how did they get to this point, you may ask? How did they pull off this dramatic turnaround? The simple answer is a complete makeover to the team. The complex answer is much more than that. For instance, the team picked up closers Javy Guerra and Fernando Rodney, who have brought much-needed aid to the team. In my opinion, pitchers, especially closers, make all the difference. Plus, if your rookies end up performing as well as you’d like, and your struggling pitchers turn their seasons around, you’re at a higher chance of success. I applaud these pitchers for all they do.
The injury bug has put the team in a tough position, too. Trea Turner got hurt, and when he came back, he struggled. Over time, he got back to his extremely talented self. Something similar happened to Juan Soto, seeming to go into a “sophomore slump,” when a player performs poorly in their second season compared to their first season. In time, he found his groove, which I find tremendously helpful, as I find Turner and Soto to be the soul of the team.
Plus, trades and free agency really helped the team. I remembered seeing that Gerardo Parra, who had signed with San Francisco after declaring free agency after his tenure with the Colorado Rockies, had been “designated for assignment” (or, cut from the team in a sense). When he went to the Nationals, I had a feeling he’d do some special things, and he did. At least from my point of view, the Nationals made a great choice picking up Doolittle from Oakland. He’s been a miracle for the team, from my observations. And who, oh who, in the baseball world can forget about the iconic three-team trade in December 2014 that sent Trea Turner from San Diego to the District of Columbia? To put it simply, Turner has been the franchise face his whole career.
Let’s quickly discuss Max Scherzer. During his time as a Nationals player, he won two Cy Young awards for his amazing pitching, and, in 2015, pitched two no-hitters. In addition, during his entire Major League Baseball career, he has 3.2 Earned Run Average and nearly 2,700 strikeouts. I find that to be an extremely impressive resume. From the looks of his statistics, he is the heart and soul of the Nationals starting rotation. I am beyond convinced the Nationals did the right thing by picking him up.
In conclusion, I am beyond impressed with the Washington Nationals and how they went from laughingstocks to champions. This is the inspiring underdog story of 2019, if not the entire decade. They have mentioned on Twitter that they have been the best team since May 24, and they have lived up to that reputation. Seeing those post-victory Tweets on my Twitter feed honestly made my day and reminded me that I love following this team on social media. Who else remembers the movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story? They should make a sequel to the movie called Nationals: A True Miracle MLB Team Story. Seriously, 20th Century Fox. I’m waiting on this to happen.
Congratulations to the World Champion 2019 Washington Nationals!