The Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 6-2 Wednesday in the deciding seventh game of the World Series to claim their first Major League Baseball championship in franchise history.
Washington had to rely on what had become a defining factor of their playoff run, staging a late comeback after falling behind early in the game.
The Nationals played in five deciding games in October and at one point trailed in all five. Even making the playoffs seemed like a distant goal in May when the team was struggling with a 19-31 record.
'We stayed in the fight'
But Manager Dave Martinez, who faced numerous calls for him to be fired, preached resiliency and his motto that to turn things around the team needed only to win that day’s game.
“Guess what, we stayed in the fight,” Martinez said Wednesday, echoing what had become a team slogan. “We won the fight!”
A second-inning home run by Astros first basemen Yuli Gurriel put the Nationals and ace starting pitcher Max Scherzer in a 1-0 hole.
Scherzer was pitching days after being scratched from a planned start in Game 5 of the series thanks to a neck injury. He and the Nationals fell behind 2-0 in the fifth inning as Houston shortstop Carlos Correa singled home Gurriel.
Up to that point, Astros starting pitcher Zack Greinke had been moving methodically through the Washington lineup, allowing only a single by Nationals left fielder Juan Soto in the second inning. Things changed in the seventh inning.
Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon sent a one-out Greinke pitch into the left field stands. Soto came to the plate next and reached on a walk, prompting Astros Manager A.J. Hinch to end Greinke’s night and put the game in the hands of relief pitcher Will Harris.
The first batter Harris faced was Washington designated hitter Howie Kendrick, already a star of the playoffs for hitting a grand slam in the deciding game of the first round that pushed the Nationals past their painful history of never winning a playoff series.
Kendrick smacked the second pitch from Harris down the right field line where it slammed into the foul pole for a home run that put the Nationals ahead 3-2.
A Soto single in the eighth inning widened the lead to 4-2, and right fielder Adam Eaton gave the Nationals more cushion in the top of the ninth with a single that scored two more runs.
Nationals pitcher Patrick Corbin allowed just two hits in three innings of work, while reliever Daniel Hudson tossed a perfect ninth inning as the Astros failed in their quest to turn their 107-win regular season into a reclamation of the World Series crown they won in 2017.
“Let’s be honest, there’s 28 other teams that would love to have our misery today,” Hinch said after the loss. “We play to get here. We play to have an opportunity to win it all. And I just told our team, it’s hard to put into words and remember all the good that happened because right now we feel as bad as you can possibly feel.”
A game like the season
“The way this game went is the way this whole season went,” said Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who was the team’s first draft pick after it relocated from Montreal to Washington in 2005. “What a story. What a fun year, man.”
The most valuable player of the World Series was Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg. He won Game 1 and Game 6 of the series while giving up just two runs and striking out seven batters in each contest.
Strasburg called the experience of winning a championship “surreal.”
“To be able to do it with this group of guys is something special. We didn’t quit.”
The series made history in an odd way with the visiting team winning each of the seven games. Washington won games one, two, six and seven in Houston, while Houston won games three, four and five in Washington.