Washington Nationals

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Biggest 180s: Nationals overcome poor start to season, win World Series

Scott McLaughlin
November 04, 2019 - 3:33 pm

For the first two months of the 2019 season, the Washington Nationals looked like a team missing Bryce Harper, and plenty of other pieces as well. They were 19-31 after 50 games and sitting in fourth place in the National League East.

But then they turned their season around 180 degrees and finished it by winning the franchise’s first World Series.

They won 35 of their next 50 games after that slow start and continued to play well throughout the second half of the season, while also shoring up their bullpen by trading for closer Daniel Hudson at the trade deadline and solidifying their infield by signing Asdrubal Cabrera. While they never caught the first-place Atlanta Braves, they did secure home field for the NL Wild Card Game against the Milwaukee Brewers. 

It looked like their season might end in that game, though, as they trailed 3-1 in the eighth. But then they loaded the bases and Brewers right-fielder Trent Grisham misplayed a Juan Soto single to right, allowing three runs to score and giving the Nationals a 4-3 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

They stared down elimination once again in the NLDS, as they overcame a 2-1 series deficit against the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the final two games, including a Game 5 win in LA that saw them come back from 3-0 down to force extra innings after Anthony Rendon and Soto hit back-to-back homers off Clayton Kershaw in the top of the eighth. Howie Kendrick then blew the game open with a grand slam off Joe Kelly in the 10th to send the Nationals to the NLCS.

After sweeping the Cardinals in the NLCS and winning the first two games of the World Series in Houston, it looked like the Nationals just might cruise to a title. But the Astros weren’t going to allow it to be that easy, as they returned the favor by winning the next three games in Washington to take a 3-2 series lead.

Facing elimination and Justin Verlander in Game 6, Stephen Strasburg tossed a gem, allowing two runs over 8 1/3 innings, and Rendon provided most of the run support, going 3-for-4 with a home run and five RBIs.

In Game 7, the Nationals found themselves trailing 2-0 going into the seventh. But then another Rendon homer got them on board, and Kendrick hit a two-run shot off the right-field foul pole two batters later to give Washington a 3-2 lead.

The Nationals added another run in the eighth and two more in the ninth before Hudson closed out the win with a 1-2-3 ninth to clinch the first World Series in Nationals franchise history, and the first for the city of Washington since 1924.

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