Warrior Weekly: The Nationals Win the Pennant

WSPN's CJ Brown details the Nationals' win of the pennant.

WSPN's CJ Brown details the Nationals' win of the pennant.

CJ Brown

The Washington Nationals came into the 2019 season with some of the lowest expectations in the league. They started the offseason by losing their star player, Bryce Harper, in free agency to a divisional rival. No one expected Washington to make a deep playoff run. Washington was twelve games under .500 in May, and it seemed that, once again, they would return to their 100-loss expansion-team ways of the 2000s. However, led by their star-studded rotation highlighted by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg; and behind the red-hot bat of third-baseman and National League (NL) MVP candidate Anthony Rendon, they won the NL pennant.

Rendon had a breakout season this year, leading the National League in both doubles and RBI, with 44 and 126 respectively. This was alongside a monster 34 home-runs, a batting average of .319 and an OPS of 1.010. This postseason, Rendon kicked it into high gear with a team-high batting average of .375 and OBP of .465.

The Nationals finished the regular season with a record of 93-69, a second-place finish in the NL East, and a spot in the wildcard matchup against the Brewers. With two outs in the eighth inning, down 3-1, 20-year-old Juan Soto delivered a single to left field for the Nationals. Thanks to an error by Brewers left-fielder Trent Grisham, three runs crossed the plate for the Nationals, and they squeezed out the win 4-3.

In the National League Divisions Series (NLDS), the Nationals faced the NL powerhouse Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that has appeared in the last two World Series and were the favorites to three-peat as NL pennant winners. In game one, the Dodgers came out strong at home, defeating Washington 6-0. In game two, however, the Nationals pitched a gem, Stephen Strasburg took a perfect game into the fifth inning, and Ace Max Scherzer struck out the side in the eighth inning in a surprise relief appearance, and the Nationals walked away with the win, 4-2.

The series moved to Washington for game three, and home field advantage didn’t pay off too well for the Nats. The Nationals were onto their fourth starter, Anibal Sanchez, who pitched well in his first postseason start. They were up 2-1 entering the 6th inning when the Dodgers offense came to life. Washington had put starter Patrick Corbin into the game in relief, and the floodgates opened. The Dodgers scored seven runs in the 6th, all of them with two outs. The Dodgers ended up taking game three 10-4. In game four, Max Scherzer pitched lights out for 109 pitches in seven innings. Thanks to an outstanding offensive performance from veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals came out on top 6-1, with the series tied heading back to LA.

In game five, the Nationals became the first team in major league history to rally from three or more runs down twice in elimination games during the same postseason. A tenth inning grand-slam from second-baseman Howie Kendrick sealed the 7-3 victory for the Nationals, and punched their ticket to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) against the Cardinals.

Anibal Sanchez took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Cardinals in game one, and Howie Kendrick’s bat carried them to a 2-0 victory. In game two, the Nationals pitching was once again lights out. Max Scherzer took a no-hitter into the seventh, and after an eighth-inning RBI double for right fielder Adam Eaton, the Nationals took the game 3-1.

The series moved back to Washington for game three, and Stephen Strasburg continued the phenomenal postseason pitching that the Nationals had put on display in the first two games. Strasburg went seven innings with zero walks and twelve strikeouts, and the Nationals feasted offensively for an 8-1 victory and a 3-0 series lead. Patrick Corbin came out shaky in game four, giving up four in the first five innings, but the Nationals’ offense took charge and took care of business early, putting up  seven runs in the first inning. The bullpen managed to hang on to the lead, and the Nationals punched their ticket to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. 

The Series is coming to Washington for the first time since 1933, and we’ll see if the Nationals’ pitching is strong enough to hold off the powerhouse offenses of the American League(AL) in either the Yankees or Astros.