Washington eliminated the 106-win Dodgers, owners of the best record in the National League, in the NLDS, and took out the 107-win Astros, owners of the best record in baseball, in the World Series, the latter in the first-ever World Series with no home victories.
The Nationals won all four road games in the World Series, and they won their final eight road games of the postseason. They were 12-5 overall in the postseason, and along the way created some wonderful memories for their fans.
With apologies to Brian Dozier signing Calma, and to Max Scherzer saying “I’m good” then pitching five innings just three days after he needed help getting dressed, here are the best 10 moments from the Nationals’ championship postseason.
10) The back-foot slider
Up by two in the ninth inning in Game 2 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium, Dave Martinez intentionally walked Max Muncy with two outs to put the tying run on base. A walk to Will Smith loaded the bases for Corey Seager, who battled Hudson for eight pitches. The first seven pitches from Hudson were fastballs, but then a slider down and in got Seager swinging, evening the NLDS at one game apiece.
That was the first of eight consecutive road wins for Washington to conclude their championship season.
9) Mr. National
Ryan Zimmerman, the first official draft pick by the Nationals in 2005 after the Montreal Expos moved to Washington D.C., hit a booming three-run home run off Pedro Baez in the fifth inning of Game 4 at home. That turned a 2-1 lead into a 5-1 advantage for the Nationals, who faced elimination for the second of five different times this postseason. As you might have guessed, Washington won all five of those games.
8) Suzuki’s go-ahead shot
If I may interject, the importance of this play really began the half inning before, with Stephen Strasburg on the ropes in the bottom of the sixth of Game 2 of the World Series. In a 2-2 tie in Houston, with runners on first and second base and one out, Strasburg first got Carlos Correa to pop up then struck out Kyle Tucker looking to preserve the tie.
Then to start the seventh inning, Kurt Suzuki hit Justin Verlander’s second pitch over the fence for a go-ahead home run. It was the first batter Verlander faced all year without Robinson Chirinos behind the plate. The homer added 18 percent to Washington’s win probability, and helped open the floodgates to a six-run rally, and a 2-0 series lead.
7) Soto ties it up
Just one pitch after Anthony Rendon — more on him in a moment — homered off Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the NLDS, Juan Soto did the same to tie the score. This added 25 percent to the Nationals’ win probability if you’re scoring at home.
Soto had a wonderful postseason for the Nationals, hitting .277/.373/.554 with five home runs and 14 RBI, and he didn’t turn 21 until Game 3 of the World Series. The future is bright in Washington.
6) Rendon eases the tension
In a nail-biting Game 6 of the World Series in Houston, we were still reeling from the drama and confusion surrounding the Trea Turner interference call at first base and subsequent delay in the game, which could have thwarted a budding Nationals rally. Washington had a one-run lead in the seventh inning when Rendon nailed this two-run home run to give Washington an extra cushion they needed to even the series.
“I was actually pretty happy about the delay, I got to sit around for a little while,” Rendon deadpanned to Ken Rosenthal on Fox after the win.
5) Rendon sets up the game-winner
Back in Game 5 of the NLDS, the game was tied in the 10th inning and Adam Eaton was on first base after a walk with nobody out. Rendon crushed a ground-rule double off Joe Kelly to put Washington in a perfect scoring position, a play that added 24 percent to the Nationals’ win probability.
Rendon’s double set the stage for ...
4) Kendrick’s grand slam
Yes, the Nationals won the NL wild card game this year, but before the NLDS had never won a playoff series since moving to Washington. So what Howie Kendrick did in the 10th inning of Game 5 meant everything. After Rendon’s double, Soto was walked intentionally to face Kendrick, and he made the Dodgers pay with a grand slam, sending the Nationals to their first NLCS.
3) Soto’s wild card heroics
None of this happens for the Nationals without winning the wild card game, and that was no sure thing down 3-1 with just four outs to play. They had the bases loaded for Soto, who singled against Josh Hader to bring home the tying runs. An error by Trent Grisham in right field allowed the winning run to score, turning Washington’s October hopes around. Even more impressive was Soto’s father tackling him in celebration on the field after the game.
Juan Soto’s dad tackling him after his game-winning hit is awesome!— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) October 2, 2019
Such a cool moment of pure joy between father and son ❤️
This play had a 58-percent win probability added, the most impactful play in the Nationals postseason.
2) The final out
In terms of actual impact on the game, Daniel Hudson’s strikeout of Michael Brantley with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 7, up four runs, was relatively low. But as a moment, this 87.9 mph slider will last forever for Nationals fans.
1) This is Howie do it
Another big moment for Kendrick in an elimination game. This time it was in the seventh inning of Game 7, down a run and with Soto on first base after a walk. Zack Greinke was removed in favor of Will Harris, who promptly gave up an opposite-field home run to Kendrick off the right field foul pole. This turned the tide for the Nationals, who never looked back. This added 35.3 percent to the Nationals’ win probability, second only in Washington’s postseason to Soto’s wild card winner.
CLUTCH!!! OFF THE POLE!— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 31, 2019
Nats take the lead!!! pic.twitter.com/98tb8eKE6F
Kendrick hit .286/.328/.444 in the postseason, and his 12 RBI were third on the team behind Rendon and Soto.
I’m certain I left off some big moments, but these 10 were pretty important. It was a true team effort for the Nationals in winning their first championship.