The Washington Nationals won the 2019 World Series on Wednesday, defeating the Houston Astros in Game 7 by a 6-2 final. Staying true to character, the Nationals required a comeback to win the game, as they entered the seventh trailing by a 2-0 score. Yet home runs by Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick , and they were able to extend their lead to 6-2 entering the bottom of the ninth thanks to timely hitting from Juan Soto and Adam Eaton.
"Staying true to character" is an appropriate evaluation of the Nationals' comeback because they made a habit out of it. To wit, let's recap their various comeback performances this year.
You have undoubtedly heard by now that the Nationals started the year 19-31. They looked toast. In fact, this author wrote on May 22, when they were 19-30, that "the Nationals' goose is just about cooked." The reason why? "In order to finish at .500, they'll have to play at an 89-win pace (over 162 games); to reach 90 wins, they'll need to play at a 102-win pace; to win 95, they'll have to play at a 109-win pace." The Nationals had playoff odds at just over 20 percent -- the second-lowest in the National League East, ahead of only the Miami Marlins -- around then.
From that point forward, the Nationals went 74-39 -- or a 65 percentage win rate that equates to a 106-win pace over a full season. They did what seemed impossible, in other words. How? By getting healthy, getting better performances from some of their key contributors, and reshaping their bullpen at the trade deadline -- it was by no means a strength, but in the first half their relievers posted a 6.08 ERA and in the second half that mark was 5.24.
All of the above was enough for the Nationals to land the top wild card in the National League.
NL Wild Card Game
Of course, this is when the real comeback kings narrative started. The Nationals trailed the Milwaukee Brewers by a 3-1 margin in the bottom of the eighth and it appeared their October run would be a short one.
Indeed, the Nationals had just a 13 percent chance at winning the game when Josh Hader struck out Victor Robles to put the Brewers five outs away from the Divisional Series. After plunking Michael A. Taylor, Hader rebounded to fan Trea Turner.
Yet from there the Nationals went on the offensive. Ryan Zimmerman singled, then Anthony Rendon walked, then Juan Soto hit a single to right field that eluded Trent Grisham, clearing the bases and giving the Nationals a 4-3 lead that would serve as the final score.
NL Division Series
Even after defeating the Brewers, the Nationals found themselves at odds with probability in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers -- the league's top seed.
The Nationals trailed 2-1 in the best-of-five series, but won Game 4 at home by a 6-1 fashion. They then rallied from a 3-0 deficit heading into the sixth inning of Game 5, plating the tying runs in the eighth inning against Clayton Kershaw on back-to-back home runs from Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. The Nationals would then get a Howie Kendrick grand slam in the top of the 10th that enabled them to win the game and the series, punching their ticket to the NL Championship Series.
There wasn't much drama in the NLCS -- the Nationals swept the Cardinals to win the pennant.
But then came the World Series. After winning the first two games, the Nationals dropped all three of their home contests, putting themselves in a hole as they headed back to Houston.
The Nationals were able to win Game 6 behind a strong performance from Stephen Strasburg, and then summoned one last rally in the latter stages of Game 7 to top the Astros for the title
At one point during Wednesday's Game 7, the Nationals had a 13.5 percent chance of victory. It didn't matter, in part because the odds never seemed to matter to these Nationals.