WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-4, on Tuesday night, in the National League Championship Series and earning a trip to the World Series. The Nationals will have to wait for the conclusion of the American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and Houston Astros before learning who their opponent will be -- at present, the Astros lead the best-of-seven series by a 2-1 margin entering Wednesday's scheduled Game 4.
As such, we've decided to put our focus on the Nationals by highlighting eight things you need to know about Washington's NLCS victory and World Series berth.
1. This is the Nationals' first Fall Classic
Let's start with the obvious: the Nationals will be playing in their first World Series. Prior to this October, the Nationals had never won a playoff series, let alone a pennant.
Of course, the franchise in its current incarnation has existed only since the start of the 2005 season. As such, it's not quite the drought of a team like, say, the Seattle Mariners, who haven't played in the Fall Classic despite coming into existence in 1977.
Every other active franchise has now played in at least one -- or will have, once the Nationals take the field for Game 1.
2. But not Washington's first
You may have noticed that we mentioned this was the Nationals' first World Series berth. It is not, however, the first time a D.C.-based pro baseball team has competed for a title.
Rather, the Washington Senators -- the version who played in D.C. until 1961 before becoming the Minnesota Twins, not the version that replaced them before departing to become the Texas Rangers in 1972 -- lost the 1933 World Series to the New York Giants.
Those Senators also lost the 1925 World Series, but won the 1924 edition -- in seven games over, yes, the New York Giants.
3. They came back from the dead in May
It's easy to forget that the Nationals were 19-31 and well under .500 as late as May 24. According to Elias Sports' research, that makes the Nationals the third team in the past century to reach the Fall Classic after being 12 games under .500.
According to @EliasSports, the @Nationals can become the third team in the last century to reach the #WorldSeries after being 12 games below .500 during the season.#Nats were 19-31 on May 24. The 2005 #Astros and 1973 #Mets previously won pennant despite being 12 below .500— Ben Raby (@BenRaby31) October 15, 2019
The other teams were the 2005 Astros and the 1973 New York Mets (both lost). It's worth noting that the 1914 Boston Braves also pulled off the feat, even if they fell outside of the "century" timeline. Those Braves swept the Philadelphia Athletics.
The Nationals became the ninth team in MLB history to come back from 12 games under .500 (19-31) to make the postseason. They are trying to join the 2005 Astros, 1973 Mets, 1914 Boston Braves as the NL teams to make the World Series after being 12 games under.— GEORGE E AVENT (@avent_e) October 15, 2019
The Nationals were already the ninth team to overcome that kind of deficit to reach the postseason.
4. Wild Card history
It's also easy to forget that the Nationals began this postseason in the Wild Card Game, in which they required a miracle eighth-inning rally to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers and advance on. The Nationals then required consecutive wins while facing elimination to dismiss the top-seeded, 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series.
Since the Wild Card Game format was implemented in 2012, the Nationals are the third team to play in there and later advanced to the World Series. Oddly, the other two teams both did it in 2014, when the San Francisco Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals.
Including the one wild card era, the Nationals are the 13th to reach it. They'd be the seventh to win it.
5. They won't have home-field advantage
One odd quirk about Major League Baseball's home-field advantage rules is that a wild card team cannot host in either the Division or Championship rounds. They can, however, host in the World Series -- provided, that is, they have the better regular-season record.
Alas, it's already certain the Nationals will not possess home-field advantage. They finished the regular season with a 93-69 mark. Comparatively, the Astros won 107 games and the Yankees won 103.
The Nationals would be wise to figure out who is going to serve as DH for them, in other words, because they'll spend at least two and perhaps as many as four games playing in an AL park under AL rules.
6. They'll have a well-rested staff
No team this postseason has played more games than the Nationals. Yet by virtue of sweeping the Cardinals, they'll now have most of a week to recover.
Regardless of what happens between the Yankees and the Astros, Game One of the World Series won't happen until Tuesday, October 22.
Obviously there will be concerns about rust or layoff -- especially with a team as hot as the Nationals, who have won their last six games -- but think about it a different way. The Nationals will now have ample time to rest a pitching staff that has leaned heavily upon six pitchers: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, Sean Doolittle, and Daniel Hudson.
Add in Monday's blowout in Game 3, and the Nationals' pitching staff will be about as fresh as it possibly can be after what it has been through this October.
7. NLCS domination
The Nationals so thoroughly overwhelmed the Cardinals during the NLCS that they never trailed. Not for an inning, an at-bat, a pitch.
The Nationals have scored first in every game.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 16, 2019
They haven't trailed for one pitch of any game.
Only one team has ever swept a best-of-7 series when it scored first and never lost the lead in any game - the Orioles in the 1966 World Series.
Looks like they'll have company!
According to Jayson Stark, that means the Nationals join the 1966 Baltimore Orioles as the only team to ever do that in a best-of-seven series.
Those Orioles did it in the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, perhaps making their accomplishment a little more impressive. But still, sheesh.
8. The starters dominated
The Nationals owe a lot of credit for their NLCS triumph to the aforementioned starting four of Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, and Sanchez. Heck, Sanchez and Scherzer each flirted with no-nos in the first half of the series, while Strasburg and Corbin both fanned double digits in the second half. It was a thorough display, in other words, of that quartet's brilliance.
One statistic sums it up better than any other: the Nationals' four starters didn't allow an earned run until there were two outs in the fourth inning of Game 4. That's right, the Nationals' foursome combined for 25-plus frames without an earned run to start the series. The opposition can't win if it can't score, and the Cardinals were evidence of that.
If the Nationals' rotation can do something similar next week, then D.C. will be celebrating its first World Series title in a long time.