And Then There Were Three

The Nationals are your National League Champions for the first time ever!

This team, man. If you’d have told me at the end of May that the Nationals would be headed to the World Series this season, I’d have laughed and laughed and then asked you what kind of drugs you were taking. This is the team that lost Bryce Harper in the offseason. This is the team that had to keep resorting to position players pitching because their bullpen was just.. bad.

So yeah, by the end of May, I’d have laughed at you for telling me that the Nationals would be the 2019 National League champions. Looking back at the standings on May 23, they were 19-31, fresh off a five-game skid, sitting in fourth place in the NL East, ten games behind the first place Phillies, and 8.5 games out of Wild Card contention.

NL East Standings on May 23

By the end of June, however, this team had somehow battled their way to a game over .500, leap-frogging over the Mets (who also somehow managed to overcome their abysmal first half to stay relevant up until the end of the season).

NL East Standings on June 30

This team overcame the odds and clawed their way to ninety-three wins and a Wild Card spot. They beat the Brewers in the NLWC to face the Dodgers in the NLDS. They somehow beat the 106-win Dodgers, overcoming a 2-1 defecit in five games to face the Cardinals. They then swept the Cardinals right on out of the post season in just four games.

So how did this team go from dumpster fire to on fire?

Well, let’s see. For one thing, you have a starting rotation that turned out to be pretty dang good during the regular season:

Nationals starting rotation

In post season action, this rotation has been straight fire. They’ve gone 6-1 over the ten post season games so far. Sanchez and Scherzer dang near had no-hitters during games one and two of the NLCS. Scherzer, Sanchez and Strasburg didn’t allow an earned run over 21 1/3 innings in the NLCS. These three, combined with Patrick Corbin, all recorded double-digit strikeouts in their starts. And let’s not forget, they pitched past the heavily favored Dodgers in the NLDS to even get to the NLCS.

And then you have position players that could hit. The five players over the regular season with the highest OPS looked like this:

  • Anthony Rendon: .319/.412/.598, 34 home runs, 126 RBI
  • Howie Kendrick: .344/.395/.572, 17 home runs, 62 RBI (in just 340 plate appearances, mind you)
  • Juan Soto: .282/.401/.548, 34 home runs, 110 RBI (oh, and he’s not even old enough to have a celebratory beer until game three of the World Series)
  • Trea Turner: .298/.353/.497, 19 home runs, 57 RBI
  • Adam Eaton: .279/.365/.428, 15 home runs, 49 RBI

Honorable mention goes to some power hitting from 1B Matt Adams and 2B Brian Dozier, who had twenty home runs each. And when you combine Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki at catcher, who split their time behind the plate pretty evenly over the season, they hit twelve and seventeen home runs respectively. Twenty-nine home runs out of the catcher position is nothing to scoff at.

What’s been really fun to watch is how much this team obviously enjoys each other. Hearing the post-game/award interviews last night from MVP Howie Kendrick and manager Dave Martinez showed just how much love they have for their team. Kendrick accepted his NLCS MVP award by saying how the award is really for the entire team. Martinez talked about how he defied doctors orders after undergoing a heart procedure in September, returning to his duties much sooner than recommended because it was worse for him to watch his team from the couch.

And, let’s not forget how entertaining their celebrations have been:

Congratulations, Washington Nationals! You’ve given us such an entertaining season. We can’t wait to see you kick the shit out of the Yankees you go to a game seven with Houston what you do in the World Series!

What say you, readers? Leave a comment below.