The Nationals had one of the most improbable playoff runs a team has ever had in the postseason, winning all five of their elimination games and winning eight consecutive road games to cap off their Championship run. Their motto “stay in the fight” led them to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the bottom of the 8th inning of the Wild card game, a 2-1 series deficit in the NLDS that included them being down 3-1 in the top of the 8th, and trailing 2-0 in the top of the 7th in game seven of the World Series.
As spring training begins tomorrow, we take a trip down memory lane to see how the Washington Nationals etched their first curly W in the World Series history book.
10) NLDS Game 2: Hudson evens the series with slider
The Nationals were in the driver’s seat, leading 4-2 with two outs in the ninth inning of the NLDS at Dodgers Stadium. After intentionally walking Max Muncey and putting the tying run on base, Hudson would walk Will Smith, which loaded the bases. An eight pitch at bat with Corey Seager would ensue. Hudson’s first seven pitches were fastballs, but having imprinted the fastball in Seager’s brain, a back-foot slider slider, down and in, would even the series.
9) NLDS Game 4: Ryan Zimmerman Homer
Down 2-1 in their series against the Dodgers and the Nationals having built a 2-1 lead through the first four innings, Ryan Zimmerman delivered a three-run homer just over the centerfield wall for the Nats, who were on the brink of elimination for the second time during the postseason. The first overall pick by the Nationals in 2005 gave the Nationals a 5-1 advantage, which the Nationals would not look back on.
8) World Series Game 6: Stephen Strasburg 8.1 IP, 7 Ks
Stephen Strasburg, the would-be World Series MVP, authored one of the greatest playoff legacies ever this past October. His 8.1 innings pitched, seven strikeouts and two earned runs in Game 6 of the World Series lead to a pivotal winner-take-all Game 7 and a Nationals win, the seventh consecutive game they had won when he’s made an appearance.
7) NLCS Game 4: Nats Advance to 1st World Series
In terms of plays, catching a pop up fly in the big league is routine. However, in terms of moments, this catch put a long-awaited ‘Curly W’ in the National League Championship history books, as Washington won their first NLCS and advanced to their first World Series in Nationals/Expos franchise history.
6) World Series Game 6: Anthony Rendon 2-run homer
Prior to Anthony Rendon’s plate appearance and after a lengthy video review, Trea Turner had been ruled out on a controversial interference decision. The Nationals were irate at the call deeming it to be a potentially series changing call. With a 1-run lead in the seventh inning and down 3-2 in the series, Anthony Rendon eased all the tension surrounding the Nationals as he crushed a 2-run homer to give the Nationals all the cushion they needed to even the series.
5) NLDS Game 5: Juan Soto Homer
In their third elimination game of the postseason and all the momentum favoring the Dodgers, who were up 3-1 to start the eighth inning, Anthony Rendon hit a solo home-run off of Clayton Kershaw’s fifth pitch to bring the Nationals within one run of the 106-win Dodgers. Next at bat was the National’s rookie sensation, Juan Soto. On Kershaw’s next and final pitch, Soto homered to tie the game at three, which would send the game into extra innings.
4) NLDS Game 5: Howie Kendrick Grand Slam
A grand slam speaks for itself, but not only did Kendrick help the Nationals complete this comeback and fend off elimination, he helped the Nationals advance to their first NLCS and helped them win their first playoff series since moving to Washington.
3) NL Wildcard: Juan Soto 3-run double
Personally, I think this is the single greatest play in the Nationals’ Championship run. All hope seemed to be lost with the Nationals down 3-1 with just four outs to play and their offense struggling. Juan Soto hit a line drive base hit to the right field with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth. An error by the Brewers’ Trent Grisham would allow the winning run to come home. Talk about a momentum shift!
2) World Series Game 7: Howie Kendrick 2-run Homer
Time and time again, Howie Kendrick provided a spark for this team when it was crucial, or in this case, a series changing play. Trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning at the time and after Juan Soto had been walked by Astros relief pitcher Will Harris, Kendrick sent one to the opposite field off the right foul pole. This play turned things around for the Nationals, who would tack on a run in the eighth inning, and then two more in the ninth inning.
1) World Series Game 7: Daniel Hudson strike out
With the World Series in the Nationals’ grasp, it came down to one final out. Daniel Hudson, with two outs in the ninth inning of the winner-take-all Game 7, threw an 87.9 mph slider, striking out the Astros’ Michael Brantley and delivering the Nationals its first ever World Series Title.