Road to Glory
Nationals capture first World Series title with Game 7 rally in Houston
The Associated Press
HOUSTON — Stephen Strasburg paraded the MVP trophy for delirious fans packed behind the dugout. Max Scherzer tearfully hugged his teammates. Gerardo Parra did the Baby Shark chop, Sean Doolittle flapped snow angels next to the mound.
Almost out of contention in May, champs in October.
Howie Kendrick, Anthony Rendon and the Washington Nationals completed their amazing comeback journey — fittingly with one last late rally on the road.
In Game 7 of the World Series, no less.
Kendrick and Rendon homered in the seventh inning as the Nats overcame a two-run deficit, rocking the Houston Astros 6-2 Wednesday to win the first title in franchise history.
With all eyes on Scherzer and his remarkable recovery after a painkilling injection, these Nationals truly embraced their shot in the only Series when the road team won every game.
Even more against the odds: Juan Soto and Washington came from behind to win five elimination games this postseason, an unprecedented feat.
“What a story,” said Ryan Zimmerman, the only player who’s been a part of every Nationals team.
“The way this game went is the way our whole season went,” he said.
Strasburg, new lefty Patrick Corbin and the Nats brought the first World Series championship to the nation’s capital since ol’ Walter Johnson delivered the crown for the Senators in 1924.
This franchise started out as the Montreal Expos in 1969 when the major leagues expanded beyond the border, putting a team with tricolor caps at jaunty Jarry Park. They moved to D.C. in 2005, ending Washington’s three-decade-plus wait for big league baseball after the Senators left town to become the Texas Rangers.
But the incredible path these wild-card Nationals with the curly W logo took, well, no one could have imagined.
“Resilient, relentless bunch of guys,” manager Dave Martinez said. “They fought all year long.”
Having lost star slugger Bryce Harper in free agency and beset by bullpen woes, Washington plummeted to 19-31 in late May. It got so bad there was talk around town the Nationals might fire Martinez and trade away Scherzer.
Instead, they stuck with the mantra that sprung up on T-shirts — Stay In The Fight.
“Guess what? We stayed in the fight. We won the fight!” Martinez shouted during the trophy celebration on the field.
Strasburg earned the MVP with a pair of wins, including Game 6.
“It’s almost like we’ve done it so many times that we have to get punched in the face to kind of wake up,” he said.
For the 43,326 revved-up fans at Minute Maid Park, it was a combination of shock and disappointment. So close to seeing Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer and their Astros add to the title they won in Game 7 at Dodger Stadium two years ago, they watched this chance suddenly vanish as Houston fell apart.
“I’ve got a group of heartbroken men in there that did everything they could to try to bring a World Series championship to this city,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “And we fell one win shy.”
Washington kept pulling away after taking the lead, with the sensational Soto hitting an RBI single in the eighth and Adam Eaton adding a two-run single in the ninth.
Zack Greinke was in complete control with a one-hit shutout until Rendon hit a solo homer with one out in the seventh that made it 2-1.
When Soto followed with a one-out walk, Hinch decided to make a move. He’d had ace starter Gerrit Cole warming up earlier, but left him in the bullpen.
“I wasn’t going to pitch him unless we were going to win the World Series and have a lead,” Hinch said. “He was going to close the game in the ninth.”
Instead, Hinch signaled for reliable reliever Will Harris.
Kendrick connected on the second pitch, slicing a drive that hit the screen attached to the right field foul pole for a 3-2 lead. Just like that, everything had changed for the team in orange that led the majors with 107 regular-season wins, and the ballpark fell silent.
Far away, a sizable crowd poured into Nationals Park for a watch party. That was the stadium where Houston hammered the Nats for three games last weekend in taking a 3-2 edge, but their luck changed in Texas.
And they won the last two against a team that posted the best home record in the majors (60-21) over the last two decades.
“I hope D.C.’s ready for us to come home!” shouted Zimmerman, the Nationals’ initial draft pick back in 2005.
Baldwin High School graduate Kurt Suzuki had been scheduled to start at catcher for the National before being scratched under three hours before first pitch.
Suzuki missed the last three games while dealing with a hip flexor strain. The 36-year-old was initially listed in the starting lineup but was replaced again by Yan Gomes.
In his 13th major league season, Suzuki became the second Maui-born player to win the World Series; St. Anthony graduate Shane Victorino won it all with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008 and the Boston Red Sox in 2013.