The Washington Nationals are going to their first World Series in franchise history, and they are arriving in style.
Washington completed its dominant sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series with a 7-4 victory in Tuesday's Game 4 at Nationals Park. The pitching has set the tone throughout the series, but the offense made its presence immediately known with seven runs in the first inning.
The victors never looked back.
As for the Cardinals, they will turn their attention to the offseason as they look to build on their first playoff appearance since the 2015 campaign.
Notable Player Stats
- Patrick Corbin: five innings, four earned runs, three walks and 12 strikeouts
- Trea Turner: 2-for-4, two RBI and one run
- Juan Soto: 2-for-4, one RBI and one run
- Yan Gomes: 1-for-4, two RBI and one run
- Dakota Hudson: 0.1 innings, seven runs (four earned), five hits, one walk and zero strikeouts
- Yadier Molina: 1-for-3, one home run, one RBI and one run
- Jose Martinez: 1-for-4 and two RBI
Supporting-Cast Pitchers Provide Nationals with Realistic Hope in World Series
The 93-win Nationals will face an uphill battle against either the 107-win Houston Astros or 103-win New York Yankees in the Fall Classic, but there is reason for legitimate optimism.
Washington is 6-0 in games where Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer appear in these playoffs, and the one-two punch can match any combination in the league. While the National League champions are just 2-2 in games where the aces do not appear, both wins featured impressive pitching under the bright lights of the NLCS.
Anibal Sanchez took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Game 1, and Patrick Corbin cruised to 12 strikeouts in five innings during Tuesday's win.
While Corbin ran into trouble with a solo homer from Yadier Molina in the fourth and a two-RBI double from Jose Martinez in the fifth, he limited the damage in his final inning by striking out Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna in a familiar theme for Cardinals fans this series:
It wasn't just the strikeouts from Corbin that stood out.
A bullpen that finished last in the league in ERA during the regular season was asked to get through the final four innings while nursing a three-run lead and did just that behind the combined effort of Tanner Rainey, Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson.
Hudson made the biggest pitch of the game, inducing a bases-loaded groundout from Matt Carpenter in the eighth to preserve the lead.
Scherzer and Strasburg are givens and figure to anchor the Nationals throughout the World Series. If Sanchez, Corbin and the bullpen pitch like they have recently, whoever emerges from the American League will face a significant challenge.
Cardinals Go Out with a Whimper
Nothing went right for the Cardinals in this series.
The offense was nonexistent to start, scrapping together just two runs in the first three games and almost getting no-hit in the two at home. What's more, ace Jack Flaherty lasted just four innings in a critical Game 3 and couldn't be the much-needed stopper with the season hanging in the balance.
In a cruel twist of fate for St. Louis, the bats finally came alive for a time in Tuesday's game, but only after it was largely too late because everything else fell apart.
Dakota Hudson allowed just seven earned runs in five September starts and figured to be an ideal candidate to help turn things around from the Cardinals' perspective, but he was chased during a disastrous first inning that featured poor pitching and inexcusable defense.
The Nationals wasted no time setting the tone and exploded for seven runs in the frame behind an Anthony Rendon sacrifice fly, Juan Soto RBI double, Victor Robles bases-loaded pop-up that fell between Kolten Wong and Martinez after Wong made an error on the previous batter, Yan Gomes two-run single and Trea Turner two-run single (which came off Game 2 starter Adam Wainwright).
Wong and Martinez were the biggest culprits when it came to defensive miscues, but Ozuna didn't make the greatest of efforts on a hit that fell in front of him, either.
It was a fitting metaphor for how far St. Louis has fallen since the National League Division Series win over the Atlanta Braves. In that one, the Cardinals scored 10 runs in the first inning of the decisive Game 5 victory and never looked back.
They never even found the win column in this series.
The Nationals will face either the Yankees or Astros in the World Series.