Nationals Prove More Than Ready for 1st World Series with Sweep of Cardinals

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2019

Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez kisses the NLCS trophy after Game 4 of the baseball National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Washington. The Nationals won 7-4 to win the series 4-0. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

The Washington Nationals moved to the nation's capital in 2005. Stretching back to 1969, when they were known as the Montreal Expos, they've hoisted zero Commissioner's Trophies.

Now, after a 7-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Nationals Park on Tuesday in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, they are Senior Circuit champs and have a crack at the first World Series win in franchise history.

They swept the NLCS. They advanced to the final round. They're four victories away from champagne and confetti.

The Nationals began this ride with a come-from-behind win over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card Game. Then came a date with the heavily favored Los Angeles Dodgers. Washington vanquished L.A. in five games in the NLDS and took the deciding Game 5 on the road in dramatic, extra-inning fashion.

Suddenly, they donned the team-of-destiny mantle.

Then came their tussle with the Cardinals, which the Nationals won in four contests. They outscored the Redbirds 20-6, including a seven-run outburst in the first inning of Game 4. Honestly, it felt like more than that. All series long, the outcome was rarely in doubt.

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Now, the Nationals await either the New York Yankees or Houston Astros, depending upon who triumphs in the American League Championship Series.

Either opponent would be tough for Washington. Both bring deep lineups and dangerous pitchers. The Nats may play the familiar role of underdog regardless of who lines up against them.

But now, after their sweep, they can hang back. They can rest and optimize co-aces Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, with southpaw Patrick Corbin and veteran Anibal Sanchez waiting in the wings.

FiveThirtyEight now gives the Nationals a 41 percent chance of winning the World Series, compared to 40 percent for Houston and 19 percent for New York. That makes them underdogs against the theoretical AL winner, but not by too much.

On offense, the Nats boast the dynamic duo of young left fielder Juan Soto and third baseman Anthony Rendon. Center fielder Victor Robles has returned from injury, and veterans Ryan Zimmerman and NLCS MVP Howie Kendrick have contributed in major ways.

Also, recall that superstar Bryce Harper exited last winter via free agency for a massive payday with the Philadelphia Phillies. Yet here the Nats are, driving deep into October without their erstwhile franchise backbone.

It's too much to call it addition by subtraction, but it has to feel good.

"Often, bumpy roads lead to beautiful places," manager Dave Martinez told reporters. "And this is a beautiful place."

On May 23, the Nationals were 19-31, 12 games under .500 and buried in the NL East. In the end, they won 93 games and charged to a pennant. 

To put it more bluntly, per MLB Stats:

Talk about beautiful.

It'll be even more beautiful if the Nationals win the whole thing. Beautiful for the 35-year-old Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner who has never crossed the championship finish line. Beautiful for Zimmerman, who's in his 15th season with the Nats, the only big league squad he's ever known. 

And beautiful for the baseball boosters in D.C. who embraced an MLB club from north of the border nearly 15 years ago and are waiting patiently for a World Series parade.

"I think it's been just such an amazing year," Strasburg told reporters. "And I think it's really been great just because of where we've had to come from. ... I think you ask anybody in there, we just want to stay together and keep playing."

Keep playing indeed. Four more wins, then champagne and confetti await.

   

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.

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