Nationals in the Playoffs

Nationals in the Playoffs

Patrick Stevenson, Staff Reporter

Don’t you remember, the 9th inning implosion during Game 5 in 2012 or the heartbreaking loss to the Dodgers in 2017? Years of watching the Washington Nationals playoff woes. Years of high expectations dashed in one game. From 2012 to2017, the Washington Nationals could not win a divisional series. The painful years of sickening defeat, changed on Tuesday, October 15, 2019. With a 7-4 win, the Nationals finished their sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals to advance to the World Series.  

While the Nationals making it to the World Series may seem surprising, it is. The team struggled heavily at the beginning of the season, with a starting record of 11-14. It then got worse, after losing shortstop Trea Turner and veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmeran to injuries in early April. Even CBS Sports ran a story saying,If the Nationals don’t capitalize, [on beating easy teams] then we’ll have to start talking about them as a potential seller for the second straight summer.” 

Nobody believed in the Nationals, and rightfully so. By the time June rolled around, they were 24-33 and 4th place in their division. Talks of firing head coach Davey Martinez filled the dugout. 

After Coach Davey Martinez realized his job was in jeopardy, they started to piece things back together. Trea Turner returned from the DL (Disabled List). Fernado Rodney was signed to help their ailing bullpen and most importantly they acquired Gerardo Parra, aka “Baby Shark”, from the Giants. Gerardo Parra lit the fire in the Nationals dugout with his antics. Most notably, he chose his walkup song to be the repetitive yet catchy kids song, Baby Shark. As he made his walk up to the batter’s box, the entire crowd was dancing to the catchy song.

NBC Sports took a look at his stats after the game, With “Baby Shark” as his walk-up song Parra went 2-for-4 with a home run and a game-changing assist in a one-run ballgame.” 

After all these trades, acquisitions and dance parties the Nationals started to improve. They went from 24-33 to 57-51 in just two months of play. 

Seeing their playoff hopes getting closer and closer, the Nationals got hot and stayed hot during the month of August. MLB.com had this to say, Over Washington’s past five games [Aug 15-Aug 20], its offense has racked up 62 runs. That’s the most in Nationals/Expos franchise history.” With their offense sizzling hot, they needed their pitchers to step it up a notch and boy did they get what they asked for.  According to Baseball Reference, from August 16 to August 31, the Nationals pitching threw 140 strikeouts and averaged 10 strikeouts per game. The MLB average was 8.65.  

They made their way into the NL Wild Card by winning 7 straight games at home. One game to decide their fate. Flash forward to the 8th inning, bases loaded down 3-1 with Juan Soto up. Soto hits a looping liner that drops in right field. All 3 runs scored. 4-3 Nationals. The Nationals would go on to win that game, only to be met by another test. 

The LA Dodgers: holders of the best record in the National League. With the series all tied up at 2-2, they traveled back to LA for winner-takes-all game 5. It had the same storyline as the Wild Card game. 8th inning, down 3-1. Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto hit back to back home runs to send the game into extra innings. This is when the magic happens. Howie Kendrick steps up to the plate with the bases loaded. He only had 1 grand slam in his entire career, but after the first pitch fastball, he made it 2. Putting the Nationals up 7-3, and propelling them into the NLCS. 

The Nationals made quick work of the St. Louis Cardinals, winning 4 straight games. Their pitching was phenomenal. Game 1, no hitter into the 8th. Game 2, no hitter into the 7th. Game 3 and 4 12 strikeouts. The Nationals starting rotation, pitched their way into the franchisees first World Series appearance. Now as the Nationals wait to see who they will play, they receive some well deserved rest.