In one of Major League Baseball’s most shocking and historic championship runs, the Washington Nationals brought the US capital its first World Series crown since 1924 by defeating Houston 6-2 on Wednesday.
Howie Kendrick and Anthony Rendon blasted seventh-inning home runs to rally the Nationals from two runs down in a winner-take-all showdown to claim the best-of-seven final 4-3.
“Those guys, in the big moment, you want them up there,” said Nationals manager Dave Martinez. “They came through all year big in key wins for us. They have the knack to do big stuff. You saw that tonight.”
It was the first seven-game playoff series in North American sports where road teams won every contest.
The Nationals won the first title in the club’s half-century history, which began as the Montreal Expos and saw a move to Washington for the 2005 season.
The only other World Series win by a Washington team came 95 years ago when the Senators won a seventh-game thriller. The US capital has seen two clubs move away and went 33 years without a team.
“To win it, what an unbelievable feeling,” Martinez said. “It still hasn’t hit me yet but I can tell you tomorrow I will wake up feeling a whole lot different.”
The Astros won an MLB-best 107 games and were heavy favorites over a Nationals team that had only clinched their ticket to the playoffs in the last days of the season and had never won a playoff series.
Instead, the World Series turned into a classic as the Nats denied Houston a second title in three seasons.
“I’ve got a group of heartbroken men in there who did everything they could to bring a championship to this city and fell one win shy,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
Washington went won all five of their playoff elimination games and trailed in all five before rallying every time. Wednesday’s clincher proved sweetest of all.
“We won one. We finally won one,” tearful Nats pitcher Anibal Sanchez said.
Astros starting pitcher Zack Greinke, who hasn’t won a playoff game since 2015, mystified the Nationals for 6 1/3 innings, allowing only one hit while Yuli Gurriel hit a solo homer in the second inning and scored on a Carlos Correa single in the fifth to give Houston a 2-0 lead.
Houston native Rendon, however, smashed a solo homer over the left-field wall off a Greinke changeup in the seventh, sending him to the showers after walking Juan Soto.
Kendrick followed by smacking a fastball from Astros reliever Will Harris off the right-field foul pole for a two-run homer that put the Nats ahead to stay.
Washington added an insurance run in the eighth when Adam Eaton walked, stole second and scored on a Soto single. Eaton’s bases-loaded single in the ninth added two final runs to seal Houston’s fate.
Strasburg named MVP
Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg was named the World Series Most Valuable Player after winning games two and six in Houston and going 5-0 overall in the playoffs.
“It’s just surreal,” Strasburg said. “To do it with this group of guys is something special. We didn’t quit and it took all of us to do it.”
Patrick Corbin threw three shutout innings in relief of Max Scherzer and Daniel Hudson shut down the Astros in order in the ninth to complete the victory.
When the final moment came, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman raised his hands, screamed “Oh my God” and ran into a group embrace with his teammates.
The Nationals, written off by many in May after a 19-31 start, joined the 1914 Boston Braves as the only World Series champions who were 12 games below .500 during the regular season.
Party in Washington
In Washington, hundreds of supporters shared the excitement, celebrating at a huge outdoor viewing party near the Nationals ballpark.
Nats fans made their trademark “Baby Shark” clap motion ahead of the final out, which set off screaming, yelling, tearful hugs and joyful dancing.
“How do you think I feel right now? We just won the World Series,” said James Forrest, 32, waving a Nats flag.
The first World Series game seven with two Cy Young Award-winning starters, Greinke and Scherzer, was a pitchers’ duel early.
Scherzer, who missed a planned game-five start with neck spasms, struggled in surrendering two runs on seven hits and three walks over five innings.
“Max is a bulldog,” Martinez said. “His location wasn’t as exact as he wanted it to be. He kept us in the ball game. What a fantastic job he did.”
The Astros stranded nine base runners during Scherzer’s stay, squandering precious opportunities.
“We had our opportunities,” Hinch said. “The Nationals are really good.”