Earlier this year, I penned that [eafl id=”27504″ name=”” text=”Nationals are better without superstar right fielder Bryce Harper.”] After they lost 31 of their first 50, this seemed like a very cold take.
But here we are, deep into October. The Washington Nationals have clinched the teams first World Series appearance, 50 years after joining the league as the Montreal Expos. They were one of only 2 teams (Seattle Mariners) to have never appeared in the Fall Classic.
For the Nationals, who lost the NL East to the Atlanta Braves due to their historically bad start, they’ve ridden their starting pitching from the Wild Card game all of the way to the World Series. With a future Hall of Fame ace and 3x Cy Young Max Scherzer leading the way, 2 2019 Cy Young candidates (Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg) have been just as excellent. Anibal Sanchez, their #4 starter, gave them a more than spectacular outing in Game 1 of the NLCS when he almost hurled a no-hitter. It’s apropos for the Nats to ride their starters, when many thought they blew their best World Series chance after shutting Strasburg down in 2012.
As for their lineup, they have a healthy mix of young studs (Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Trea Turner) and veterans. This year, it was the veterans who sparked: with Gerardo Parra’s “Baby Shark” frenzy being a big part of team culture. Howie Kendrick, former All-Star 36 year old, is on his 4th team in 5 years. He won the NLCS MVP going 5-15. Ryan Zimmerman, in what may be his final year, was the first draft pick in National History. The former star third baseman and now veteran first baseman is in his 15th season and is the club’s all-time leader in hits, homeruns and RBI.
But the main piece in 2019 is the emergence of Anthony Rendon. While Rendon has quietly been a superstar for years, he’s stepped up big time to fill the void left by Bryce Harper. Combined with his stellar defense at the hot corner, Rendon posted a 6.3 WAR this year with 34 homeruns and a .319/.412/.598 slashline with a career high 1.010 OPS. The most impressive statistic? For a power hitter, he only struck out a mere 86 times. He walked 80.
This is surprising to many due to the well-documented bullpen woes of the Nationals. But with Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle looking the sharpest they have all season and the starting pitching being elite, the Nationals haven’t had to ask much of guys like Fernando Rodney or Tanner Rainey.
Their opponent is currently unknown. The Houston Astros currently lead the New York Yankees 2 games to 1 in the American League Championship Series. The World Series starts on Friday the 25th.
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