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Washington Nationals' Juan Soto (22), Adam Eaton (2) and Michael A. Taylor (3) celebrate after Game 2 of the baseball National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in St. Louis. The Nationals won 3-1 to take a 2-0 lead in the series. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Nationals Set for World Series

Despite the chaos that always consumes Washington, D.C., there is something D.C. residents can get excited for: baseball.

The Washington Nationals have gone from wild card team to postseason darlings through the month of October. On Tuesday night, the Nationals will play in their first ever World Series game.

It’s been a grueling road to the World Series for the Nationals, and it doesn’t get easier with the Houston Astros looming as their opponent. The Astros are in their second World Series in three seasons and have asserted themselves as the team to beat in the MLB.

Game 1 starting pitcher Max Scherzer acknowledges the Astros are a dangerous team.

For a team like to 2019 Nationals though, beating Goliath in the World Series would be fitting.

A Long, Sad Journey to Get Here

It’s been since 1933 that a baseball team from the nation’s capital made it to the World Series. You have to go back to 1924 for the last time a DC baseball team won it all. Those were the Washington Senators, who abandoned the city on the Potomac for Minneapolis in 1961.

Washington waited 46 years for the return of baseball when the Montreal Expos packed up and moved to DC in 2005.

It’s been a rocky road for the Nats since they relocated. It wasn’t until 2012 that Washington posted a winning season, but they were promptly knocked out in the divisional series by the St. Louis Cardinals. The team went on to lose three more times in the divisional round in 2014, 2016 and 2017.

More turmoil hit Washington in the offseason when former first-overall pick and superstar slugger Bryce Harper said farewell and took $330 million to join the Philadelphia Phillies.

The season didn’t start promising for Washington, as the team was 24-33 after the month of May. However, since June, the Nats have been one of the best teams in baseball, posting a 69-36 record.

That propelled the Nationals to the top wild-card spot in the NL.

Postseason Magic

It appeared the Nationals postseason would end in one game. Washington found themselves down  3-0 to the Milwaukee Brewers in the wild-card game in late innings. Juan Soto came up clutch though, belting a three run-double in the eighth inning that allowed the Nats to edge out a 4-3 win.

The NLDS was much more daunting. Washington trailed the top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers 2-1 in the series but was able to send it to a game five in LA. After being down 3-0 once again in late innings, the comeback was on. Anthony Rendon and Soto both hit solo home runs off Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning to tie the game up. Howie Kendrick ended the series in extras with a grand-slam in the 10th inning to send the Nats to the NLCS.

The NLCS was much more uneventful, as Washington swept the Cardinals to reach the World Series.

Houston Awaits

While the Nationals took down the best of the NL, the Astros pose a more daunting threat. Houston picked up two gritty series wins over the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees to get the Fall Classic.

Houston has beaten its opponents at the plate and on the mound. Gerrit Cole gets the start in game one for the Astros and he has been nearly unhittable this postseason. Cole boasts a 0.40 ERA in three starts and has struck out 32 batters in only 22.2 innings. That’s over 12 strikeouts per nine innings.

But, it’s not like Washington hasn’t beaten up great pitching so far this season. The Nationals smacked around Kershaw in the NLDS, scoring five runs off the former Cy-Young winner in 6.2 innings, including those home runs in game five.

In the NLCS, the Washington lineup beat up Cardinals studs Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson.

Washington has gotten production from all over the lineup. Rendon is hitting .375 in the postseason and has 12 base hits along with seven RBI’s. Cole knows Rendon is the catalyst for the Nats offense.

Howie Kendrick has driven in nine runs this postseason and manager Davey Martinez said he’ll DH in road games.

Pitching is the Key

Offense may be at a premium in this series. The Nationals starting rotation has been suffocating through the postseason thus far. After a rocky wild card start against Milwaukee, Scherzer has been excellent. He’s rocking a 1.8o ERA and is 2-0. He’s struck out 27 batters in only three starts.

It’ll take Scherzer’s best to beat Cole.

If Scherzer has been excellent, then Stephen Strasburg has been godly. Strasburg has proved to be the best pitcher in this postseason rotation. He boasts a wickedly low 1.64 ERA and has struck out 33 batters in 22 innings. He’s only allowed four hits and walked one batter as well.

Pair these two with a resurgent Annibal Sanchez, who has a 0.71 ERA in 12 innings of work, and the Nats have what it takes to best Houston.

Game one begins at 8:08 pm.

About Michael Knauff

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