The Bite of the “Baby Sharks”

Nationals hoist 2019 World Series Trophy

Nationals hoist 2019 World Series Trophy

Tim Tschoepe, Sports Editor

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On wednesday October 30th the mighty Houston Astros were slayed by the “baby sharks” (AKA the Washington Nationals) in the World Series. The astros collapse is not all i will be talking about, the resilience of the Nationals should not be overlooked. This nationals team was  19-31 through the first 50 games of the year. Less than 4 months removed from the departure of Bryce Harper to the Phillies in a record breaking deal, the National were not looking too hot at the beginning of june. Although, by the Summer Classic, this team was 47-42 and was standing in 4th place overall in the National League. and 2nd in the division. By the end of the year the team had made the first wild card spot after going 46-27 to end the regular season. Their 93-69 record was good enough for second place in their division behind the 97 win atlanta braves and hold home field for the NL wild card. 

 

The wild card brought in the former the Milluakee Brewers, a team that won 96 games a year before and backed it with a 89 win season in 2019. The brewers had the lefty, Brandon Woodruff on the bump who went 11-3 on the season with a 3.62 ERA. As for washington, they had the three time Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer pitching. Entering the bottom of the 8th inning the Nats were down 3-1 and facing arguably the best closer in the game in Josh Hader, after a strikeout of Victor Robles, Hader hit Michael A. Taylor to put man on. Next, came a strike out of Trea Turner to bring up the 35 year old Ryan Zimmerman who hit a broken bat single into center to put two men on. After a walk to Anthony Rendon, 20 year old, Jaun Soto came up and hit a single into left that was misplayed for a base-clearing double. The Nats go on top 4-3 forntheir closer, Sean Dooliottle that came in and got the save to advance washington to the next round.

 

For the divisional round, they had to face the one seeded L.A. Dodgers who had won 106 games and were the favorite to come out of the National League. L.A. had home field advantage throughout the entire NL playoffs, not to mention the huge names like Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, and Hyn Jin Ryu at the front of their rotation. The Dodgers took a quick one game lead with a 6-0 win in game one but dropped the second game 4-2 so washington was set up for a series ending two wins in D.C. the nats dream of the series ending on their home turf was quickly shattered when the lost bad, 10-4 in the home opener. D.C. would bounce back the next night to win 6-1 and headed back to California for a crucial game 7. 

Washington sent Stephen Strasburg, who had a 3.32 ERA  to the hill and he was met by Dodger ace Walker Buehler. Strasburg gave up 3 quick runs off three of solo homers by Max Muncy and Joc Pederson and Kike Hernandez. As for Buehler, he was dealing, through the first five innings he was pitching shutout. That quickly changed when Anthony Rendon roped a double down the line and Jaun Soto followed that with RBI single to right to score the first run of the game for D.C. Both pitchers settled down until the seventh when buehler walked 2 batters and with 2 outs in the inning the Dodgers turned to the nasty kefty, Claytoin Kershaw out of the pen. Kershaw came in and shut the door with a strikeout of Adam Eaton to send the game to the bottom of the seventh. After a scoreless bottom half of the seventh inning, manager Dave Roberts sent Kershaw back out there to work the eighth. two pitches into the inning, Rendon took kershaw deep to left field to pull the nats within a run and Soto went yard to right field to tie the game. Wasghington was feeling themselves as they entered the bottom half of the eighth inning. Nats skipper Dave Martinez put in former started turned reliever, Patrick Corbin who after giving up a single, shut down L.A. to send the game to the ninth. A scoreless ninth meant extra innings at Dodger Stadium. The top of the tenth had the nats facing former World Series hero, Joe Kelly and after a leadoff walk Anthony Rendon hit a shot off the left field wall to put runners on second and third. Kelly intentionally walked Jaun Soto to bring up 36 year old Howie Kendrick with the bases loaded. With a 2-2 count, Kendrick had a fastball on the inside part of the plate and didn’t miss. Kendrick hit a ball out to deep center for a go ahead grand slam in the tenth inning. Then it was on to the reliable closer, Sean Doolittle for a save and he sent the Nationals to the N.L. Championship series to face the St. Louis Cardinals.

 

On the trip to St. Louis, the Nats named fourth pitcher in their rotation the game one starter. Anibal Sanchez is 35 years old and posted a 3.85 ERA in the regular season and knows the cardinals very well having pitched in their league most his career. Needless to say, Sanchez took a no-hitter into the seventh inning to win a chilly game one. Next they turned to their ace, ‘’Mad’’ Max Scherzer to get the victory in game two which he successfully did and pitched a shutout through seven while at it. Then the series was off to Washington for three games of that was necessary. On the hill was Stephen Strasburg who was coming off a great performance in los angeles for the NLDS. For the Cards it was their young gun, Jack Flaherty who was coming off a breakout season and had really come into his one in the NL central division. He had stunned the braves in the divisional round of the playoffs and was poised to repeat his stellar performance. Strasburg was on but as for Flaherty it was a game to forget, he gave up four runs in the early innings and was pulled in the fourth inning as the cardinals went to their bullpen. Washington win that game in a lopsided affair 8-1. A possible series ending game four was aligned for the following evening and was a dandy of a pitching matchup. The Cardinals brought on their ace, Dakota Hudson and washington threw out Patrick Corbin who had last appeared in relief in game seven of the Dodgers series. The   Washington bats struck fast, scoring seven runs and they never looked back. They jumped on Hudson before he could settle in and the Cardinals were put into a hole they couldnt dig themselves out of as they lost 7-4. The Nationals, a wild card team, was going to the World Series but they would have to face a three headed monster to win it all.

 

The Astros, fresh off a seven game thriller against the New York Yankees that ended with go-ahead two run home run by Jose Altuve. Houston had and three man pitching rotation that was headlined by the spectacular starts turned in by Garrett Cole and Justin Verlander, not to mention the acquisition of former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. The game one started for the Astros was Gerrett Cole which had been virtually unstoppable in the postseason, putting up an ERA of a .29 in the postseason prior to the World Series. For the Nationals, Max Scherzer was on the hill and had posted a 0.00 earned run average in the lone start against the Cardinals. The Astros jumped on Washington early, putting up two runs in the first inning with a two run double by Yuli Gurriel, but it was quickly countered by a solo home run be first base man Ryan Zimmerman. Then in the fourth the Nats tied the game with a juan Soto homer and two singles an inning later by Anthony Rendon and Adam Eaton drove in the tying and go ahead runs in the fifth to take the lead 3-2. Then a base clearing double by Soto extended the Nats lead to three runs. Both teams were quiet for the next couple innings but that all changed when George Springer hit a blast off Tyler Rainey to bring houston within two runs. Then in the bottom of the eighth inning, Springer delivers again on a ball that looked like it would leave the yard for an RBI double off the right field wall. But it was all shut down in the ninth when the Nats brought in closer, Sean Doolittle. Game one belonged to Washington, they were aided by clutch hitting and some big plays made by their infield in the 5-4 victory.

 

On to game two in houston, the nationals bats came alive in this game. Behind a great pitching performance by Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals were able to jump on the Astros early and set the tone for the entire game when they scored two runs in the first without getting an out. Justin Verlander was on the mound for houston and was shaky from the start. He gave up a lead off walk to Trea Turner, a single by Adam Eaton, and to cap it off, a base clearing double by Anthony Rendon. Strasburg gave up two runs through seven innings of work but that was quickly overshadowed by the bottom of when it started with a lead off home run by Kurt Suzuki off Verlander to give the Nats the lead. Then two costly errors by Alex Bregman and a single by Asdrubal Cabrera sandwiched in between cost six runs to score, all with two outs. The nats would go on to win by a score of 12-3 in game two. 

 

As the series shifted to D.C. for games 3-5, the Nationals faithful looked to end the series in Washington and celebrate their champs right away. Standing in their way was the 36 year old right hander Zach Greinke. Zack was dealing, allowing one single run through six innings of work. The Astros helped his cause by giving him the lead early and he held his end of the bargain by pitching a gem. Houston won the 4-1 to take the third game of the series. 

 

The next game had Patrick Corbin and he was going up against mexican borns 24 year old pitcher. Jose Urquidy was a rookie this past year and had carried a 3.95 ERA through the year. In the playoffs he was mainly used as a reliever and had pitched well out of the bullpen for the Astros. The astros jumped on patrick corbin early and put up four runs on seven hits through six innings pitched. As for the Nats, they were shut down offensively by the superb pitching performance of Urquidy. He went five scoreless innings with four strikeouts in the 8-1 win in game two.

 

With Houston tying the series at two games a piece and their virtually unhittable ace, Garrett Cole on the mound, the plan was originally to pitch Max Scherzer. Then an hour before game time, Scherzer was scratched from the lineup and replaced with former Padre, Joe Ross. Ross had an ERA of  5.48 on the year in only 9 season starts. The game started with Ross getting through the first inning without giving up a run but that all changed for the 26 year old in the second inning when he gave up two runs off of a Yuli Gurriel single followed by a Yordan alverez home run. That seemed to wake the bats up for the astros and they got two more runs off of Ross in the fourth inning before he was pulled. With the Astros on top, it allowed Garrett Cole to settle in and he went a total of seven innings with only one earned run. The game ended with the Astros winning 7-1 and leaving D.C. with a 3-2 series lead.

 

Once back in Houston, the odds were stacked heavily in favor of the Astros. Houston had gone 61-21 in home games during the regular season and there was absolutely no way that they would lose all four home games in the series. The starters in game six was Justin Verlander against Stephen Strasburg, they both had pitched very well throughout the playoffs.  The game started with a bang as the Nats got the bats started early with one run in the first. The Atros countered with two runs in the bottom half off Strasburg to lead 2-1. Both pitchers settled down for the next couple innings, then in the fifth Verlander gave up two solo homers to Jaun Soto and Adam Eaton before retiring Howie Kendrick to get to the bottom half. The Nats were able to pick up two runs in the seventh and ninth inning to send the series to a win or go home game seven the following day. 

 

Game seven in Houston was set and was looking to be a historic finish to the World Series. On the mound was Nats ace, Max Scherzer against the former cy young award winner, Zack Greinke. Houston jumped on Scherzer early, taking the lead with after a Yuli Gurriel homer into the Crawford Boxes in left field 1-0. Houston got another run in the fifth inning and lead 2-0 entering the seventh inning. In the top of the seventh, Anthony Rendon hit a solo home run with one out in the inning and after a walk Zack Grienke was pulled from the game. In his place came reliever, Will Harris and he gave up a two run home run to the first batter he faced and atb the end of the seventh the Nats were leading 3-2. It didn’t get much better after that as the Astros watched as their offence was at a standstill and the Nationals scored at least a run in each of the last three innings to go on to win 6-2.

 

That concluded the World Series as the Washington Nationals slayed a giant in the Houston Astros. The World Series S M.V.P. was given to pitcher Stephen Strasburg and he deserved it with his stellar pitching performances throughout the postseason and especially in the World Series. The Nats fans were rewarded for being loyal to their team throughout the year and stuck with them as they were constantly down late in games and battled back to get the victories. This is why baseball is such a spectacular game. You can’t make this story up, it comes from the hearts of every Nats player that battled day in and day out and got there ultimate prize.

 

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