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Nats 'defy the odds' with 8 straight playoff wins

@ToddZolecki
October 25, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Ryan Zimmerman said Wednesday that the Nationals “haven’t done anything yet,” which is only half true.

WASHINGTON -- Ryan Zimmerman said Wednesday that the Nationals “haven’t done anything yet,” which is only half true.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 22 WSH 5, HOU 4 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 23 WSH 12, HOU 3 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 25 HOU 4, WSH 1 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 26 HOU 8, WSH 1 Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 27 HOU 7, WSH 1 Watch
Gm 6 Oct. 29 WSH 7, HOU 2 Watch
Gm 7 Oct. 30 WSH 6, HOU 2 Watch

They have not won the World Series. Not yet. But they have done something special. They enter Game 3 of the World Series against the Astros on Friday night at Nationals Park on an eight-game winning streak, tying a record for a single postseason.

“I keep saying this and everyone keeps laughing at me, but we just try to win the game that day,” Zimmerman said. “We’ll enjoy this today. And then by the time we get home, we’ll forget about it.”

But before the first pitch is thrown in Game 3, let’s look back at this remarkable eight-game run:

1) Oct. 7: National League Division Series, Game 4

Everything started here with Nationals ace Max Scherzer screaming and clenching his fists after working out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning in a 6-1 victory over the Dodgers at Nationals Park. Scherzer threw 109 pitches, allowing just one run in seven innings. Nationals pitching coach Paul Menhart visited Scherzer on the mound with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh.

“He told me he loved me,” Menhart joked.

Scherzer got a strikeout and groundout to get out of the inning.

2) Oct. 9: NLDS, Game 5

Here is why postseason baseball is great. Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto hit back-to-back home runs on back-to-back pitches against Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw to tie the game in the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium. Talk about a gut punch. But then Howie Kendrick hit a grand slam in the 10th inning to send the Nationals to a 7-3 victory. It was the first time the Nationals won a postseason series in franchise history.

“Man, what a moment,” Scherzer said.

3) Oct. 11: NL Championship Series, Game 1

Do not sleep on Aníbal Sánchez. Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin make up the Nationals’ three-headed monster atop the rotation, but Sánchez has a track record, too. He had a no-hitter with two outs in the eighth inning before Cardinals pinch-hitter José Martínez singled. Sánchez struck out five and walked one in 7 2/3 innings in a 2-0 victory.

How Sánchez went from castoff to World Series Game 3 starter

“I probably would have bet on him fourth, if I had four choices,” general manager Mike Rizzo joked, when asked about Nationals starters throwing a postseason no-hitter.

4) Oct. 12: NLCS, Game 2

Scherzer followed Sánchez’s near no-no with his own masterful performance in a 3-1 victory. He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Paul Goldschmidt broke up the bid with a leadoff single. Scherzer allowed just one hit and two walks in seven scoreless innings, striking out 11.

“Typical,” Trea Turner said.

5) Oct. 14: NLCS, Game 3

The Nationals’ offense jumped on the Cardinals, scoring four runs in the third inning, two runs in the fifth inning and one run in the sixth before St. Louis scored a run against Strasburg. He allowed one unearned run and seven hits in seven innings. He struck out 12. It lowered his career postseason ERA to 1.10, the third lowest in big league history (min. six starts), trailing Sandy Koufax (0.95 ERA) and Christy Mathewson (1.06 ERA).

“It’s so impressive to me, when the crowd was the loudest, in the biggest moments, is when he seems to be -- at least it looks like -- he’s his calmest,” reliever Sean Doolittle said.

6) Oct. 15: NLCS, Game 4

Think the Nationals wanted to get to the World Series? They scored seven runs in the first inning on their way to a 7-4 victory. They sent 11 batters to the plate in the first as Cardinals right-hander Dakota Hudson recorded only one out before Adam Wainwright took over. The Nationals scored first in every game of the NLCS. They never trailed. They dominated from start to finish.

"I can’t put this moment in words," manager Dave Martinez said. "I can say this: Often, bumpy roads lead to beautiful places, and this is a beautiful place."

7) Oct. 22: World Series, Game 1

Scherzer vs. Gerrit Cole in Game 1. Would anybody get a hit?

Actually, yes. The Astros scored two runs against Scherzer in the first inning, but the Nationals scored five runs -- five! -- off Cole, who allowed a combined five runs in his previous seven starts.

It started with Zimmerman, who homered in the second to cut the Astros’ lead to one. Soto crushed a mammoth opposite-field home run onto the train tracks in left field at Minute Maid Park to tie the game. The Nationals scored three runs against Cole in the fifth, including two runs on a double from Soto, to take a three-run lead in a 5-4 victory.

“I don't even look at him as young until you see his face,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said of Soto. “He's got kind of the ‘it’ factor. He's got the twitch. He's got fast hands. He's got no fear. ... He’s mature. Don’t let the age fool you.”

8) Oct. 23: World Series, Game 2

Scherzer vs. Cole did not live up to the hype, but Strasburg vs. Justin Verlander would, right?

Not exactly. Strasburg pitched well, allowing two runs in six innings, but Verlander allowed four runs in six innings, turning a game that was 2-2 entering the seventh into a 12-3 laugher.

“I think we've kind of defied the odds at this point,” Rendon said. “And we don't pay too much attention to them.”

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .