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7 highlights for 7 games in crazy World Series

@RichardJustice
October 31, 2019

HOUSTON -- This World Series delivered a plate full of crazy, and who doesn’t like a little of that? Trust us when we tell you that players and managers will be using this Fall Classic as a reference point for years to come. That’s also true of the Washington Nationals,

HOUSTON -- This World Series delivered a plate full of crazy, and who doesn’t like a little of that? Trust us when we tell you that players and managers will be using this Fall Classic as a reference point for years to come.

That’s also true of the Washington Nationals, who put a proper finishing touch on a Fall Classic in which they proved their resilience, tenacity and talent over and over again.

In the end, the Nationals' talent won out. Let’s not overlook that part of the story. As Astros manager AJ Hinch said last week, “This isn’t some cute little Wild Card team getting to the World Series.”

Hinch meant that the Nats were the real deal, that they were plenty good enough to win the World Series, and that’s what they did on Wednesday night in taking Game 7, 6-2, at Minute Maid Park.

This Game 7 mirrored the Nationals’ season in some ways. First, they had to come from behind. They trailed, 2-0, after six innings. That’s nothing when you’ve been in a 19-31 hole in May. When you’ve been down three runs in the National League Wild Card Game. When you’ve been down three runs in a decisive NL Division Series Game 5.

When you’ve lost three straight World Series games at home and come to a place where the home team had baseball’s best record in 2019. Somewhere along the way, you develop a tough core and a resilience.

Now about that craziness.

Let’s go to the scoreboard for seven highlights for seven games:

Game 1: Nationals 5, Astros 4 (Minute Maid Park)
The Nationals walked into Minute Maid Park, where the Astros had the best home record in the Majors, and stole Game 1 against Gerrit Cole thanks to three Juan Soto hits, while Max Scherzer and four relievers stranded 11 Houston baserunners. This was the start of a World Series in which the road team won every game. Don’t bother looking for an explanation. It had never happened before, not in the World Series or in any other North American professional sports series. Neither team has an explanation. Instead, as Nats manager Dave Martinez said, “It’s just weird. I don’t know any other way to put it.”

Game 2: Nationals 12, Astros 3 (Minute Maid Park)
World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg put two impressive lines on his Hall of Fame resume by winning a pair of road starts. In the first one in Game 2, he allowed two runs in six innings to beat Justin Verlander. His road to greatness was littered with Tommy John surgery in 2011 and a front-office-ordered shutdown in ‘12. This season, Strasburg led the NL with 209 innings, and in six postseason appearances, he had a microscopic 1.98 ERA.

Game 3: Astros 4, Nationals 1 (Nationals Park)
Washington had not hosted a World Series game since 1933, and so this was a night when a big noisy crowd rocked the place. For a city that went 33 years without having a team, the idea of a World Series game in the nation’s capital was beyond all dreams. Houston temporarily interrupted the march to a parade down Constitution Avenue with six pitchers limiting the Nationals to one run. Hinch expertly managed his bullpen to the final 13 outs.

Game 4: Astros 8, Nationals 1 (Nationals Park)
Jose Urquidy? Wait, who? Wasn’t this Astros pitching staff supposed to be Cole, Verlander and Zack Greinke? Who was this 24-year-old kid attacking the strike zone and pitching five shutout innings? Houston blew the game open in the seventh inning with an Alex Bregman grand slam to even the Fall Classic.

Game 5: Astros 7, Nationals 1 (Nationals Park)
This was when weirdness took over the 115th World Series. Martinez walked into the press room at mid-afternoon and announced that Scherzer had neck and shoulder issues and could not pitch. Scherzer showed up an hour later and had trouble bending his head or raising his arm. At that point, his World Series seemed to be over. Washington’s chances didn’t look too good once the game started, either, as Cole allowed one run in seven innings, and the Astros hit three home runs to move to within one victory of their second championship in three seasons.

Game 6: Nationals 7, Astros 2 (Minute Maid Park)
Verlander was going to rewrite the narrative. Winless in the World Series? This was his chance to change that part of his resume. Instead, Strasburg outpitched Verlander and came within two outs of a complete game as the Nationals pounded the Astros’ bullpen for four runs. Suddenly, a city that was preparing for another championship celebration understood that Washington was capable of winning.

Game 7: Nationals 6, Astros 2 (Minute Maid Park)
Howie Kendrick! Again! He’s just the fourth player to hit a home run in two winner-take-all games in the same postseason. On Wednesday, his two-run home run in the seventh inning clanged off the right-field foul pole to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead they would not surrender. According to Baseball Reference’s Championship Win Probability Added, Kendrick's homer was the 10th-biggest hit in postseason history, based on how much it increased his team's chances of winning a World Series.

Kendrick also hit a go-ahead 10th-inning grand slam against the Dodgers in the deciding NLDS Game 5. Championship teams always look back at players who performed far above expectations. The 36-year-old veteran is one of those guys for the Nats.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.