Congratulations Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals suffered their fair share of heartbreak. In the 2012 NLDS, they had seemingly overcome Stephen Strasburg being shut down due to post Tommy John innings limit. They had a 7-5 lead heading into the ninth inning before Drew Storen imploded allowing four runs in the ninth.
In 2014, Bryce Harper would hit a seventh inning homer off Hunter Strickland tie the Game 4 of the NLDS at 2-2. After than Matt Thornton would allow consecutive hits before Aaron Barrett walked the bases loaded and threw a wild pitch leading to the Giants clinching the series.
The 2015 Nationals team would choke literally and figuratively. The team would blow a 4.5 game lead over the Mets in the division, and they would also see Jonathan Papelbon choke Harper in the dugout. This led to Matt Williams firing and his being replaced by Dusty Baker, who would lead the team to consecutive division titles, but like his predecessors no trips to the NLCS.
In Game 5 of the 2016 NLCS, Max Scherzer shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers for six innings. In the seventh, Joc Pederson homered off Scherzer tying the game at 1-1. From there, Marc Rzepczynski, Blake Treinen, Sammy Solis, and Shawn Kelley would allow the Dodgers to put up four runs to win that game. Amazingly, Daniel Murphy, who had big homers against the Dodgers in this and the previous year’s NLCS, would pop up against Clayton Kershaw with the tying run at second in the ninth.
The following year, it was Scherzer again. Heading into the top of the fifth, the Nationals had a 4-3 lead, and Scherzer came out of the bullpen. The Dodgers scored four runs off of him to take a 7-4 lead. The Nationals would play catch up for the rest of the game, but they couldn’t quite do it as their bullpen continued to implode in the 9-8 loss.
Through all of that, and the team having been 19-31 this year and Dave Martinez on the verge of getting fired, the Nationals won the pennant. They won it with them coming from behind in the Wild Card Game with a Juan Soto RBI single and an error leading to a three run eighth in a 4-3 victory.
In Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Anthony Rendon and Soto hit back-to-back homers off Kershaw in the eighth to tie the score. Then, the bullpen which had been the bane of their postseason existence, held on as they won in 11 off a Howie Kendrick grand slam.
Now, they have swept the Cardinals in the NLCS to win the pennant. With that, they have exorcised every postseason demon, and they have earned this moment.
As it pertains to the Mets, there is a lesson here. This is what happens when you have ownership fully committed to winning and spends commensurate to market size and World Series window. This is what happens when you hire a very good General Manager and empower him. This is what happens when you allow players like Stephen Strasburg the necessary time to heal and recover.
In the end, the 2019 Nationals came and got the Mets and every National League team in their path this year. Whether that leads to a World Series or not is anyone’s guess. Even if it doesn’t, we know the Nationals will push on to try to get it instead of the half-measures we have seen from this Mets team since their 2015 pennant.