All season long, the Washington Nationals refused to quit. They climbed back after a 19-31 start to make the postseason, then staved off elimination in both the National League wild card game and in Game 5 of their division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers before pushing the Houston Astros to seven games in the World Series.
And in a winner-take-all game on Wednesday, that perseverance paid off, as they captured the first World Series title in franchise history by beating the Astros, 6-2.
The Nationals’ win at Houston’s Minute Maid Field continued a baffling trend in which the visiting team won each game of the series — a first for a seven-game series in any of the major American sports. The Nationals fell behind by 1-0 in the second inning and by 2-0 in the fifth before a decisive seventh inning, when Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick each hit home runs to give the Nationals a lead they would not relinquish.
Game 7 offered a compelling pitching matchup, with Zack Greinke, who was acquired by Houston at the trade deadline this summer, on the mound against Washington’s Max Scherzer, who had been scratched from a Game 5 start Sunday because of muscle spasms in his back and neck. It was the first time a World Series Game 7 featured a matchup of past Cy Young Award winners, and Scherzer, who has won the award three times (2013, 2016 and 2017), triumphed over Greinke, who won the AL award in 2009.
Greinke had a stellar outing but sputtered in the seventh inning. He gave up the homer to Rendon and was eventually charged with two hits and two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings. Scherzer battled through five innings, giving up seven hits but just two runs.
Founded as an expansion team in 1969, the Nationals were originally known as the Expos and spent 36 years in Montreal, qualifying for the playoffs just once — in 1981 — only to lose in the National League Championship Series. A move to Washington in 2005 resulted in a name change and four trips to the postseason before this one, each of which had come up empty.
With the Nationals now boasting a championship, there are just six active teams left who have not won one, the longest drought belonging to the Texas Rangers, who began life as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961.