The 2019 World Series took place this October between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals, two teams who could not have taken different paths to get there.
The Astros were still a contending team after their 2017 World Series victory. With a star-studded lineup including Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, and Justin Verlander, everyone knew they would take the AL West division into the playoffs. Gerrit Cole had a breakout year as well, posting career bests in earned run average and strikeouts. Just when it already looked like they were a top two team in the American League, they bought Zack Greinke from the Diamondbacks at the trade deadline. They steamrolled in the regular season and slaughtered the Yankees and Rays in the playoffs.
The Nationals were somewhat unexpected, especially after their 19-31 start to the season. They were an afterthought in the playoff race, until Trea Turner returned from an injury and the pieces started coming together. Anthony Rendon and 20-year-old Juan Soto headlined the offensive production while Stephen Strausburg and Max Scherzer pitched gems from the mound. They had to endure a wild card victory over the Brewers and a shocking 3-2 upset over the Dodgers before snapping the neck of the Cardinals en route to the franchise’s first ever World Series.
The first two games in Houston shocked the world, with Washington winning both. Cy Young-favorite Cole bowed down to Soto’s three runs in game one, while all of the Nationals’ offense rallied in game two to score 12 runs on Verlander and company.
Having endured the hardest part, games three, four, and five were to be held in Nationals territory. Washington would score just three runs total, allowing the scale to tip. Michael Brantley led the offense in game three against Anibal Sanchez with two runs, while Bregman drove in five in game four, including a grand slam. After Cole evened out his World Series record in game five, the Astros led the series 3-2 and held match point going into game six back in Houston.
The away team had won every game this series, and this stayed consistent in game six. The Astros might have scored two runs in the first, but Rendon delivered five runs that game and gave Verlander his second loss of the series and bring it to game seven. Verlander’s loss gave him the record for biggest winless streak in the World Series, having lost his six starts to date.
It all boiled down to game seven on Oct. 30. Yuli Gurriel drew first blood for the Astros, driving a home run in the second inning. Carlos Correa added on with an RBI single in the fifth, making the score 2-0 heading into the seventh inning. Rendon cut the lead down to one with a home run, with Soto drawing a walk afterwards. Howie Kendrick followed suit by hitting a home run of his own off the right field foul pole, continuing his postseason heroics this year and giving the Nationals a 3-2 lead.
Fast forwarding to the eighth inning, Adam Eaton drew an early walk before stealing second base. At bat for the second time in two innings, Soto drove a sharp line drive to right field for an RBI single and extending the Washington lead.
After Ryan Zimmerman, Yan Gomes, and Victor Robles loaded the bases in the ninth, there was one out where Eaton got another chance and drove a single to center field, scoring two. From there, it was a four-run deficit with one inning to go. Daniel Hudson got the call and retired all three batters in the ninth to clinch the first ever World Series for the Washington Nationals.
Is this the start of a new dynasty? Probably not. The Nationals are the oldest team in the league, while Rendon and Scherzer’s contracts expire this year. There’s a good chance this is the last time the Nationals are of this caliber for the next several years, but they made the Cinderella run of a lifetime to be champions for the next year.