The Nationals’ final victory over the St. Louis Cardinals was only the latest in a stirring stretch of dominance by a team that was left for dead five months ago.
They didn’t just sweep the National League Championship Series; they never trailed in it. They became the fourth team in baseball history — after the 1914 Boston Braves, 1973 New York Mets and 2005 Houston Astros — to go from 12 games below .500 in the summer to the World Series in the fall. And they did so with their 16th win in their past 18 games, a 7-4 victory that began with a first-inning onslaught.
“Where we came from and what we had to accomplish to get here, it wasn’t easy,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “I’ll be the first to say it.”
The Nationals fired their pitching coach, Derek Lilliquist, on May 2. Twenty-one days later, after suffering a four-game sweep at Citi Field, they stood 19-31, 10 games behind a Phillies team that had recently signed Bryce Harper. Calls for Martinez’s firing grew incessant.
“I remember that I read an article, probably at the end of May,” Nationals starter Anibal Sanchez recalled, “and they were saying that probably the whole team was going to be traded.”
The Nationals went 74-38 and outscored their opponents by a combined 189 runs over the final 128 days of the regular season, overcoming a late-season heart scare for their manager and the worst bullpen in franchise history.
They won eight consecutive games to capture a wild-card spot, rode a Juan Soto single off Josh Hader to advance to the NL Division Series and used timely hitting and dominant starting pitching to dismantle a Los Angeles Dodgers team that won 106 games.