Hi all. A day late, but hopefully I’ll tell you a tale that can be enjoyed through a typically miserable winter in Washington. The Nationals, who had been stopped cold by Zack Greinke and already removed their ace, rose up like a real-life Rocky Balboa and knocked out the Astros, 6–2, winning the series in 7 games.
My idols, Roger Angell or Jimmy Cannon-would have had this piece written as the game was ending, or at least the very next morning. They were too smart to set up an engagement they couldn’t break and have it scheduled for the day after game 7. In my foolishness, I didn’t think this would be a 7-game series and laid out my plans for Thursday, November 1 assuming the World Series would have been over and all the stories written before then. Hopefully Nationals’ fans will still see this as a fresh story in the coming months, after the team has had their victory parade down Constitution Avenue which is set for tomorrow. Deep into game 7, when most of the east coast had already tuned out, it looked like Houston would have to scramble a parade in Main Street Square. Their home town team had put up two runs off Max Scherzer and seen him leave the hill, utterly exhausted after 5 innings. In the second, Yuli Guriel crushed a hanging slider to right, and the replica train ran and the cannon roared signaling an Astros’ home run. None of the 43,000 in attendance could know that was the last blast of the mighty cannon that Yankee fans will be hearing in their nightmares. Carlos Correa singled home a run in the fifth–the last the Astros would score. Scherzer had thrown 103 pitches, giving 7 hits and 2 runs, walking 4, striking out just 3. Like Luis Tiant in game 6 of the 1975 World Series, he showed courage beyond all imagining, left with his team behind, and prayed.
Meantime, Zack Greinke was in a zone between reality and heaven through 6 splendid innings. The sum total of the Washington offense was a hit and a walk. a couple of innings were begun and ended within 8 pitches. Then in the 7th inning, within another 8 pitches (not all of which were his,) Greinke’s horses and carriage turned into so many white mice and a pumpkin.
Washington fans won’t forget that the 7th inning was the real turning point in game 6. While they had the lead, a highly controversial call could have given Houston the momentum again. Thanks to Anthony Rendon, that didn’t happen. Again in game 7, Rendon burst Greinke’s pretty balloon and took the moon away, launching a home run to make it just a 2–1 Astro lead. Soto walked, and for Greinke, the party was over, it was time to call it a day.
What Houston manager A.J. Hinch did next will be a discussion in beer joints over bottles of Lone Star or Dixie beer for generations to come. Somebody will call up a Bob Wills song on the juke box and ask “Why did he go with Will Harris?” That imagined somebody in Texas will probably leaven Will Harris’ name with an unprintable word or two, said in a long, soft drawl. Harris had given up Anthony Rendon’s 2-run bomb the night before. Gerrit Cole had been warming in the bull pen, and had left the Nats searching for answers in game 5. He’d left most of baseball scratching their heads going back to last May. With Soto on first, Howie Kendrick hit his second monster home run of the postseason. The first was the 10th-inning grand slam that ended the Dodgers’ hopes of a World Series. This time it was a 2-run jack that clanged off the foul pole, giving the Nats the lead they would keep. Up to then, he had hit all of .208, 5 hits in 23 tries and one lone RBI. But all that meant nothing after he got the better of Will Harris in game 7.
Meantime, Patrick Corbin dominated the Astros. He didn’t give up a run in the 3 innings he worked. In the 8th facing Roberto Osuna, Adam Eaton walked, stole second and came home on a Soto single, his second hit of the night. Soto finished the series with 7 RBIS and hit safely in all 17 postseason games the Nats played–their wild card win in Milwaukee, all five against the Dodgers, all 4 as they blitzed the Cardinals, and all 7 World Series games. In the 9th, facing Jose Urquidy, Adam Eaton stepped in with the bases full. He singled to center bringing a run home. The trailing runner, Victor Robles wouldn’t have scored if the center fielder had played the ball cleanly. He didn’t, Robles scored, and the Nats had a 6–2 lead which would rapidly become a 6–2 win.
In late October, 1996, Fordhum graduate Michael Kay shared the WABC radio microphone with John Sterling as the Yankees won the first of their 4 World Series in 5 years. Almost a quarter century later, Kay’s classmate at Fordham Charlie Slowes, who also cut his teeth on Fordham’s radio station WFUV, joined his old buddy in the fraternity of men who have called a World Series winner. As fellow Fordham grad Vin Scully did at the end of Sandy Koufax’ perfecto, Slowes gave the time in DC when the World Series was won by the Nationals. As the dust settled, Stephen Strasburg was named World Series MVP. No other overall first draft pick in the country had come so far. From a serious injury that kept him locked out of the 2012 playoffs, the former San Diego State star utterly dominated not just the World Series but this postseason, undefeated in 5 decisions. It will never be forgotten that the visiting team won all 7 games of this series. Houston had won 60 out of 80 home games in the regular season, and had won 2 home games in 3 tries as they sent the Yankees to an early vacation. They didn’t win a game in Houston against the Nationals, while they slaughtered the Nats 19–3 over 3 games in DC. These will become World Series facts to be remembered, at least until late next October when all baseball congregates for the next World Series. When 2020 starts, there will be 6 teams–Padres, Brewers, Mariners, Rangers, Rockies and Rays who have never won a World Series. Milwaukee has contended the last couple of seasons and the Padres made a desperate bid by signing Manny Machado to a contract worth the state budget of California. As originally written, I had left out the Mariners. Thanks to two correspondents, I was reminded that they also have never won (or lost) a World Series. The Nats may lose both Rendon and Strasburg, without whom they would never have won this World Series. Gerrit Cole may well leave Houston. Wherever the Cole Train pulls into a station, the team will have made a major pitching upgrade. This is the time to relax and enjoy what the Nationals did for their city and for baseball.1