Nats sweep Cards; DC in World Se­ries for 1st time since ‘33

The Saline Courier - - NEWS - By Howard Fen­drich As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON — As the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als moveda party 86 years in the mak­ing from their ball­park’s in­field to a booze­filled club­house, man­ager Dave Martinez paused near the dugout and thrust the sil­ver NL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries tro­phy over­head, to the de­light of loud, deliri­ous fans still in the stands.

Who would have thought this was pos­si­ble five months ago, when the team was flail­ing, trade talk was swirling around Wash­ing­ton and folks fig­ured Martinez’s job was in jeop­ardy?

From 19-31 dur­ing a medi­ocre May to the Fall Clas­sic in an out­stand­ing Oc­to­ber — and the city’s first World Se­ries ap­pear­ance since 1933.

Ex­tend­ing their stun­ning turn­around, the wild-card Na­tion­als got RBIS from mid­dle-of-the-or­der stars An­thony Ren­don and Juan Soto in a seven-run first in­ning Tues­day night, and Pa­trick Corbin’s 12-strike­out per­for­mance plus a trio of re­liev­ers helped hold on to beat the St. Louis Car­di­nals 7-4 in Game 4 to com­plete a sweep in the NLCS.

“Of­ten, bumpy roads lead to beau­ti­ful places,” said Martinez, who un­der­went a heart pro­ce­dure in Septem­ber, “and this is a beau­ti­ful place.”

Right from the first in­ning Tues­day, most in a sell­out crowd of 43,976 rose from their seats to ap­plaud or yell or twirl their red tow­els, to chant “Let’s go, Nats!” and “M-VP!” and var­i­ous play­ers’ names, en­joy­ing ev­ery mo­ment of that gamede­cid­ing out­burst.

And then, a cou­ple of hours and sev­eral in­nings later, as Tan­ner Rainey, Sean Doolit­tle and Daniel Hudson were pro­tect­ing a shrink­ing lead, those same spec­ta­tors stood and shouted and rev­eled some more.

“I just kept count­ing down: We’re 12 outs from the World Se­ries. We’re nine outs from the World Se­ries,” short­stop Trea Turner said. “Six. Three.”

Now the Na­tion­als get plenty of time to rest and set up their so-far ter­rific ro­ta­tion be­fore be­gin­ning the last se­ries of the sea­son against the Hous­ton Astros or New York Yan­kees in a week. Hous­ton leads the best-of­seven AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries 2-1 af­ter win­ning Game 3 at New York 4-1 Tues­day.

The Na­tion­als be­came the fourth team to reach the World Se­ries af­ter be­ing 12 games un­der .500.

“We think we can com­pete with any team, any time,” NLCS MVP Howie Ken­drick said. “Peo­ple al­ways get caught up in the things that are on paper, but the re­al­ity of it is you have to go out and play. Once we get out on the field, any­thing can hap­pen.”

The last time the

World Se­ries came to the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, more than eight decades ago, the Wash­ing­ton Sen­a­tors lost to the New York Gi­ants in five games. Have to go even fur­ther back, to 1924, for the city’s lone base­ball cham­pi­onship, when the Sen­a­tors de­feated the Gi­ants.

The Sen­a­tors even­tu­ally left, and the town didn’t have a ma­jor league team at all for more than three decades un­til the Mon­treal Ex­pos — who were founded in 1969 and never made it to the World Se­ries — moved to Wash­ing­ton in 2005.

The Na­tion­als had never man­aged to ad­vance in the post­sea­son since ar­riv­ing, go­ing 0-4 in the NLDS over the last seven years, in­clud­ing three Game 5 losses at home.

First base­man Ryan Zim­mer­man, the Na­tion­als’ first draft pick in Wash­ing­ton, was there for all of that heartache.

“Some­times,” he said, “you got to wait for good things.”

This month alone, the Na­tion­als beat the Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers in the NL wild-card game af­ter trail­ing 3-1 head­ing to the eighth, and elim­i­nated the league-best Los An­ge­les Dodgers in Game 5 of the NL Di­vi­sion Se­ries af­ter trail­ing 3-1 head­ing to the eighth again.

Then came this lop­sided dis­missal of the NL Cen­tral cham­pion Car­di­nals, who were outscored 20-6 in the se­ries.

“Of course, we could’ve played bet­ter,” said St. Louis first base­man Paul Gold­schmidt, who was 1 for 16 with nine strike­outs in the NLCS, “but we didn’t.”

Corbin, a left-handed pitcher signed with $140 mil­lion of the money that be­came avail­able last off­sea­son when Bryce Harper left town to join the Philadel­phia Phillies, was not quite the equal of Wash­ing­ton’s other starters in the se­ries.

Still, he did be­come the first pitcher to strike out 10 bat­ters in the first four in­nings of a post­sea­son game and earned the win af­ter al­low­ing four runs in five in­nings.

Then Martinez turned to his Nl-worst bullpen, such a prob­lem for so much of this sea­son.

Af­ter Rainey got three outs, and Doolit­tle got five, Hudson came in for his fourth save in four chances this post­sea­son. It wasn’t easy, though: Af­ter re­plac­ing Doolit­tle with two outs in the eighth, Hudson hit his first bat­ter and walked his sec­ond, bring­ing pinch­hit­ter Matt Car­pen­ter to the plate as the go-ahead run with the bases loaded.

Car­pen­ter, a ca­reer .481 bat­ter with the bases full, grounded out to sec­ond base­man Brian Dozier, a de­fen­sive re­place­ment who briefly lost the ball be­fore gath­er­ing it and throw­ing to first to end that in­ning.

Hudson fin­ished things with a per­fect ninth, get­ting Tommy Ed­man on a fly ball to cen­ter field to end it, and red fire­works went off around the sta­dium.

Corbin got this evening started with a 1-2-3 top of the first, strik­ing out all three Car­di­nals with a high, 95 mph fast­ball, a real con­trast to the off-speed stuff Stephen Stras­burg used for his own dozen Ks a night ear­lier.

In the bot­tom half, Wash­ing­ton put up those seven runs, all charged to rookie Dakota Hudson, who lasted all of 15 pitches — do­ing to the Car­di­nals what they did in the pre­vi­ous round, when they scored 10 to open Game

5 of the NLDS against At­lanta.

All the heartache of play­offs past seemed to dis­si­pate dur­ing an evening that only briefly was tense for the home team and its sup­port­ers: In the fifth, a jug­gled Car­di­nals lineup fi­nally awoke, scor­ing three runs — one more than the team man­aged to pro­duce in Games 1-3 com­bined — to get within 7-4.

With a man on sec­ond and the ty­ing run in the on-deck cir­cle, Corbin came through, strik­ing out St. Louis’ 3-4 hit­ters, Paul Gold­schmidt and Mar­cell Ozuna, with slid­ers.

Af­ter be­com­ing come­back spe­cial­ists, the Na­tion­als never trailed against the Car­di­nals. And dat­ing to the fi­nal week of the reg­u­lar sea­son, Wash­ing­ton has won 16 of its past 18 games.

“We proved — and this doesn’t re­quire ad­vanced saber­met­rics,” Car­di­nals man­ager Mike Shildt said, “you have to get a lead to win a game.”

UP NEXT

Car­di­nals: Their next game will come in spring train­ing, an ex­hi­bi­tion at home in Jupiter, Flor­ida, on Feb. 22.

Na­tion­als: They will play Games 1 and 2 of the World Se­ries at the AL team’s sta­dium, be­cause both the Astros (107) and Yan­kees (103) won more games than Wash­ing­ton’s 93 in the reg­u­lar sea­son. Games 3, 4 and, if nec­es­sary, 5 will be at Na­tion­als Park. Wash­ing­ton did not face ei­ther Hous­ton or the Yan­kees in in­ter­league play in 2019.

PA­TRICK SEMANSKY/AP

Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als man­ager Dave Martinez cel­e­brates af­ter Game 4 of the base­ball Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries against the St. Louis Car­di­nals Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, in Wash­ing­ton. The Na­tion­als won 7-4 to win the se­ries 4-0.

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