By Alex Bozek
The Washington Nationals made history this week by winning their first world championship in franchise history. The heavy underdogs proved that you do not need young stars and the best record to win it all. They also did not need home field advantage. Here’s a breakdown of some of their winning strategies.
Game Seven are the two best words in sports. The teams know their season ends the next day and it all depends on their performance that night. The Nationals had their ace, Max Scherzer, on the mound facing off against past Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke. This is the first time two Cy Young award winners have faced off against each other in a game seven. And they did not disappoint. Here are their lines:
Max Scherzer (WSH): 5.0IP 7H 2ER 4 BB 3K 103P
Zack Greinke (HOU): 6.1IP 2H 2ER 2BB 3K 1HR 80P
The first stat that jumps out to me is the number of pitches that Scherzer had. 103 pitches is somewhat unheard of in today’s game. Through his past four playoff starts this year, he threw 425 pitches combined. That averages out to about 106 pitches per game. He also had a somewhat serious injury for a pitcher. The day before game seven, he was unable to move his pitching arm and could barely get himself dressed. He got a cortisone shot that relieves pressure from that arm and was ready to go. His first pitch of the game was a 97 mph fastball, and he kept that up throughout his five innings of work. The only problem that I saw with his performance was his pitching pattern each inning.
He would get the first and second batter out with no trouble, but the last batter would take him easily 10 pitches, and the batter most likely got on base which caused more pitches. If he did not get himself into that much trouble late in the innings, he could have easily gone seven innings in this game. This was a true masterful performance nonetheless against one of the best offenses in recent memory.
Stephen Strasburg, who is the other half of their one-two punch of pitchers, was virtually unhittable this postseason. He went 5-0 with an ERA of 1.98. In the World Series, he pitched twice with an impressive line.
Stephen Strasburg (WSH): 14.1 IP 12H 4ER 3BB 14K 2HR 128P
Remember those are combined stats, so he did not just have one start that was a fluke. He did this twice on the road in the World Series. He was named MVP of the series, which was no surprise.
The Astros at the beginning of the year had a 6-1 odds to win the World Series. While their opponents were 12-1 favorites. They were clearly the favorites since February’s Spring Training started.
Along with defying the odds, literally, they also beat father time. The 2019 Nationals
were the oldest team in the league. The average age of the players on their 25-man roster was 31. Although young and fresh in the real world, in the world of sports, that is ancient. Their closer Fernando Rodney is the oldest player in the league at 42, reliever Johnny Venters is 34 and their ace Max Scherzer is now 31. They also had multiple players age 31 or 32. The youngest team in baseball in 2019 were the Baltimore Orioles who’s average age was 25.
This series made history for arguable the most unique reason. It was the first postseason series ever where the road team won all seven games. Ever! Across all three sports, MLB, NBA and NHL. And it will most likely never happen again, or at least in John Smoltz’s lifetime as he said. So that means that Washington won games one, two, six and seven, while Houston won games three, four and five. Throughout those away games, Washington score a combined total of 30 runs to Houston’s 19. Washington scored three total runs at home in three games, and put up more than three in every game on the road.
Home field advantage goes out to the team with the better record in the regular season. The Astros won 107 games, so since the Nationals only won 93, the Astros had games one, two, six and seven at home. Since the series is an odd number, they have to divide it.
But playing at home throughout the playoffs is something that teams strive for; they want to get the atmosphere that they are used to with playing at home. They get to stay in their homes and see their families. It can really make a difference. This series did not care about the home. They say that home is where the heart is. I guess home was not where the bats were for these two juggernauts.
Celebrate Good Times, C’mon!
The champagne was put on ice, podium was set and with two-outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Nationals were ready to let it all go. They silenced all of Houston when Michael Brantley struck out to end the series and it was all over. The Nationals celebrate while Houston goes home one game short. But do not worry Astros fans, there are only 145 days until Opening Day 2020!
Congratulations to the 2019 World Series Champions Washington Nationals!