The Washington Nationals don’t know who they’ll face yet in the World Series, but that doesn’t matter; they’ll beat them.
A franchise that entered the 2019 playoffs without a single postseason series victory and had its back against the wall late in the Wild Card Game facing one of the best relievers in the game is heading to the World Series. That’s right, folks, the Washington Nationals are the National League champions, having swept the St. Louis Cardinals with relative ease. The Nationals carried two no-hit bids and scored more runs in the first inning of Game 4 than the Cardinals scored in the entire NLCS.
While the New York Yankees and Houston Astros are locked in an intense battle in the ALCS, the Nationals will be at home resting up and getting ready to win a title.
No one wanted to play the Nationals entering the postseason, and they’ve surprisingly proven everyone right (albeit with a few scares along the way). They have the feel of this year’s team of destiny and armed with three of the top pitchers in the league and a deep lineup that hasn’t skipped a beat without Bryce Harper, the Nats are not a National League team that should bow down to the supremacy of the mighty Yankees or perfectly-constructed Astros.
Regardless of who wins the AL pennant, the Nationals should be your pick to win the World Series. Here are the five biggest reasons why that will not change heading into the start of the Fall Classic next week.
5. Contact-driven lineup
It’s fitting that ageless wonder Howie Kendrick has been the biggest offensive hero for the Nationals in these playoffs. The 36-year-old is one of the all-time great “professional hitters” in MLB history in a lineup full of them. Every hitter in the Washington lineup can be counted on to deliver a quality at-bat in a given moment and put the ball in play with authority.
The Nationals struck out only eight times per game in the regular season, and that number has not seen a dramatic uptick against the best pitchers in the playoffs. The Nats hit .265/.342/454 in the regular season and have hit a respectable .243/.315/.382 in the playoffs, where the two or three plate appearances they have to give their pitchers are magnified given the extremely small sample size of 10 games. Take the pitchers’ 0-for-18 out of the equation, and the Nats have hit .257 as a team in October against some very good pitching.
If the Astros emerge from the American League to face the Nationals in the World Series, then obviously their offense’s task is a bit more difficult but not impossible. They hit well against power pitching this year and carried an OPS close to .800 against teams with a winning record. Led by power hitters like Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto who avoid striking out, the Nationals can put up runs against even the Astros dream rotation.