Houston Astros, MLB Postseason, Washington Nationals

Howie Kendrick, Juan Soto lead Nationals to first ever World Series with Game 7 win

For the first time in franchise history, the Washington Nationals have won the World Series, beating the Houston Astros 6-2 in Game 7.

For the first time in franchise history, the Washington Nationals are MLB champions. With a commanding 6-2 win in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series, the Nats defied the odds against the heavily favored Houston Astros, finishing their Cinderella postseason run in unforgettable fashion.

In this best-of-seven series, the away team won each and every time, and the Nationals kept that streak alive Wednesday night with another gusty road performance to stun Minute Maid Park. Patrick Corbin earned the win after taking over for Max Scherzer, while Will Harris was credited with the loss for Houston.

Early on, it felt like the home team was going to win for the first time in the series, as the Astros held a 2-0 lead heading into the seventh inning. But at that point, pitcher Zack Greinke, who had been nearly perfect through six innings, gave up a home run to Anthony Rendon that changed the complexion of the game. After he walked Juan Soto, Houston changed pitchers, and at that point, Howie Kendrick delivered the striking blow that would put Washington on top, crushing Will Harris’ second pitch for a two-run bomb to give the Nats a 3-2 lead.

From there, the road team was able to keep its composure and extend its lead all the way to 6-2, stunning the crowd at Minute Maid Park.

Yuli Gurriel started off the scoring for Houston in the bottom of the second inning with a solo shot to left off Scherzer that traveled 389 feet. Unfortunately for the Astros, they were unable to build on that lead despite Carlos Correa and Yordan Alvarez being on second and third, respectively, when George Springer stepped up to the plate. His line drive to left field was robbed by a great diving catch from Juan Soto, ending the inning and keeping the damage at 1-0.

The Astros’ problems bringing runners home continued over the next few innings. Through four innings, they had left seven runners on base, going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

In the fifth inning, they finally broke through. With Gurriel on second base and Alvarez at first, Correa singled to shallow left on a hit that Rendon’s glove just couldn’t get to at third base. The hit brought Gurriel home and Alvarez to third for a 2-0 advantage, but the Nats were able to get out of the inning. Houston had left nine runners on base to that point, going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Meanwhile, the 36-year-old Greinke was pitching the game of his life for Houston, facing the minimum number of batters in almost every inning through the first six. The lone exception was the fifth inning, when he faced four batters after walking Howie Kendrick.

Unfortunately, Greinke’s 75th pitch wasn’t quite as immaculate as the 74 that preceded it, as Rendon made up for his missed grab in the fifth inning with a 374-foot solo homer to left in the top of the seventh, pulling the Nationals within 2-1.

After Greinke walked Juan Soto on the next at-bat, the Astros pulled him to a loud ovation for such a monster performance in a Game 7. Through 6.1 innings pitched, Greinke gave up two hits and one run, with three strikeouts and a 1.64 ERA.

The happy vibes at Minute Maid Park didn’t last long, however. With relief pitcher Will Harris at the mound and Soto still on first base, Howie Kendrick stepped up to the plate and launched Harris’ second pitch to the foul pole in right field for a two-run shot, giving Washington a stunning 3-2 lead. It marked the fourth lead-changing home run ever in a World Series Game 7.

At that point, Houston’s inability to bring runners home really came back to haunt the World Series favorites. When Adam Eaton was walked and stole second base in the top of the eighth, a Juan Soto single brought him home, extending the Nationals’ lead to 4-2.

The bleeding continued in the ninth, as Astros relief pitcher Joe Smith loaded the bases for Adam Eaton. He stepped up to the plate and delivered some extra cushion for Washington, singling to center to bring home Yan Gomes and Victor Robles for a 6-2 lead.

From there, Daniel Hudson was able to close things out with those final three outs in the bottom of the ninth as George Springer popped out to second and Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley struck out swinging.

In all, the Astros wound up leaving 10 runners left on base, going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The Nationals, however, left seven men on base, but were still able to win the day with a gutsy performance for their first ever World Series championship.

Five times during the postseason, the Nationals trailed while facing elimination. All five times, they won. For a team that consistently defied expectations every step of the way during its postseason run, Game 7 was the perfect way to cap off the greatest season in franchise history.

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