Final comeback as Nationals win World Series title
HOUSTON (AP) — What a comeback for the Washington Nationals.
The team that was 12 games under .500 before the end of May is now the World Series champion.
The Nationals beat the Houston Astros 6-2 on Wednesday night, when they were down 2-0 after six innings. It was Washington's fifth comeback win in a potential elimination game this postseason — four was already a major league record for a single postseason.
They had to win the NL wild card game, then went the full five games in the NL Division Series to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers on the road in extra innings to advance. Washington swept St. Louis in the NL Championship Series.
Anthony Rendon homered in the last three games when the Nationals were facing elimination, becoming the first player ever to homer in three consecutive elimination games.
Howie Kendrick put Washington ahead to stay with his two-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 7, two batters after Rendon went deep.
Kendrick is the first player with multiple go-ahead homers in the seventh inning or later of winner-take-all games in a single postseason. His grand slam in the 10th inning won Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers.
The Nationals got a toast from the Stanley Cup champions, who are also from the nation's capital.
Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, who won the 2018 Stanley Cup title, popped champagne at home when the Nationals recorded the final out to wrap up the World Series more than 1,400 miles away in Texas.
The Nationals are certain to get a huge celebration back home for their first World Series title, like the Capitals got after winning their first Stanley Cup.
SOME NOTABLE NUMBERS
— Juan Soto, who turned 21 during this World Series, finished the postseason with 18 hits. That matched the most by a player younger than 22 — Miguel Cabrera was a 20-year-old rookie with the Marlins in 2003 when they won the World Series.
Soto had nine hits in the World Series.
— Washington finished the postseason by winning eight consecutive road games. That matched the 1996 Yankees for the longest streak in a single postseason.
— Astros second baseman Jose Altuve had a third-inning single, his 25th hit this postseason. That matched the second-most in MLB history, one shy of Pablo Sandoval's total with the San Francisco Giants in 2014.
— Houston shortstop Carlos Correa's RBI double in the fifth inning was his 33rd career RBI in the postseason, the most by a player younger than 26. The only shortstop with more RBIs overall is Derek Jeter with 61.
HEADED TO THE HALL
There are several items from the World Series headed to Cooperstown.
An exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame highlighting the most recent World Series champion will include a hoodie from manager Dave Martinez, the jersey World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg wore when winning Game 6, the ball Howie Kendrick hit for the go-ahead home run in Game 7 and the cap three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer wore when starting the finale.
PLAY LOUD AND RESPECTFUL
Astros manager AJ Hinch is all for letting the young kids play — and play loud. He also wants them to respect the game.
Alex Bregman, the Astros third baseman who is one of the young stars MLB has highlighted in its ad campaigns trying to reach younger fans, carried his bat past first base after hitting a home run in the first inning of Game 6 of the World Series.
"I think we should always encourage players to show personality and be as open with the fans and drive the sport," Hinch said before Game 7 on Wednesday. "So many good stories in these clubhouses, so many good people and players to celebrate, to a point, then it crosses a line where it was probably unnecessary to go that far."
When Soto homered later in that game, the Nationals slugger who turned 21 during this Fall Classic mimicked Bregman with a similar action.
"When it gets to the competition on the field, I fear a little bit of it goes too far," Hinch said. "And I'm actually OK with Soto thinking that it was funny. I think that's part of these personalities that you have to individualize within our sport if you want to celebrate the youthfulness that comes with it."
First baseman Ryan Zimmerman has been in the majors for 15 seasons, all as the only player to be part of the Nationals for each season they have played. He believes the most important thing is that baseball is in good hands with the young talent.
"Things like that 10 years ago would have never happened. And I'm not here to say it's good or bad," Zimmerman said. "The game has definitely gotten younger. I personally don't think there's a place in the game for that stuff. But I'm not the person that makes all the rules. There's different thoughts nowadays."
The 25-year-old Bregman apologized publicly after Game 6, saying he let his emotions get the best of him.
Hinch said he would never want to see baseball try to eliminate any of the celebrations or bat flips. He said the exuberant celebrations like the handshakes, hugs and dancing in the dugout are fun for the younger fans that baseball is trying to attract.
"I want our fans to know our players and the personalities that come with it within the realm of sportsmanship," Hinch said.
When Nationals manager Dave Martinez was having an animated conversation with umpires that led to his ejection in Game 6, he heard a fan screaming at him from above the dugout.
"Davey, your heart. Remember your heart," the manager recalled with a laugh before Game 7.
The 55-year-old Martinez had a heart procedure in mid-September after feeling tightness in his chest during a game.
Martinez said one of his doctors checked on him in the training room after he got ejected and asked him if he was OK.
"I just asked him, 'Do I look OK?' Yeah," Martinez said. "So yeah, they were all worried."
The Nationals and Astros reached the end of a long season that began at the spring training complex they share in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Game 7 of the World Series was the 210th game this year for the Astros, including 30 exhibition games during the spring, the 162-game regular season and 18 postseason games.
Washington played 208 games, with 29 in the spring and 17 games this postseason.