On Tuesday night the Washington Nationals were leading the Philadelphia Phillies 6-5 with one out to get. Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco hit a ball to deep center field that Victor Robles was able to rundown in stride. This win brought the magic number down to one for the Washington Nationals. As the team ran onto the field to celebrate the win, the Cubs-Pirates game was immediately broadcasted on the jumbotron at the stadium. Chicago needed to lose for the Nats to officially clinch. A few minutes later the Pirates got the final out as they beat the Cubs 9-2. Nationals Park was filled with cheers from the fans and players alike. Washington had come a long way this season as they made the playoffs for the fifth time in eight years.
On May 24 the team was 19-31, and had just been swept by the rival New York Mets in a four-game series. Washington was suffering from multiple injuries, the bullpen had the lowest ERA in baseball, and the team was essentially dead in the water. Fans were screaming for manager Dave Martinez’s head on a stake while baseball analysts were telling the Nats to start the fire sale. They were the second-worst team in the NL, ahead of only the rebuilding Miami Marlins. Instead, the team held firm, kept their heads up and started chipping away. Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto and Matt Adams all returned from the IL. After a few weeks, all four of them started to heat up and Washington continued to slowly catch the NL pack. Washington made some nifty moves such as claiming Astrubel Cabrera and Gerardo Parra off of waivers. Both have become key contributors to the team’s recent success.
Washington clinched home-field advantage when they beat the Cleveland Indians on Saturday evening 10-7. The Nationals’ Twitter account tweeted a video about the team’s ability to fight back.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) September 28, 2019
Washington’s turnaround didn’t happen overnight. Here’s how Washington was able to salvage their season and return to the postseason.
Now in no way was Washington’s bullpen a strength, but thanks to some nifty trade deadline moves, Washington was able to acquire some guys to help fix the problem. Daniel Hudson was the best of the three relievers acquired. Since debuting for Washington, Hudson has a 1.50 ERA, 21 strikeouts, and is 6/8 in saves. He has given up only four runs in 24 innings for the Nats. He also stepped up when closer Sean Doolittle went on the IL. Hudson proved himself and has now given the Nats two closers moving into the playoffs. That is any contenders dream.
Unfortunately, relievers Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland have not contributed to the same degree. Elias has been on the IL twice since being traded to Washington. He has barely had an opportunity to prove himself. And Strickland has been inconsistent with Washington as he has a 5.14 ERA with 15 strikeouts.
Additionally, fire-baller Tanner Rainey, 42-year-old Fransisco Rodney, Wander Suero, and Sean Doolittle have been able to step up when needed and fortify Washington’s bullpen. These guys will be leaned on to close out games come playoffs.
The Pitching Staff
Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Anibal Sanchez have gone above and beyond to help out the offense. Washington’s pitching staff ranks second in the majors in ERA with a 3.50. They are behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers. Stephen Strasburg is having the best year of his career. He set a career-high in strikeouts with 251. He also finished the season with a 3.32 ERA and went 18-6. Max Scherzer went down and missed over half of the second half of the season. In his absence, Strasburg found a way to ascend and dominate opposing hitters. He also put on quite a performance at the plate. He has 12 hits on the season, 10 RBI’s, and a homer.
Patrick Corbin has been excellent in the first year of his contract. Corbin finished the season with a 3.25 ERA, 238 strikeouts, and a record of 14-7. His slider has left anyone he faced baffled. Anibal Sanchez was able to overcome his own awful early-season starts. On May 10 Sanchez was 0-6 with a 5.27 ERA. He finished the season 11-8, with 134 strikeouts, and an ERA of 3.85.
These four will match up with any teams pitching staff in the playoffs and gives Washington an amazing advantage.
Once healthy, Washington’s offense was able to help the team make up ground at an accelerating rate. Anthony Rendon is having an MVP season, Juan Soto is breaking out to be the next superstar. The combined bats of Trea Turner and Adam Eaton have jump-started the offense. Rookie Victor Robles leads NL center fielders in outfield assists with 12. Gerardo Parra, Matt Adams, Howie Kendrick, Asdrubal Cabrera, have given Washington one of the deepest benches among playoff contenders.
Washington was able to mount a comeback due to their talent, their inability to quit, and veteran leadership. Now it’s time for this team to win a playoff series and make some serious noise.