As Joe Buck has told us around a billion times over the seven-game series against the Houston Astros, the Nationals were the underdogs at every turn last season. Down 12 games under .500? Check. Lose your franchise superstar? Check. Defeat the powerhouse Brewers in the one-game Wild Card playoff? Check. Take the Dodgers, the best team in the National League, to 5 games and win the damn thing late in Game 5? Check.
The 2019 Washington Nationals were born into the darkness, and then they made history, winning the first World Series the nation’s capital has ever seen. And there are a lot of people to thank for that.
Howie Kendrick wasn’t supposed to be a big part of this Nationals team. The 37-year-old utilityman had a great career, and signed a 1-year, $4 million dollar deal with the Nats, primarily to provide bench depth. What Kendrick brought to the table was consistency and pop, something the Nationals needed, especially in October.
Ahead of the 2019 postseason, Kendrick only had 22 hits in his previous 105 postseason at-bats, bringing in a total of 6 RBIs. In the 2019 postseason, Kendrick went 18-for-63, bringing in 12 RBIs. Of those 18 hits and 12 RBIs, two big swings came at the perfect time for Washington.
The Nationals, who looked outmatched in every category against the Dodgers, took the NLDS to the maximum five games. They then shocked the world. In the 11th inning of Game 5, with the bases loaded, Kendrick parked a Joe Kelly pitch to dead center.
The extra innings Grand Slam would give the Nationals a lead they wouldn’t give up.
In another elimination game, this one in the World Series, Kendrick came to the plate with the Nats down 2-1 in the 7th inning. Facing off against Will Harris, who was almost unwavering up until he surrendered a late-game home run to Anthony Rendon, which helped the Nats get to Game 7. Harris would then experience some crazy deja vu at the hands of Kendrick.
Howie Kendrick’s bat sent two teams home this postseason and the fact that he’s back with the Nationals for 2020, is excellent for both parties.
I’d go into a long diatribe about how Juan Soto is insane, but I’ll let Foolish Baseball do that for me. The kid is insane, and will only get better with age.
The Nationals made a splash in the lead up to the 2019 season by signing Patrick Corbin to a big deal. Corbin was the perfect addition of a rotation that boasted a resurgent Stephen Strasburg and an always dominant Max Scherzer. This three-headed dragon of a rotation would be a godsend for any other team, but for the Nationals, it was another reason for their run towards October.
And then there’s the bullpen.
The Nationals bullpen was the most stressful, atrocious, and completely disorganized mess on the National League. They might have sured that up in 2020, but it’ll remain to be seen if they can change their ways.
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It's Week 3... and the computer didn't pick Chris Herndon this time