It was a long time coming, but these Nationals earned it with relentless grit and determination.
Howie Kendrick and Anthony Rendon homered in the seventh inning as Washington overcame a two-run deficit and rocked the Houston Astros 6-2 in Wednesday night’s Game 7 of the World Series to lay claim to the first title in franchise history.
With all eyes on University of Missouri product Max Scherzer and his remarkable recovery after a painkilling injection, the Nationals embraced their shot in a Series when the road team won every game. Even more remarkable: Washington rallied from behind to win five elimination games this postseason.
Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and the Nats brought the first World Series championship to the nation’s capital since Walter Johnson delivered the crown for the Senators in 1924.
Former No. 1 draft pick Strasburg earned the World Series MVP award and the shiny Chevy Corvette that came with it — in a perfect hue of Nationals red, no less — for beating the Astros twice as this Series went the distance.
“It’s just surreal, and to be able to do it with this group of guys is something,” Straburg said, his family, including his kids, standing by his side on the field at Minute Maid Park.
Scherzer pitched five innings Wednesday night and labored most of the way. He allowed seven hits and two runs — on a homer by Yuri Gurriel and RBI single by Carlos Correa — before exiting having thrown 103 pitches. He walked four and struck out three.
But it was a gutsy performance for Scherzer considering the three-time Cy Young Award-winner’s health — he’d been scratched from his scheduled Game 5 start due to neck and back spasms. And the damage inflicted by Houston (107-55) could’ve been far worse: The Astros left 10 men on base.
Down 2-0 in the seventh, Washington (93-69) started to roar back on a solo homer from Anthony Rendon and a go-ahead two-run shot by Howie Kendrick off Houston starter Zack Greinke.
The Nationals added another run in the eighth off Houston reliever Roberto Osuna, and Adam Eaton drove home the dagger and accounted for the final score in the ninth with a two-run single to center.
The Nationals’ season, and postseason, was a run for the ages. The were 19-31 in May, leading to speculation that manager Dave Martinez would be fired. But just as they did Wednesday night and throughout this Series, they slowly clawed their way back into contention.
History will show that Washington won four road games to defeat Houston. And the Nationals did it without their former star, Bryce Harper, who signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in the offseason.
Scherzer summed up the game, and might as well have been talking about the entire season, with reporter Ken Rosenthal as teammates dog-piled around him.
“We took it all the way, and we won the whole thing!” he said.
The Astros also showed plenty of fight of their own this postseason, pushing the Series to a seventh and deciding game after trailing two games to none. But they’re left with what-ifs after manager A.J. Hinch decided to pull Greinke, the former Kansas City Royals ace and 2009 AL Cy Young winner, in the seventh.
Greinke had been cruising, but Hinch had seen enough after Rendon’s solo homer and a subsequent walk to 21-year-old Juan Soto. In came reliever Will Harris ... and out went another ball, this time off the bat of Kendrick. Harris took the loss.
“We asked him to do more today than he had done and pitch deeper into the game more than he had done in the entire month of October,” Hinch said of Greinke. “I wanted to take him out a bat or two early rather than a bat or two late.”
Perhaps so, but some will forever wonder why Hinch didn’t turn to Gerrit Cole, the Game 5 winner and a Cy Young contender, instead of Harris. Cole was never used in the game and Houston fans would soon be filing out of their home park as a small but vocal throng of Nats faithful stayed to rejoice as Wednesday turned into Thursday.
“It’s a decision I’ll have to live with,” Hinch said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.