Nationals complete total playoff upset, defeat Astros to win first championship in franchise history


The Nationals’ improbable run through the playoffs ended in glory on Wednesday night in Houston as they rallied late to defeat the Astros 6-2 in Game 7 of the World Series. It’s their first championship in franchise history.

Things weren’t looking so hot for the Nationals early on as starter Max Scherzer battled just to get through five innings. He surrendered a solo homer to Yuli Gurriel in the second. Carlos Correa came through with an RBI single in the fifth. Despite allowing a surfeit of base runners (seven hits and four walks) and a deficit of strikeouts (only three), those would be the only runs Scherzer would allow.

Astros starter Zack Greinke was brilliant, tossing six shutout innings. He came back out to the mound in the seventh and that’s when things began to unravel. Anthony Rendon got the Nationals on the board by pulling a line drive homer to the seats in left field. Greinke then walked Juan Soto, ending what was otherwise an outstanding performance. Will Harris entered to try and keep the Astros’ lead in tact. Howie Kendrick had other ideas. With an 0-1 count, Kendrick swatted a Harris cutter down the right field line, clanking off the right field foul pole. Suddenly, the Nationals had a 3-2 lead.

The Nationals kept their foot on the gas. Asdrúbal Cabrera singled to chase Harris from the game. Enter Roberto Osuna. He walked Ryan Zimmerman but was able to escape the inning without any further damage. Osuna remained in the game in the top of the eighth. He issued a one-out walk to Adam Eaton, who promptly stole second base. After Rendon flied out for the second out, Juan Soto provided a monumental insurance run by ripping a single to right field. Kendrick followed up with a single to put runners on the corners. Hinch called on Ryan Pressly, who got Cabrera to line out but the damage was done.

Patrick Corbin, who entered the game in the sixth inning once Scherzer’s night was done, pitched a relatively easy sixth and seventh inning. Manager Dave Martinez sent him back out to the mound to pitch a third inning in the bottom of the eighth. It was his easiest of the three innings, retiring the Astros in 1-2-3 order. His performance will not be talked about as much as those of Scherzer, Kendrick, Rendon, and Soto, but it took all kinds of pressure off of Martinez to manage his bullpen and prevented the Astros from gaining any kind of momentum towards a comeback.

The Nationals deflated all of the air out of the Astros’ balloon in the top of the ninth, plating two runs on a bases loaded Eaton single just for good measure. With Corbin having done his job, Daniel Hudson took the ball to start the bottom of the ninth, slated to face the top of the lineup. George Springer popped out for out number one. José Altuve struck out. Hudson ended it by getting Michael Brantley to chase a 3-2 slider for strike three. Nationals win 6-2.

Thus, one of the most improbable playoff runs of all time ended with the Nationals rushing onto the field in a rush to celebrate the franchise’s first championship. We will be talking about this run for a long time.

Rays’ Erik Neander named Executive of the Year

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At the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona on Monday, Rays GM Erik Neander was named the recipient of Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year Award for the 2019 season. The Yankees’ Brian Cashman was the runner-up while the Athletics’ Billy Beane and the Twins’ Derek Falvey tied for third place.

Neander has worked for the Rays since 2017 but has operated in his current role since November 2016, taking over for Matthew Silverman who was promoted to president of the Rays alongside Brian Auld.

The Rays had, by far, the lowest payroll in baseball at $53.5 million, according to USA TODAY. Neander’s peers voting him Executive of the Year on the same today the league had to curtail its awarding of a prize belt to the team that suppressed salaries the most in arbitration is… certainly interesting timing.

At any rate, Neander’s Rays went 96-66 in 2019, finishing in second place in the AL East behind the 103-59 Yankees. The Rays claimed the second AL Wild Card and defeated the A’s to earn entry into the ALDS where they lost in five games to the Astros. It was the Rays’ first playoff appearance since 2013 and their regular season win total was second-most in franchise history behind the 2008 team (97).