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

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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.

Bryce Harper played some third base in an intrasquad game

Bryce Harper third base
Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper played some third base during Monday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Harper had been pestering manager Joe Girardi for the opportunity and the skipper finally gave in.

Girardi told Harper, “No diving. And make sure your arm is loose.” Harper had the opportunity to field one ball, a grounder to his left and he made the play perfectly.

Why put Harper at third base? Girardi said, “I think it’s important the guys have fun. I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, ‘You look good there.'”

Despite the solid showing, don’t expect Harper to show up at third base in a meaningful game anytime soon. That being said, the Phillies’ second and third base situations are still not cemented. Jean Segura will likely open the season at the hot corner with Scott Kingery at second, but things could change between now and Opening Day in 10 days.

Harper, 27, is coming off a solid first season with the Phillies. He hit .260/.372/.510 with 36 doubles, 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 682 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, Harper’s 4.6 Wins Above Replacement ranked 16th in the National League. For some people, those numbers weren’t nearly good enough, so the expectations remain high as Harper enters year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract.