Sport Nationals ride unique blend of experience, youth to World Series
The year-long trolling of Bryce Harper by Nationals fans continues in NLCS
This Washington Nationals fan would like to remind former star outfielder Bryce Harper of which team is still playing baseball right now.All the while, former Nationals star Bryce Harper saw his Philadelphia Phillies miss the playoffs altogether. It’s led to Nationals fans trolling their former franchise cornerstone at nearly every turn.
WASHINGTON — Somewhere along the way to the franchise’s first World Series berth in its 50 years of existence, the Washington Nationals found their identity.
It wasn’t as a team that revolved around a manager or a player, but as a concept. Their twin mottos of “Go 1-0 today” and “Stay in the fight” gave them the motivation to rebound from a 19-31 start. Thegave them character.
In the end, the 2019 Nationals used the pressure of not making the playoffs for a second consecutive season to inspire their run. And it made this season unlike any of the previous ones when postseason expectations led to disappointment.
Nationals: Why World Series-bound team uses 'Baby Shark' as anthem
The popular children's song, 'Baby Shark,' has become a rallying cry of sorts for Nationals and fans this season thanks to outfielder Gerardo Parra."Baby Shark," the popular children's song that miraculously cracked the Billboard Hot 100 chart earlier this year, has become a rallying cry of sorts for the Nationals and their fans this season after reserve outfielder Gerardo Parra began using it as his walkup song in mid-June.
The oldest roster in the major leagues (average age 31.1) took pride in being able to battle and defeat teams that had enjoyed more regular-season and postseason success. It was no accident.
The oldest teams in MLB, by average age:
1. Nationals (31.1) - Made WS
2. Yankees (30.0) - ALCS
3. Braves (29.7) - Won NL East
4. Astros (29.4) - ALCS
5. Dodgers (29.0) - 106 wins
6. Cards (28.8) - Won NL Central
But yeah, aim for those cheap young guys. Right, savvy MLB execs?— Matt Weyrich (@MattWeyrichFBB)
The veterans on the roster – first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (35), starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez (both 35), second baseman Howie Kendrick (36) and catcher Kurt Suzuki (36) – all played important roles down the stretch, something manager Dave Martinez acknowledged before even taking the first question from the media after his team just completed a.
'It's a joke': Astros livid about cheating accusations in ALCS vs. Yankees
In the midst of a hard-fought ALCS against the Yankees, the Astros are facing accusations of cheating to get an advantage.There were several stories written in New York media outlets that said the Yankees were angry with whistling coming from the Astros dugout, while also banging pipes in Game 1 of the ALCS, believing they were spying on the Yankees or picking up pitches on TV monitors.
“Don't ever call those guys old,” Martinez said. “They're really young in my heart and my eyes. They're playing like they're 22, 23.”
The veterans saw their age as an asset, not a liability.
“It just seems like everybody wants younger and younger players. Everybody wants to forget about all the old guys,” Scherzer said. “We see it in free agency. We’re not dumb.
“The fact that we’re the oldest team and we went out and won the National League pennant just shows you that we bring a lot of value to clubhouses.”
Even though he only takes the field every fifth day, Scherzer may be the closest the team has to a leader. He famously pitched in June despite a broken nose he suffered trying to bunt in batting practice.
“It’s one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in a while,” second baseman Brian Dozier said at the time. “That’s why you put him in the category of one of the best if not the best in the game.”
Harper happy for Nationals: 'Jealousy isn't good'
Bryce Harper has no regrets about leaving the Washington Nationals in free agency last offseason - even though his former team is now playing for a championship for the first time since 1933. © Will Newton / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Philadelphia Phillies outfielder spent seven memorable years with the Nationals before signing a 13-year, $330-million deal to join their National League East rivals. The polarizing superstar told Jayson Stark of The Athletic he wasn't fazed seeing his ex-teammates make it to the World Series. "No," Harper said when asked if he was envious of Washington's success.
Zimmerman, the Nationals’ first-ever draft pick in 2005, has been part of all the franchise’s highs and lows. Though he played in just 52 games during the regular season (hitting .257 with six home runs and 27 RBI), he’s been a force in the postseason.
Playing in all but one of the Nats’ 10 playoff games, Zimmerman has hit .290 with a huge three-run homer in Game 4 of the NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“He’s the classiest big leaguer I’ve ever been around,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said of Zimmerman. “He’s been through some trials and tribulations … but you see when he’s a healthy player, he’s a pretty damn good one still.”
While the veterans have set the tone in the Nationals clubhouse, they’ve also set the example for the team’s younger players to follow.
“I think the mixture of people that we do have is what makes us so good,” said Kendrick, the NLCS MVP. “The chemistry that we do have, we understand each other.”
The Nationals have relied on that pitching staff, specifically their starting pitchers, to get to this point. In the NLCS, Sanchez, Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg didn’t give up a single earned run in 21 2/3 innings.
Three takeaways from Nationals' Game 2 World Series win over the Astros
The Nationals head home to D.C. up 2-0 in the World Series after their 12-3 win over the Astros in Game 2.The first inning saw both teams plate two runs each as Houston's Justin Verlander and Washington's Stephen Strasburg faltered slightly very early in the game. After that, it was the pitchers' duel many expected for the next several innings.
“It’s great, but it’s not just the starting pitchers, it’s everybody. Everybody has a hand in this,” Scherzer said. “You can give starting pitchers credit, but it’s also been the offense, defense, baserunning. We’re clicking and firing on all cylinders and that’s what makes it so much fun.”
What wasn’t fun was missing the playoffs last season. And bowing out early in previous years. After winning four division titles in six years from 2012 to 2017, the Nationals needed to earn a wild-card berth just to make the playoffs this year.
But being the underdog for a change served as a rallying cry. In both the wild-card game and the Division Series, the Nats had to come from behind to win.
As the players and coaches were popping champagne bottles and guzzling beer out of the National League championship trophy, no one noticed the absence of a player who occupied one of the large lockers on the left-hand side of the clubhouse for the previous seven seasons.
Bryce Harper never got to experience this kind of celebration during his tenure in Washington. Though it’s unfair to say his leaving as a free agent over the winter and signing with the division-rival Philadelphia Phillies was a factor in the Nationals getting over the hump, it’s also fair to wonder what kind of an impact it did have.
Astros' Verlander 1st pitcher to go 0-5 in World Series
HOUSTON (AP) — All of Justin Verlander's illustrious accomplishments mean little right now. Not those 225 wins, not the 3,006 regular season strikeouts, not the record 202 postseason Ks. Not the eight All-Star selections, not the 2011 Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player prize. Verlander dropped to 0-5 in World Series games Wednesday night as the Washington Nationals pounded the Houston Astros 12-3 for a 2-0 series lead. That skid on baseball's biggest stage is dragging the right-hander's reputation down like ballast sinking a ship to the bottom of the sea.Never before has a pitcher lost his first five World Series decisions.
Anthony Rendon stepped forward and became an MVP candidate at age 29. Left fielder Juan Soto blossomed into a full-fledged star in his first full season in the majors. Adam Eaton and Victor Robles each played over 150 games at the other two outfield spots.
And a large chunk of the money the Nationals didn’t spend re-signing Harper instead went toward a six-year, $140 million contract for free-agent left-hander Patrick Corbin, who was the winning pitcher in Monday’s NLCS clincher over the St. Louis Cardinals.
“The roster that Rizzo and the front office put together, it’s just next man up,” shortstop Trea Turner said – just before dismissing any mention of Harper in a follow-up question about this season’s clubhouse chemistry.
“We’ve been good every year, man. … Every year we’ve had a great team,” Turner said. “It’s hard as heck to get here where we’re at. Every roster is different and I’m just proud of these guys.”
As they await the identity of their next opponent when the World Series begins next Tuesday, the Nationals are ready to continue their one pursuit of a title.
“We've had a long season,” Martinez said. “What I believe in is it takes more than one person to win the championship, and that's been the message since spring training. Everybody's got to participate.”
As the music blared, the shouting echoed and the dancing continued, it was clear Martinez’s message had been received. Loud and clear.
The Nationals had found their identity: National League champions.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
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