The amazing run of the Washington Nationals in 2019 is made even more amazing when one looks back at the state of the standings May 23. The Nats trailed the Brewers by 9 1/2 games for a National League wild card spot and the Marlins, winners of six in a row, had crept with 1 1/2 games of their 19-31 record.
But with persistence, belief and a slow return of their starting lineup to full health, the Nats turned their season around and found a way to grab the top wild card spot for home field advantage over the Brewers.
Also stunning was how the Nats found a way to work around injuries and start to play good baseball again, culminating in an unforgettable Game 7 comeback Wednesday night in Houston in the World Series.
During the regular season, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman missed 90 games with heel and foot injuries. Shortstop Trea Turner could not play for 39 games after breaking his finger in the first week of the season. Infielder Howie Kendrick missed 14 games with a hamstring injury. Max Scherzer was away for 12 games with a back injury. Sean Doolittle was out with a foot problem for 12 games. Anthony Rendon got hit by a pitch in Miami in April and his injured elbow forced him to miss 10 games.
Manager Davey Martinez had to step away from the club late in the regular season with a heart issue. Bench coach Chip Hale managed the club for a few games.
Then in the postseason, Victor Robles tweaked his hamstring against the Dodgers in Game 2 of the National League Division Series and had to miss a few games. Michael A. Taylor subbed in to hit .333 (7-for-21) with two homers and two RBIs. Closer Daniel Hudson missed the first game of the National League Championship Series in St. Louis as he welcomed a new baby girl into the world back at his home in Phoenix. Catcher Kurt Suzuki dealt with elbow and a hip flexor issues that forced him to miss starts.
And, of course, Scherzer was scratched from his Game 5 start of the World Series, only to triumphantly return to start Game 7 in Houston and find a way to get through five innings.
“Hey, Max is a bulldog,” Martinez told reporters. “We saw him earlier. His location wasn’t as crisp as he wanted it to be. He fought through some unbelievable innings and he kept us in the ballgame. That’s all we can ask from Max.
“He had 102 pitches. He said, ‘Hey, I’ll give you another inning if you need me.’ I said, ‘Max, you did a great job, you kept us in the ballgame. We’ll get this, we’ll figure it out. We’re going to win this game.’ But what a fantastic job he did.”
All of these substitutions came together to lift the Nats to an improbable world championship and was a testament to general manager Mike Rizzo’s ability to find and procure talent.
It all comes back to 25 to 40 players who were on the Nats roster at the time of necessity, each playing a part in this improbable title run. Martinez’s and Rizzo’s roster and starting decisions are an incredible part of why this team was able to win the trophy in the end.