This was the day it all came to an end, the last day of a rough streak for the Nationals. From this date onward, the Nats turned it around. One year ago today.
Following a 19-31 start in 2019, the Nats went 86-43 the rest of the way. That is right, the Nats played .667 baseball from May 24 to Oct. 30 in coming away with their first World Series title.
Up to May 23, 2019, they posted a record of 19-31, the second-worst in the National League at the time, third worst in all of baseball.
The Nats then went 74-38 (.661) from May 24 until the end of the regular season, 12-5 in the playoffs, including a 4-3 World Series win over the Houston Astros.
On May 23, 2019, the Mets won the last game of a series with the Nationals before the Nats turned it all around.
Carlos Gómez turned on a Wander Suero fastball and drilled it for a three-run shot with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, erasing a 4-3 deficit and putting the Mets ahead to stay, 6-4. The Mets won three games in that series in their last at-bat, first time they had done that since 2013.
But the Nationals put up a fight late, rallying themselves in that May 23 game. Down 3-1, the Nats scored three runs in the top of the eighth, thanks to a Yan Gomes RBI double and a two-run single from Gerardo Parra. Stephen Strasburg had gone seven innings, allowing three runs, just two earned, on five hits. Suero had struck out the first two batters he faced in that turnaround bottom of the eighth before the Mets rallied to win the game.
This game got emotional for the Nats in more ways than one. A strikeout and outburst in the eighth signaled how much pressure the players and manager were under during this difficult stretch.
In the top of the eighth, first Howie Kendrick and then manager Davey Martinez were ejected for arguing with home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman. Kendrick had struck out swinging, but the Nats took issue with Dreckman’s strike call on Robert Gsellman’s first sinker of the at-bat.
The ejections preceded the Nats’ rally. And the Mets’ rally too.
The Nats headed home after getting swept in four games by the Mets. But then the Nationals turned around their season.
Washington won five of their final seven games in May and went 18-8 in June. They started their run with a comeback of their own, 12-10 over the Marlins. The Nats won three of those four games. Then they flew to Atlanta and beat the Braves twice, including a 14-4 game in which Aníbal Sánchez allowed one run in six innings.
After a visit to Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati in which they won two of three against the Reds, the Nats were in the midst of a run when they did not lose a series again until June 23.
Starter Max Scherzer, after beating the Reds 4-1 in early June, commented on the state of the team after a rough start and a recent resurgence.
“I don’t want to get caught up in results of wins and losses. I just think we are playing better baseball,” Scherzer said. “We are not making dumb mistakes. That’s really been the thing that I think, as a whole, we’ve been doing and that’s been costing us ballgames. I just think we are playing much better team baseball overall.
“When we can play team baseball, the results will take care of themselves. If we just focus on playing good baseball, we know we have the talent to play with anybody in this league, and that’s what’s happening.”
On June 2 in Cincinnati after the Nats took that series from the Reds, manager Davey Martinez expressed admiration for the team approach at the plate, citing it as one reason his team had found its groove.
“I think what I’m seeing now is the way we are winning games by doing all the little things we talk about,” Martinez said. “Staying up the middle of the field, two-strike hitting, all those things. Driving in runs from third base less than two outs. If we keep doing that we are going to win a lot of games. I know that. Our starting pitching is good. Our defense has been playing better. We just got to keep it going right now.”
The Nats went 15-10 in July, 19-7 in August, 17-11 in September and, of course, 12-5 in October. But May 23 was the last day of their first 50 games. And after that, they got it going.
As late as May 25, 2019, the Nats were 10 games back of the Phillies in the National League East. More amazing still, fast forward to Sept. 7, 2019, the Nats fell 10 games back in the division standings to Atlanta after three tough losses at SunTrust Park. But again, the Nats rallied, winning 15 of their final 21 games and securing one of the two NL wild card positions.
Oh, and against Milwaukee, the Nats were down 3-1 in the eighth...
Just incredible stuff.