HOUSTON (AP) — What a comeback for the Washington Nationals. The team that was 12 games under .500 before the end of May is now the World Series champion.
The Nationals beat the Houston Astros 6-2 on Wednesday night, when they were down 2-0 after six innings. It was Washington’s fifth comeback win in a potential elimination game this postseason — four was already a major league record for a single postseason.
They had to win the NL wild card game, then went the full five games in the NL Division Series before beating the Los Angeles Dodgers on the road in extra innings to advance. They swept St. Louis in the NL Championship Series.
Anthony Rendon homered in the last three games when the Nationals were facing elimination, becoming the first player ever to homer in three consecutive elimination games.
Howie Kendrick put Washington ahead to stay with his two-run homer in the seventh, two batters after Rendon went deep.
Kendrick is the first player with multiple go-ahead homers in the seventh inning or later of winner-take-all games in a single postseason. His grand slam in the 10th inning won Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers.
PLAY LOUD AND RESPECTFUL
Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch is all for letting the young kids play — and play loud. He also wants them to respect the game.
Alex Bregman, the Astros third baseman who is one of the young stars MLB has highlighted in its ad campaigns trying to reach younger fans, carried his bat past first base after hitting a home run in the first inning of Game 6 of the World Series.
“I think we should always encourage players to show personality and be as open with the fans and drive the sport,” Hinch said before Game 7 on Wednesday. “So many good stories in these clubhouses, so many good people and players to celebrate, to a point, then it crosses a line where it was probably unnecessary to go that far.”
When Juan Soto homered later in that game, the Washington Nationals left fielder who turned 21 during this Fall Classic mimicked Bregman with a similar action.
“When it gets to the competition on the field, I fear a little bit of it goes too far,” Hinch said. “And I’m actually OK with Soto thinking that it was funny. I think that’s part of these personalities that you have to individualize within our sport if you want to celebrate the youthfulness that comes with it.”
First baseman Ryan Zimmerman has been in the majors for 15 seasons, all as the only player to be part of the Nationals for each season they have played. He believes the most important thing is that baseball is in good hands with the young talent.
“Things like that 10 years ago would have never happened. And I’m not here to say it’s good or bad,” Zimmerman said. “The game has definitely gotten younger. I personally don’t think there’s a place in the game for that stuff. But I’m not the person that makes all the rules. There’s different thoughts nowadays.”
Bregman spoke to Hinch three times Tuesday night about the move, and the 25-year-old third baseman apologized publicly after the game, saying he let his emotions get the best of him.
Hinch said he would never want to see baseball try to eliminate any of the celebrations or bat flips. He said the exuberant celebrations like the handshakes, hugs and dancing in the dugout are fun for the younger fans that baseball is trying to attract.
“I want our fans to know our players and the personalities that come with it within the realm of sportsmanship,” Hinch said.
When Nationals manager Dave Martinez was having an animated conversation with umpires that led to his ejection in Game 6, he heard a fan screaming at him from above the dugout.
“Davey, your heart. Remember your heart,” the manager recalled with a laugh before Game 7.
The 55-year-old Martinez had a heart procedure in mid-September after feeling tightness in his chest during a game.
Martinez said one of his doctors checked on him in the training room after he got ejected and asked him if he was OK.
“I just asked him, ‘Do I look OK?’ Yeah,” Martinez said. “So yeah, they were all worried.”
The Washington Nationals and Houston Astros have reached the end of a long season that began at the spring training complex they share in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Game 7 of the World Series was the 210th game this year for the Astros, including 30 exhibition games during the spring, the 162-game regular season and 18 postseason games.
Washington played 208 games, with 29 in the spring and 17 games this postseason, including the NL wild card game and a four-game sweep in the NL Championship Series.