Nats advance to first NLCS in franchise history

Brian Tinsman
October 10, 2019 - 1:42 am
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After catching the clinching 30th out of the 10-inning NLDS Game 5, Michael A. Taylor paused, smiled, and took the ball out of his glove, almost as if to say, “OK. Now what?”

It would be a fair question to ask for a franchise that had never advanced beyond Game 5 of the NLDS, where prior Nats teams have lost every time.

What’s next is uncharted territory: the National League Championship Series.

Moments later, Taylor was mobbed by teammates, as the bullpen and dugout cleared on the field. Most Dodgers fans had already headed for the exits, but the Nationals were happy to celebrate alone.

After all, they were never supposed to be there in the first place.

Never forget that this team was 19-31 in the first 50 games of the season, one of the worst teams in baseball. Since then, they’ve been one of the best, right through Wednesday when they knocked the winningest regular-season team out of the playoffs.

To do so, they had to wear down starter Walker Buehler, who kept them in check through the first 6.2 innings, lowering his postseason ERA to 0.71. They then jumped all over Clayton Kershaw, one of the best regular-season pitchers of all-time, but a guy who continues to choke in the playoffs.

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The Nationals needed their most reliable hitters, with game-tying home runs from Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. They needed redemption stories from Patrick Corbin and Howie Kendrick, who ultimately put the game away for the good guys. 

And now, they get to try something completely new: a chance at the NL pennant.

The series begins on the road, again, as they will travel to St. Louis for a brawl with the Cardinals starting tomorrow. They won’t return to the friendly confines of D.C. until Game 3, which is scheduled for Monday.

So far, the Nats are 2-1 on the road this postseason and 2-1 at home, for whatever that’s worth. After recovering a lost season, the Nats have nothing to lose going into the next round.

Brian Tinsman has covered D.C. sports since 2011, both from the team marketing and skeptical fan perspectives. Tweet your criticisms @Brian_Tinsman.