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World Series May Be in the Cards for the Nats

October 15, 2019

Hugh Atkins

The Washington Nationals are up 3-0 on the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series with a chance to close out the series in Washington, D.C. Barring a total collapse, the Nationals will make their first ever appearance in the World Series. Not only that, but if the Nats manage to eliminate the Cardinals, then the Fall Classic will return to the nation’s capital the for first time since 1933.

The road back to Washington, D.C. for the World Series has been a circuitous one. The Washington Senators won the American League pennant in 1933 and lost the World Series to the New York Giants in five games. The Senators then went on a run of futility that produced only three winning seasons over the next 27 years. After the 1960 season, the Senators moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul and became the Minnesota Twins. But expansion created a new version of the Senators in 1961.

The Senators who headed to the North Star State actually had some good young players. Harmon Killebrew was an established slugger, having led the AL in home runs with 42 in 1959, and a young Jim Kaat was about to become the ace of their pitching staff. The Twins made it to the World Series in 1965 and won the AL Western Division title in the first two seasons of divisional play. The Twins won the World Series in 1987 and 1991, so the original Washington Senators franchise experienced some postseason success after 1933.

© T.C.G.

The new version of the Senators lasted 11 seasons and had only one winning campaign, which they achieved in 1969; that was the first season Ted Williams served as manager. Frank Howard was their biggest star, and his power earned him one of the best nicknames in sports history–the Capital Punisher. The Senators moved to Arlington and became the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season. The Rangers finally made it to the World Series in 2010, but lost in five games to the San Francisco Giants. Texas was back the following season and were one strike away from a win over St. Louis in six games, but the Cardinals came back to win that game and also Game 7.

After 33 years without a team, baseball returned to Washington, DC., this time to the NL, when the Montreal Expos became the Nationals. The closest the Expos came to getting to the World Series was in the strike-interrupted season of 1981. A home run by Rick Monday of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the top of the ninth inning of Game 5 denied the Expos a trip to the Fall Classic.

The Expos were leading the NL East by six games on August 12, 1994 when the players went on strike, and MLB cancelled the postseason. The Expos never seemed to recover from the strike and drew fewer than 750K fans to Olympic Stadium in their final season.

The Nationals had some lean seasons after arriving in D.C., but have made the postseason five times in the last eight seasons; this is the first time they have advanced past the National League Division Series. The Nationals have a decent lineup and, as the Cardinals have discovered, a fine pitching staff.

If the Nationals can polish off St. Louis, a rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Anibal Sanchez will make them a tough foe for either the New York Yankees or Houston Astros. And the first World Series in the nation’s capital since the days of the Great Depression just might go the way of the Washington Nationals.

(All game details are from Baseball Reference.)

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