The Washington Nationals made history on Tuesday when they swept the St. Louis Cardinals to win the Nationals League Championship Series.
But, how did this Nationals team, which was 19-31 by May 23 and by May 25 had only a 0.1% change of winning the National League pennant, come to be? How long has this historic postseason run been in the works?
How the #Nats were built:— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) October 16, 2019
-Draft: 5 (Rendon, Zim, MAT,
-International: 2 (Robles, Soto)
- FA: 10 (Cabrera, Suzuki, Adams, Dozier, Parra,
Max, Rodney, Corbin, Sanchez, Guerra)
o Trades: 8 (Trea, Eaton, Howie, Gomes, Hudson, Doolittle, Elias, Rainey).
Here's the breakdown of how, and when, each player joined the Nationals' roster.
Max Scherzer, RHP
Scherzer signed with the Nationals as a free agent on Jan. 21, 2015, after seven years in the majors split between the Tigers and Diamondbacks. In Washington he developed into the Nationals' ace, known for his consistency on the mound and his fiery spirit. Despite back injuries from mid-July through late-August, Scherzer notched his seventh consecutive season with over 200 strikeouts, after he finished the 2019 regular season with 243 Ks.
Kurt Suzuki, C
A name not unfamiliar to local fans, Suzuki signed with the Nationals on Nov. 20, 2018, just over six years after his last stint in Washington from August 2012-August 2013. Back with the Nationals, Suzuki made 85 appearances behind the plate and racked up a .324 on-base percentage. His veteran mitt helped the Nationals' young and oft-changing pitching staff.
Patrick Corbin, LHP
Corbin signed with the Nationals as a free agent on Dec. 7, 2018. Before then he spent six years with the Diamondbacks, who acquired him in a trade from the Angels on July 25, 2010. In Washington, Corbin emerged as a vital component of the starting rotation, with 202 innings pitched over 33 starts and a 14-7 record to finish the regular season. Plus, the left-hander tallied over 200 strikeouts and helped the Nationals' pitching staff make history.
Matt Adams, 1B/UT
Adams signed with the Nationals as a free agent on Dec. 18, 2018. He had spent most of the 2018 season in Washington before he was picked up off waivers by St. Louis on August 21. A utility player, Adams mainly played first base for the Nationals in 2019, as Ryan Zimmerman struggled with a foot injury. With 20 home runs and 14 doubles, Adams ended the season slugging .465, though his batting average was .226.
Aníbal Sánchez, RHP
Another free agent, Sánchez signed with Washington on December 27, 2018, after short periods with the Braves, Twins and Tigers. He also had stints in Miami and Boston, after he was signed as an amateur free agent in 2001 by the Red Sox. Sánchez tossed 166 innings over his 30 starts with Washington this season, including 134 strikeouts.
Brian Dozier, INF
Dozier signed with the Nationals as a free agent on Jan. 13, 2019, after almost 10 years in the Twins' organization, and half-a-season with the Dodgers. Aside from his stellar dancing skills, Dozier provided another veteran presence in the locker room, and 20 home runs.
Gerardo Parra, OF
Like Sánchez, Parra signed with Washington in early May, before the turnaround started. Though he didn't see much playing time -- making appearances in only 89 games, many credit Parra's energetic presence in the dugout (and "Baby Shark") with enabling Washington's eventual postseason run. Oh, and he had two grand slams, one on May 11, and one on September 28.
Javy Guerra, RHP
The Nationals selected Guerra off waivers from the Blue Jays on May 20, and the right-hander joined the team shortly before the team turned its season around. Once in Washington, Guerra threw 53 2/3 innings in relief, securing one save and striking out 42.
Washington signed Rodney as a free agent on June 4, 2019, after he was released by Oakland at the end of May. Rodney first entered the league in 2002 with the Tigers, after they signed him as an amateur free agent in 1997. Since then he's played for nine teams, excluding the Nationals. Rodney notched two saves in his 38 relief appearances with Washington this season, though there were some not-so-great moments (like when Charlie Culberson was hit in September).
Asdrúbal Cabrera, INF
After the Texas Rangers released Cabrera in early August 2019, the infielder signed with the Nationals and came to Washington for the second time since he was traded to the Nationals in 2014. The late-season addition played only 38 games, but racked up 40 RBIs and hits, plus a .323 average to help propel the Nationals to their fifth postseason berth.
Joe Ross, RHP
The Padres traded Ross to the Nationals on Dec. 19, 2014. The following year, Ross made his major-league debut in Washington on June 6, and has since been up and down between the majors and minors. A usual starter, Ross took on a role in the bullpen following a rough start to 2019, but was able to lower his ERA to 5.48 by the end of the season and tossed 64 innings for the Nationals, including 57 strikeouts.
Trea Turner, SS
Turner began his time with Washington as a "player to be named later," in the December 2014 trade that brought Joe Ross to D. C. But, since he was officially traded to the Nationals on June 14, 2015, the shortstop has proven his worth, and in 2018 he led the National League in stolen bases (43). This season, Turner's bat proved effective, hitting .298 and slugging .497, his 19 home runs and 57 RBIs in 122 games helped push the Nationals into the postseason.
Adam Eaton, OF
Eaton first joined the Nationals on Dec. 7, 2016, when he was traded from the White Sox (the infamous Lucas Giolito trade). But the outfielder, know as "Spanky" and "Mighty Mouse" put together a solid performance in 2019, with 49 RBIs, 15 home runs, seven triples and 158 hits in 151 games. Oh, and remember when both Eaton and Davey Martinez were ejected in the first inning against the Dodgers back in July? Eaton definitely brings another interesting personality to the team.
Sean Doolittle, RHP
The Nationals' go-to closer, Doolittle was traded with Ryan Madson from Oakland to Washington on July 16, 2017, in exchange for Blake Treinen and two other players. Doolittle was drafted by the Athletics in the first round (41st overall) of the 2007 draft out of the University of Virginia, where he and Ryan Zimmerman were teammates. With Washington, Doolittle notched 29 saves this season in his 60 innings pitched, including a league-leading 55 games finished. He also punched out 66 batters, his fourth consecutive season with at least 60 strikeouts.
Howie Kendrick, 1B/UT
Kendrick was originally traded to Washington from Philadelphia on July 28, 2017, though he then signed with the Nationals again in January 2018 after he was granted free agency. Kendrick played all around the infield this season, anything to get his bat in the lineup, as he finished hitting .344 with 62 RBIs and a .572 slugging. Another veteran on the Nationals' roster, Kendrick's power at the plate continued in the postseason as he was named NLCS MVP.
Yan Gomes, C
On Nov. 30, 2018, the Cleveland Indians traded Gomes to Washington. The Nationals, who had just signed Suzuki, needed additional depth behind the plate. And Gomes brought that depth. In his 97 games this season Gomes boasted a 31% caught-stealing percentage and a 1.000 fielding percentage. Plus, Gomes produced 43 RBIs and 12 homers for Washington.
Rainey was traded to the Nationals by the Reds on Dec. 12, 2018, in exchange for Tanner Roark. Only his second season in the major leagues, Rainey made 52 bullpen appearances and struck out 74 batters in 48 1/3 innings.
Hunter Strickland, RHP
A trade deadline acquisition, Strickland and fellow reliever Roenis Elias came to Washington from Seattle on July 31. Known at first to DC fans for his feud with Bryce Harper, Strickland became one of the Nationals' go-to late-inning relievers, finishing the season with 15 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched and two wins.
Roenis Elias, LHP
Elias was one of the late additions to the Nationals' roster, after he and Strickland were traded to Washington from Seattle at the July 31 trade deadline. Since joining the roster, Elias made only four appearances for 3 innings pitched.
Daniel Hudson, RHP
Also traded to the Nationals on the July 31 trade deadline, Hudson came to Washington from Toronto. The veteran reliever tossed a 1.44 ERA in his 25 innings this season, including six saves and 23 strikeouts, cementing a role for himself heading into the postseason.
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
One of the Nationals' franchise players in D.C., Zimmerman was the first player drafted after the team moved to Washington, chosen with the fourth overall pick on June 7, 2005. He made his major-league debut mere months later, on September 1. This season, Zimmerman struggled with plantar fasciitis in his right foot and only played in 52 games, batting .257 and tallying 27 RBIs.
Stephen Strasburg, RHP
One of the Nationals' franchise players, Strasburg was drafted with the first overall pick of the 2009 draft by Washington. He made his MLB debut a year, on June 8, 2010, when he put up 14 strikeouts in 7 innings pitched and picked up the win. This season Strasburg continued his domination on the mound, with a league-leading 18 wins and 209 innings pitched. He struck out 251 in those 33 starts.
Michael A Taylor, OF
Washington also drafted Taylor in 2009, in the sixth round. Five years later, the outfielder made his debut on Aug. 12, 2014. Taylor spent the summer in the minors this year, and played only 53 games with Washington, finishing with a .250 batting average.
Aaron Barrett, RHP
The ultimate comeback story, Barrett returned to the Nationals this season for the first time since 2015. Drafted in the ninth round on June 8, 2010, Barrett made his MLB debut on March 31, 2014. But, embattled with injuries, Barrett remained in the minors until his late-season return to Washington on Sept. 4, 2019. The reliever made only three appearances over 2 1/3 innings, but the return marked the start of the rest of his career.
Anthony Rendon, 3B
Another homegrown National, Rendon was drafted on June 6, 2011, with the sixth overall pick out of Baylor University. Two years later he made his major-league debut on April 21, and has since developed into Washington's star third baseman. In 2019, amidst contract negotiations, Rendon led the league in doubles for the second consecutive year (44) and in RBIs (126). He finished the season batting .319 and slugging .589.
Austin Voth, RHP
Voth was drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 draft. After spending just over five years working through the minor-league system, he made his debut in the big leagues on July 14, 2018, though he only played four games with the Nationals that season. This year, Voth made eight starts and one relief appearance, tallying 44 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings.
Wander Suero, RHP
Washington initially signed Suero as an amateur free agent on Feb. 2, 2010. Just over eight years later, the reliever made his debut on May 1, 2018. He threw 47 2/3 innings of relief that season, then returned in 2019 to cement a more steady role in the bullpen. Though he lacked consistency at times, he finished with 81 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings and a 6-9 record, plus one save.
Victor Robles, OF
Robles signed with the Nationals as an amateur free agent in July 2013 and made his MLB debut four years later on Sept. 7, 2017. After 52 games with Washington that season, he spent the beginning of 2018 in the minors working back from injury, before rejoining the majors. Robles played in 155 games this season, however, with 17 home runs and 28 stolen bases. The outfielder also recorded some impressive catches, like the one that helped clinch the Nationals' Wild Card berth.
Juan Soto, OF
The Nationals' rookie phenom, Soto signed as an amateur free agent on July 2, 2015. Almost three years later he made his major-league debut on May 20, 2018. His performance in 2018 was enough to be named runner-up in the NL Rookie of the Year contest. This season, Soto continued his success, batting .282 with 34 home runs, 110 RBIs and a .401 on-base percentage.
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