It’s been one year since the Nationals made their first in a series of clinches that culminated in the franchise’s first World Series title and the first for D.C. since 1924. Other moments like Howie Kendrick’s foul pole home run or Juan Soto’s go-ahead single in the Wild Card Game might stand out more in the memories of fans, but none of that would’ve been possible if the Nationals didn’t turn things around.
Washington got off to a 19-31 start to the 2019 campaign, experiencing a slew of injuries that left the Nationals with the fifth-worst record in baseball heading into play May 24. Yet, there they were exactly four months later, sweeping the Phillies in a doubleheader and watching the Pirates finish off the Cubs on the Nationals Park jumbotron to clinch a spot in the NL Wild Card Game.
It was that September night when the Nationals really let themselves loose. Aníbal Sánchez led a conga line across the clubhouse. Anthony Rendon chugged a beer to the chants of “M-V-P” from his teammates. “Baby Shark” was blaring from the speakers. A shirtless Brian Dozier introduced Nationals fans to “Calma” as he sang his own rendition of the Pedro Capó song while being doused in beer and champagne.
The Nationals pulled off a 74-38 run to close out the season, including a five-game sweep of the Phillies in September that eliminated them from playoff contention. Washington won its final eight games of the regular season before putting together a playoff run that featured five comeback wins in elimination games and series wins over three division-winning teams.
They didn’t know it at the time, but the Wild Card-clinching Nationals were just getting started.
“It’s going to be fun,” outfielder Adam Eaton said of the team’s impending playoff run, as quoted by the Washington City Paper. “Doesn’t matter where we play, it’s going to be fun. We got a shot. We got a good team.”