On May 23rd, the Washington Nationals were 12 games under .500 and people began speculating if they would be sellers at the trade deadline.
Nearly five months later, the Nationals are heading to the World Series.
Washington has been thriving in the underdog role all season, making them the perfect team to shock everyone in October.
The Nationals were nearly eliminated in the Wild Card Game against the Milwaukee Brewers, then rallied in the eighth inning to win and survive.
They then went on to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and fell behind in the series 2-1. Washington bounced back though, winning the last two games to move on to the NLCS.
In the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, everything came together for the Nationals.
Their starting pitchers flirted with no-hitters in each of the first two games and Washington ended up winning the series by a combined score of 20-6.
In the series-clinching game on Tuesday, Washington jumped out to a seven-run lead in the first inning.
The first inning ambush was really reminiscent of how the Cardinals advanced to the NLCS themselves, when they piled on 10 runs in the first inning of Game 5 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves.
Six days after beating the Braves, the Cardinals season is over.
For the Nationals, this a remarkable story for their franchise player Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman has literally been with the franchise since it’s inception and now get’s rewarded for all of his sacrifices over the years.
Along with Zimmerman, the Nationals have been propelled by another veteran infielder. Howie Kendrick.
Kendrick hit the game-winning grand slam in the Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, before turning in another great series in the NLCS.
The 36-year-old hit .417/.462/.750, with four double and four RBIs. He was named the NLCS MVP and will now try to win the first World Series of his 14-year career.
Now the Washington Nationals get sit back and wait for the World Series to begin, as the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees are locked in a grudge match of an ALCS.
Cody Bellinger Wins First Career NL MVP
The Los Angeles Dodgers were the best team in the National League during the regular season, winning an NL-best 106 games.
There is no way the Dodgers would have that much team success if it weren’t for their best player having a career year, as Cody Bellinger was incredible in 2019.
Bellinger already won his first career Gold Glove Award for his defense in right field and a Silver Slugger for his offense, but now he has received the ultimate validation being named the National League Most Valuable Player.
Bellinger was clearly emotional after winning the award, as there is truly no higher honor a player can receive for their own performance.
Bellinger hit .305/.406/.629, with 47 home runs, 115 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.
According to Baseball Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stat, Bellinger was the most valuable player in baseball with a league-leading 9.0 WAR.
This is just the first MVP of Bellinger’s young career, but at just 24 years old, it certainly may not be his last.
Mike Trout Wins Third AL MVP
Mike Trout should be the MVP every year, as there is no doubt he is the best player in baseball.
Coming into this season, Trout had won two MVP’s and finished as the runner-up three times, with his only other full season ending in a top-5 finish in the MVP race.
Trout’s greatness sometimes goes unrecognized by voters, as they try to honor other players when they have a career year. This time however, the voters got it right and rewarded Trout with his third MVP.
Trout was second in the American League in home runs and ninth in RBIs, despite being hurt at the end of the season and playing just 134 games.
You can make the argument that Trout is already a Hall of Famer, after winning his third MVP and putting together an historic eight-year stretch.
Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman and Oakland Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien were the other two finalists for MVP, finishing second and third respectively.
Bregman fell just 20 points shy of Trout in the MVP voting, after finishing fifth in the MVP voting last season.
This year, Bregman set career-highs with 41 home runs and 112 RBIs, while leading the American League with 119 walks.
Unfortunately for Bregman, Mike Trout was simply better and will likely continue to dominant the MVP voting in the American League for a very long time.
Jacob DeGrom Wins Second-Straight NL Cy Young Award
Over the last two seasons, there simply has been no pitcher in baseball better than New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom.
In 2018, deGrom led the MLB with a sparkling 1.70 ERA, en route to his first career Cy Young Award.
While the numbers were not quite as incredible this past season, deGrom still proved to be the best pitcher in the National League and was once again named the NL Cy Young.
DeGrom becomes just the 11th pitcher in MLB history to win back-to-back Cy Young Awards and the first to do so with a Rookie of the Year on their resume as well.
Mets Hall of Famer Tom Seaver was the only other pitcher in MLB history to have multiple Cy Young Awards and a Rookie of the Year, but he never won Cy Young’s in consecutive seasons.
DeGrom clearly earned this award after finishing 2019 with a 2.43 ERA and an NL-leading 255 strikeouts.
Over the past two seasons, deGrom has pitched to an MLB-best 2.05 ERA and has racked up 524 strikeouts, as he is in the company of only Hall of Fame pitchers who have achieved that level of dominance.
For a pitcher that did not make his MLB debut until he was 26 years old, deGrom all of sudden appears to be on a Hall of Fame trajectory.
There is just no way anyone could have seen this coming back in 2014, when deGrom was just trying to stick in the big leagues.
Now deGrom is a three-time All-Star, two-time Cy Young Award winner and a $100-million pitcher after signing a five-year, $137.5 million deal last offseason with the Mets.
He is just one year into that contract, but so far deGrom has been worth every penny.
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