In an extremely competitive World Series with the Washington Nationals fighting to stay alive, a horrendous call by an umpire could have nearly cost Washington its entire season.
As the Nationals held a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning with Yan Gomes on first, shortstop Trea Turner hit a soft bouncer short of the mound. When Houston Astros pitcher Brad Peacock finally picked it up and fired it to first base, the throw was off the mark and forced Turner into first baseman Yuli Gurriel’s glove.
A play that should have been ruled an error with both runners advancing down the base paths, the umpires called Turner out for interference with the play and made Gomes return to first base.
After Turner and Washington’s skipper Dave Martinez lit into umpire Sam Holbrook for the horrendous call, fans and players watched as the umpires put on headsets as the play was reviewed in New York.
Following an excruciating wait that stalled the game and left everyone feeling restless, the umpires finally took off the headsets and announced the call stood.
Washington’s dugout and the entire baseball world exploded with shock and rage after learning the league’s replay officials stood by the horrendous call.
It would be understandable if Bryce Harper felt a twinge of jealously over the Washington Nationals reaching the World Series in the first season since his departure. That is not the case, the Philadelphia Phillies slugger insists.
Harper spent the first seven seasons of his MLB career with the Nationals, and despite how the team was perennially considered legitimate World Series contenders during much of his tenure, success in the postseason was always frustratingly elusive.
Now, with Harper’s first season in Philly ending without a playoff berth despite similar buzz, he has to watch the Nats play in their first Fall Classic. That’s fine by Harper.
“I think it’s about being able to be the person that I am and not saying to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m not a National.’ Or, ‘Oh my gosh, those guys are doing what they’re doing. I can’t believe it. I’m so jealous,’” Harper told The Athletic. “No. I’m so happy for them. You know how hard it is to get into the postseason and win games. For them to be able to put it together this year the way they have, it’s an amazing thing.”
Harper also noted how being envious of the Nationals’ success this postseason would serve little purpose, especially given how it was his decision to sign a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies instead of remaining in D.C.
“I made my decision, and that was my decision,” Harper said. “And it was the final decision that I made. You know, jealousy isn’t good. For me, it’s about having the gratitude to go out and do what I do each day and not having an attitude toward anybody else.”
Nationals fans have thoroughly enjoyed mocking and ridiculing Harper over how the team made it to the World Series without his help. Their antics are not surprising, as things got downright ugly at times whenever Harper returned to D.C. this season.
That said, there seem to be no hard feelings on Harper’s behalf toward the Nats organization or their passionate fans. At least he insists that is the case.
Well, you guys, this is it. The 2019 World Series is finally set in stone with the Houston Astros taking on the Washington Nationals. Houston will be looking to win its second title in three years, while Washington is looking for its first-ever championship.
Now that we know who will be representing both the American and National Leagues, it’s fun to look at the similarities and differences between each squad. The biggest similarity they share is having star-studded and dominant starting rotations.
Official probable starters haven’t yet been announced, but it’s not inconceivable for the first three games to look like this:
Game 1: Gerrit Cole vs. Max Scherzer
Game 2: Justin Verlander vs. Stephen Strasburg
Game 3: Zack Greinke vs. Patrick Corbin
That in itself is just mouthwatering for any baseball fan. When looking at season-long fWAR produced in 2019, each of these six ranked within the top 15 among qualified starters. Corbin was the only one not in the top 10 with his measly 4.8 fWAR. (Insert sarcasm here.) Interestingly enough, both Houston and Washington looked outside their respective organizations to build these fearsome three-headed monsters — Strasburg is the sole homegrown hurler of the bunch.
If we continue using fWAR as the benchmark, the Nationals (21.4) and Astros (19.4) led the National and American League, respectively, with regard to rotation production. The similarities don’t just stop at fWAR, though.
Houston did lead all of baseball with a 125 team wRC+ throughout the regular season. However, Washington did end up in the top 10 on a season-long basis and within the top-five if when considering just second-half production. So they’re not slouches with the bat, either.
The most striking difference between these two Fall Classic opponents, though, is what they did to reach this point. The Astros spent the majority of regular-season play atop the American League West, while the Nationals’ slow start prevented them from being a first-place team at any point in 2019.
The best way to display the difference in expectations for these clubs is to see their odds of winning their respective league pennants throughout the year (via FanGraphs). As the below graph shows, the Astros are supposed to be here, but not many were expecting the Nats to do the same.
For the Astros, the chances of them becoming American League champs started out just above 25.0 percent and didn’t crest below 40.0 percent after the beginning of August. Washington didn’t start the year much worse, but its odds didn’t even reach 20.0 percent until September 30 — the day after the final regular-season games.
This should be a fun series to watch. The Astros likely have the overall advantage when looking at the entirety of their roster, and they’ve also been a little more battle-tested. The Nats have looked impressive while defeating the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals. However, sweeping St. Louis has given Washington a full week off before Game 1 of the World Series. That’s probably good for their pitchers, but who knows what kind of rust needs to get kicked off as they take the field again.
Two teams with some similar strengths, but much different roads taken en route to reaching the same place and chasing after the same goal. This is what baseball is all about.