WASHINGTON — Baseball has had a long, agonizing history in the nation’s capital, but after 86 years, Washington will finally host a World Series again.
The Washington Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-4, on Tuesday to complete a four-game sweep in the National League Championship Series and clinch the first pennant by a team from Washington since the Senators did it in 1933.
The Nationals, formerly known as the Montreal Expos, also became the 31st of the current 32 franchises in Major League Baseball to reach the World Series. The Seattle Mariners are the only other team that has never played in the Fall Classic.
The Nationals’ road to the World Series was not an easy one. Before the season they lost Bryce Harper, their most dynamic player, to the Philadelphia Phillies through free agency, and then got off to a slow start. On May 23 they were 12 games under .500 (19-31) and 10 games behind first place in the National League East.
“Often bumpy roads lead to beautiful places,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez told the fans during the post-game celebration on Tuesday, “and this is a beautiful place.”
The Nationals rallied to end the regular season with 93 victories and then won the N.L. wild-card game. They went on to beat the Dodgers in a thrilling division-series Game 5 in Los Angeles to earn a spot in their first N.L.C.S.
Once there, they received superb performances from starting pitchers Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer, who each carried a no-hitter bid into the seventh inning as the Nationals won the first two games of the series in St. Louis. They have now won 16 of their last 18 games.
“This is uncharted territory for me and a lot of guys in this room,” relief pitcher Sean Doolittle said after Game 3. “We got such a lift out of Anibal and Max putting us on their shoulders to start the series. It really allowed everybody to kind of get their legs underneath them after a couple of emotional days in L.A.”
In Game 4 the Nationals scored seven runs in the first inning, sending 11 batters to the plate. Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Yan Gomes all had run-scoring hits, and Trea Turner knocked in the last two runs with a two-out single. The Cardinals played sloppy defense, committing an error and letting another ball fall in the middle of three fielders for a hit.
Patrick Corbin started for the Nationals, and for the first four innings he picked up where Scherzer and Sanchez had left off. Ten of his first 12 outs came on strikeouts, all swinging, and he fanned a dozen Cardinal batters over all in five innings of work.
Yadier Molina homered in the fourth for St. Louis, and then in the fifth inning Corbin began to falter. The Cardinals scored three more runs, two of which came home on a double by Jose Martinez.
The Cardinals managed to get the potential tying runs on base with two outs in the eighth, but Daniel Hudson got the longtime Cardinal Matt Carpenter to ground out, ending that threat. Then he closed the game out in the ninth. Robles caught the final out, a fly ball to center by Tommy Edman, and the Nationals players poured out of the dugout to celebrate on the field as fireworks exploded.
The Nationals will begin their first World Series appearance next Tuesday against the winner of the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and the Houston Astros.
The last World Series game played in Washington was on Oct. 7, 1933, when the Senators lost to the New York Giants in the clinching Game 5. Those Senators moved to Minnesota in 1961 and become the Twins, and a new version of the Senators emerged in Washington that same year. But they lasted only 11 seasons before moving to Texas to become the Rangers.
In 2005, the Expos moved south to Washington and promoted a third baseman named Ryan Zimmerman, who is still a member of the team. After Game 3, Zimmerman was asked about the fans’ 15-season wait for a World Series.
“Yeah, they’ve suffered for so long,” he said sarcastically.
Fifteen years may not seem that long, but for older baseball fans in D.C., the wait has felt interminable, especially because after the Senators lost to the Giants in 1933, the team had a winning record only four more times before moving to Minnesota. Worse, those Senators finished at least 13 games out of first place in the American League every subsequent year but one.
But decades later, a new team plays baseball in Washington, and the World Series is back in town.
“We never quit and we never wavered,” Zimmerman said, “and tonight we are being rewarded for it.”