It's Been a Long Time Coming: Nationals Going to the MLB Big Dance
It took a record-setting 51 seasons, but the Washington Nationals -- a franchise that began play as the Montreal Expos in 1969 -- are getting ready to make their World Series debut after a sweep of the Cardinals in the NL Championship Series. It's not that the Nationals haven't flirted with the post-season. They made one appearance in their first 50 years of existence, losing to the Dodgers in the best-of-five NLCS in 1981 when in Game 5, Steve Rogers got the call in relief in the ninth inning of a 1-1 game, but this year is their first post-season appearance in eight years.
It is officially the most celebrated. Here's the irony, the two longest stretches before a first World Series appearance both involved teams that called Washington, D.C., a home. The Texas Rangers, who went 49 years before their World Series debut in 2010, were created as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961. Oh, and the original Senators, now the Minnesota Twins? They went 21 years -- the ninth-longest wait -- before they made a World Series debut.
The Nationals become the 13th Wild Card team to advance to the World Series since the Wild Card was added to the post-season in 1995. Five of the Wild Cards have won World Championships, including the Marlins in 1997 and 2003, the only two post-season appearances in that franchise's history. There also have been two World Series that featured the two Wild Card teams -- the Giants beat the Royals in 2014, and the Angels beating the Giants in 2002.
From 2000 through 2007 there were eight Wild Cards advance to the World Series, including the Angels and Giants in 2002.
The Nationals became the 13th team to have a starting pitcher claim each of the four wins in the LCS since it was expanded to a best-of-seven series. They, however, are only the second team in which the starters won all four games in a four-game sweep, joining the 1990 Athletics. The Nationals' rotation ERA of 1.35 is the third lowest of those 13 teams that had a starter win four LCS games.
Was it the Nationals' pitching or the Cardinals' hitting? No one can say, but what it certain is the Cardinals .130 batting average is the lowest in LCS history, 25 points below the 1969 Twins, who in the first year of the LCS had what is now the second lowest average. The Cardinals are the 11th team in LCS history to have an average below .180