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The Nationals' Long Road To Win The World Series


The Washington Nationals have won the first World Series in the history of that franchise. In fact, it's the first World Series victory for any team in Washington, D.C., in generations. The Nationals won Game 7 of the series over the Houston Astros 6-2. Houston Public Media's Michael Hagerty reports.

MICHAEL HAGERTY, BYLINE: Decades of baseball disappointment dissolved Wednesday night in Houston as a Washington, D.C., team won the World Series for the first time since 1924. Here's Nationals manager Dave Martinez in the Washington clubhouse.


DAVE MARTINEZ: We are the world champions.


HAGERTY: The Nationals trailed 2-0 most of the game but scored six unanswered runs in the late innings to erase years of frustration for a city that saw two different iterations of the Washington Senators leave for other cities, as owner Theodore Lerner said during postgame ceremonies.


THEODORE LERNER: The dream came true. And we did it for the fans of Washington. And it feels great.

HAGERTY: Houston led Game 7 most of the way until the seventh inning. That's when Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon, who grew up in Houston rooting for the Astros, homered to get the Nats on the board. Martinez said that took the pressure off the rest of the team.


MARTINEZ: He really, you know, opened it up right there. The guys, you know, they have - they felt like they had life with that one, and then you saw their at-bats getting better.

HAGERTY: Two batters later, Howie Kendrick hit a two-run homer, and suddenly, the Nationals were ahead 3-2. And they added insurance runs in the eighth and the ninth.

The championship stands in stark contrast to how so many baseball seasons have gone in Washington once major league play returned to D.C. in 2005. That's when the Montreal Expos relocated as the Nationals. Despite fielding several good teams that made the playoffs, the Nats could never get past the first round.

And at first, this year didn't look much better, as Washington got off to a dismal 19-31 start. But they turned things around in the second half and staged late rallies with their backs against the wall all throughout the postseason. Martinez said it was the craziest possible path to a championship.


MARTINEZ: I can honestly say nothing would've surprised me. I told them, I want you guys to just treat this as just another game - you know, one more 1-0 - and they did that tonight.

HAGERTY: It's the first time in the history of any major American sport where the visiting team won every game of a championship series. And the Nationals upset an Astros team that entered the series as one of the most heavily favored in recent memory, having won a franchise record 107 games in the regular season.

Sean Nubervac (ph) and a couple of his friends made the trip from northern Virginia to cheer on Washington in Game 7. And he said he loves how unconventional this Nationals team has been.

SEAN NUBERVAC: One of the things that's beautiful about baseball is when you get this ending that you just didn't expect, and that's been the Nationals all season.

HAGERTY: Washington showed all kinds of spunk and personality throughout the championship run, with celebratory dances in the dugout and wearing sunglasses with colorful lenses and, of course, that "Baby Shark" tradition. The popular children's song and infectious earworm became an anthem for the Nationals after veteran outfielder Gerardo Parra, who was mired in a slump, started using it as his walk-up song because his three kids liked it.


UNIDENTIFIED SPORTS ANNOUNCER: The baby shark is going to pinch-hit.

HAGERTY: Washington, D.C., resident Robert Arnakis made the trip to Houston for Game 7 and was sporting his red "Baby Shark" T-shirt behind the visitor's dugout before the game.

ROBERT ARNAKIS: You know, D.C. is going through some tough times right now. We got impeachment. We got all this political stuff, right? And baseball has taken our mind off of all that, and we came together as a city and said, you know what? Let's just go out there and have fun and enjoy life.

HAGERTY: For the nation's capital, the Nats' championship run has been a welcome distraction.

For NPR News, I'm Michael Hagerty in Houston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michael Hagerty