To borrow a line from Washington Capitals broadcaster John Walton, “The demons have been exorcised.”
For the first time in franchise history, the Washington Nationals won a National League Division Series and will face the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.
Just to torture Nats fans, the series went to Game 5, and the Nats looked like their former playoff selves. Under the pressure, they were cracking during the first six innings.
However, Juan Soto, Wild Card game hero, got the Nats on the board. His single scored Anthony Rendon who is by all accounts the Nats MVP, and it seems perfect that the new hero and veteran starter saved the Nats season.
The two saviors teamed up again in the 8th inning to hit back-to-back home runs off of Clayton Kershaw to tie the game.
Once again, Soto and Rendon were crucial pieces of the extra-innings victory. They were both on base when Howie Kendrick hit the game-winning grand slam in the 10th inning. Without Rendon’s ground rule double to move Adam Eaton to third base, and then Soto’s past damage earning him an intentional walk, there’s no telling if the Nats would have won the game.
This upcoming series is the first ever best-of-seven playoff series the Nats have ever played in. If five games were mentally and physically taxing (here’s to hoping Kurt Suzuki’s arm is ok), the Nats are truly going to need all hands on deck to defeat the Cardinals. This is Soto’s first time in the playoffs, and he’s still only 20. In 22 at-bats he’s batting .273, with two home runs and six RBI’s. He leads the team in RBIs and home runs. Soto is a leader on this team, and despite his youth, he is a force to be reckoned with both on the field and with his dugout dance moves.
In four playoff appearances, Rendon has played in 20 games and has 76 at-bats. He is batting .350 in six games so far and has one home run and two doubles. If Tony-Two Bags is in his game, all will be right in the world. Any stats he can boost this offseason will only add to his collection of bargaining chips once his contract expires this winter.
With the heart of the order capable of wreaking havoc on any pitching staff, the Cardinals had better beware of what’s coming their way. With Adam Eaton and Trea Turner leading off, they are more than protected by Rendon and Soto. That combo, along with Ryan Zimmerman and Howie Kendrick following, will be the key to the Nats’ playoff success.