Now that I’m down off my emotional high, enough to actually formulate some rational thoughts, I wanted to write a bit about what last night’s NL Wild Card Game win means to the city of DC and to Nationals fans.
Before the Caps miraculous run to the Stanley Cup last spring, DC sports had been infamously long-suffering in their respective postseasons. The Capitals broke that mold. For the first time since Joe Gibbs’ Redskins in the early 90’s, the city had a team to completely rally and throw support behind,
In May, it looked like the Nats were headed towards another disappointment of a season. They were 19-31, Dave Martinez’ seat was getting increasingly warmer, and rumors abounded of potential trades for Max Scherzer and Anthony Rendon. But then, some sort of flip switched, and now, 4 ½ months later, they are advancing to the next playoff round for the first time in team history, and the first in franchise history since the Expos in 1981.
There was talk earlier this summer, while the Nats were hot and streaking, but had not yet seriously inserted themselves into the playoff conversation, that it wouldn’t matter if the Nationals ended up doing anything with their season. They have surpassed all expectations just by making the playoffs. And now, they continue to do so, hopefully deep into October.
No one thing or person could have orchestrated the league’s feel-good story of the season. Many have attributed this renaissance to the energy and leadership of some of the veteran Nationals, specifically Gerardo Parra and Anibal Sanchez. They’ve re-energized this team in a way that I have never seen before, from dugout dance parties to Parra’s “Parra Shark” (a play off the popular children’s tune “Baby Shark”).
When the Caps made their run, there was a signature moment. When Evgeny Kuznetsov netted the series-clinching goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins, John Walton, the Caps’ play-by-play announcer made his famous proclamation that the “DEMONS HAVE BEEN EXORCISED!” I don’t know if that’s what Ken Rosenthal was referencing last night, but that what was the first thing that came to my mind.
Evgeny Kuznetsov exorcised the Capitals’ demons of not being able to beat the Penguins in the playoffs. Juan Soto, Ryan Zimmerman, and Stephen Strasburg exorcised the Nats’ demons of choking in the playoffs. Hopefully these Nats can follow the example of last year’s Capitals, and cap off one of the most fun seasons of DC baseball with their first World Series win.