(Reuters) – The Washington Nationals stunned the Houston Astros 6-2 in a winner-take-all Game Seven on Wednesday to secure their maiden Major League Baseball World Series title in a Fall Classic unlike any other.
The Astros got a dominant outing from starting pitcher Zack Greinke and took a 2-0 lead into the seventh inning but that was where the visiting Nationals finally struck back, grabbing a lead they would not relinquish.
When the final out was recorded, Nationals players streamed onto the field from the dugout and bullpen, tossing their gloves into the air with arms raised in celebration while the orange-clad crowd inside Houston’s Minute Maid Park watched in silence.
For the Nationals, who began playing in the U.S. capital in 2005 when the Montreal Expos moved there and changed their name, the win put the finishing touches to a stunning turnaround after they began the season with a miserable 19-31 record.
“I believe in these guys and they believe in each other. The biggest thing for us is never quit,” said Nationals manager Dave Martinez. “We were 19 and 31 – we didn’t quit then and we weren’t going to quit now.”
Anthony Rendon kicked off the Nationals rally in the seventh with a solo shot off Greinke, and Howie Kendrick came up with a go-ahead two-run blast off Astros reliever Will Harris two batters later.
The Nationals, who faced elimination five times during the postseason, added another run in the eighth and then put the game out of reach with a two-run ninth inning before closer Daniel Hudson retired the side.
“We stuck together – I know that. We had nothing left to lose, people had written us off,” said Rendon. “We just kept fighting and were happy to come out on top.”
The victory set off celebrations in Washington, a city whose last World Series victory came in 1924 when the Senators defeated the New York Giants.
In the first World Series Game Seven to feature former Cy Young winners as opposing starters, it was the Astros who struck first when Cuban first baseman Yuli Gurriel belted a solo home run off Nationals starter Max Scherzer in the second inning.
Greinke, who Houston acquired in a July trade, faced the minimum 13 batters through 4-1/3 innings before finally surrendering a walk to Howie Kendrick.
Right-hander Greinke, who showcased incredible control of every aspect of his game for most of the night and even chipped in with five fielding assists, walked one batter after surrendering the Rendon homer and then left the game.
Scherzer, who had a cortisone shot to help alleviate the neck and back spasms that caused him to miss his scheduled start on Sunday’s Game Five, gave up seven hits and two runs over five innings.
By clinching the title in Houston, the result marked the first time in any American professional sport where all seven games in a best-of-seven series were won on the road.
The game also brought an end to a World Series that early on saw the Astros deal with controversy over a since-fired front office member who taunted a group of female journalists in the team’s clubhouse.
Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who gave up a combined four runs over 14-1/3 innings during his two starts, was named the Most Valuable Player of the World Series.
“It’s just surreal – and to be able to do it with this group of guys is something special,” said Strasburg, who earned wins on the road in both his starts, including a do-or-die Game Six.
“Guys went out there and scored some runs for me. It was a big team win.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Additional reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Peter Rutherford