Washington's in Season Comeback Most Improbable Ever in Baseball History
Manager Dave Martinez Was On The Hot Seat In Late May
In late May Washington Had Fewer Wins Than All But One Team
No one really expected them to compete for the World Series, or really even for any postseason berth. After all, their All-Star outfielder and former National League Most Valuable Player had just signed a lucrative free agent contract with a division rival.
On the other hand, nor would have anyone expected them to be where they were after game fifty on May 23, when the Washington Nationals fell to the New York Mets to fall twelve games under .500.
That loss had been typical of the beleaguered club, whose bullpen blew a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. In spite of their outstanding starting rotation over the past half decade, Washington relievers have been the main reason the team never advanced in the postseason.
They had even less chance of advancing in, or even reaching, the playoffs this season, now that Bryce Harper was playing for the Philadelphia Phillies. His new club was well in front of the old one in the standings and, in fact, only one team in the entire league had fewer wins than the Nationals.
One night later, it appeared that the Nationals were going to be overtaken even by the one team that trailed them. They were down in that May 24 game against the Miami Marlins by four runs as late as the sixth inning, but they cut it to just a single run after the seventh inning stretch.
That is when Washington gave its opponent a dose of what the team had been suffering all season, putting up a crooked number in the late innings to win a game.
Back to back walks were issued to Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon, which put the tying run in scoring position as well as the go ahead run at first. Then the Nats got back to back home runs from Juan Soto and Matt Adams, completing a come from behind win that kept them ahead of the last place Marlins.
A couple of four game winning streaks before the All-Star break saw them overtake the New York Mets and, even more sweetly, Bryce Harper and the Phillies. Second year manager Dave Martinez, who had been on the verge of being fired, now had his club well over .500.
As we know heading into the final weekend of the 2019 season, the Nationals have played themselves into the top Wild Card slot in the N.L. In so doing, Washington is the only team in the long history of Major League Baseball to come from as many as twelve games under .500 to reach the playoffs.