“But these guys, they’re confident, they really are,” Martinez said. “And they don’t lose that confidence or that focus regardless of the situation.”
No one more so than Rendon, their flatlining superstar. It was Rendon who had pushed the Nats to Wednesday night with a two-run homer in Game 6. It was Rendon who could get them back in it in Game 7. Only the strongest stethoscope can detect his pulse.
So, then, ho-hum, Greinke’s 1-0 change-up sent out to left field. Life, where there was none. To that point, in the Nats’ five elimination games this fall, Rendon had seven plate appearances in the seventh inning or later. The results: walk, double, homer, double, homer, double, homer.
“He’s one of the most impressive superstars in our game,” Houston Manager A.J. Hinch said.
His heroics meant nothing if Kendrick didn’t follow them up. “He was my pick to click,” Rendon said. After Greinke walked Soto, his last hitter, Hinch went to Will Harris, the veteran reliever. Kendrick got an 0-1 cutter. He clicked — and clanked it off the foul pole in right.
The lead now in hand, Kendrick raced back to the dugout to dance. The home run was for the guys right there, of course. For Strasburg, whose masterpiece in Game 6 helped propel them here — and earned him MVP honors. For Adam Eaton, who couldn’t wait to shift gears in a pretend car at Kendrick’s side on the bench. For Zimmerman, the franchise leader in every meaningful category, often described as its face but also its conscience and soul. For all of them.
On the field afterward, Zimmerman grabbed a massive flag — bearing the words “Nationals” and “champions” — and waved it at the enormous throng of red-clad fans behind the visitors’ dugout. He then found his father and buried his head in his shoulder, a teary embrace. Rizzo held the trophy high above his head on a makeshift stage, then carried it down onto the field.
“I might be like Ovi,” he said, referring to Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals’ Stanley Cup-winning captain, “and sleep with this thing.”
Such problems to consider, unimaginable a generation or a decade or — heck — even four innings earlier.
Now that it’s done, though, remember not just that they won but howthey won. The 2019 Washington Nationals taught us all lessons — about patience and belief, about faith and fortitude, about finding life where none seemed to exist. They are champions because of all of that, even if — right now or next month or next year — it’s unfathomable they did it at all.