The Atlantic

The Washington Nationals’ Persistence Paid Off

Breaking a pattern of first-round heartbreak, the decade’s most downtrodden playoff team finds itself in the World Series.
Source: Brad Mills / USA TODAY Sports / Reuters

The Washington Nationals took the fast track to ignominy. Baseball lore favors longer-cultivated curses: the Boston Red Sox’s 86 years between World Series championships, the Chicago Cubs’ 108. But the Nationals, established in 2005 when the Montreal Expos moved to D.C. (the team stretches back to 1969 in technical terms only), have stuffed their 15 seasons with heartbreak. Early promise, via the top overall picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in 2009 and 2010, respectively, came quickly to seem like the setup to a repeating punchline. In 2014, the Nationals battled the San Francisco Giants for nearly six and a half hours in one; they’d lose the series in four. Two years later, they rushed out to a 2–1 series lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers before the Dodgers won the final two games by a run apiece. In all, the Nats had reached the postseason four times prior to this year and failed even to advance a single round, much less win the that their talented roster suggested was due.

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