The Washington Nationals finished off the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS on Tuesday night with a 7-4 victory, sweeping the Cardinals out of the postseason with four straight victories. The Nationals are heading to the World Series for the first time in franchise history, and they are doing so with a 16-2 record over their last 18 games and a current winning streak of six straight games.
Including this year’s NLCS between the Nationals and the Cardinals and this year’s ALCS between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, there have been seven best-of-7 series in MLB history. Only 30 of those 178 series (16.9%) have ended in sweeps. But what the Nationals accomplished in their sweep against the Cardinals was even more rare.
The Washington Nationals “annihilated” the St. Louis Cardinals
Whowins.com defines an “annihilation” as a best-of-7 series in which the team that gets swept never holds a lead at any point in the entire series. It is embarrassing enough to be swept in four straight losses; never even getting a sweat at a win with a single lead is at another level.
Washington jumped out to its first lead of the series in the top of the second inning of Game 1 with one run. It added another run at the top of the seventh inning and held on for a 2-0 win, fueled by a brilliant performance by Anibal Sanchez. In Game 2, the Nationals went up 1-0 at the top of the third inning and extended that lead to 3-0 in the top of the eighth inning, holding on for a 3-1 victory in St. Louis.
When the series came to Washington, the Nationals’ bats heated up. The Nationals scored four runs in the bottom of the third inning and led 7-0 before St. Louis scored its first and only run of the game as Washington went on to win 8-1. St. Louis finally showed some life on offense with four runs in Game 4; but those all came after the Nationals scored seven runs in the bottom of the first inning.
All told, the Nationals outscored the Cardinals 20 to 6 over the course of this four-game series. All four games ended in regulation; in 36 total innings, the Nationals were tied 0-0 for a grand total of four innings and had the lead in the other 32 innings.
Only six other teams in MLB history have achieved an annihilation
According to WhoWins.com, there have been six other instances in which a team has achieved this feat of sweeping an opposing team without ever trailing. Four of them have occurred in the World Series, while two of them have occurred in the League Championship Series:
1963 World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers over New York Yankees, total score 12-4
1966 World Series: Baltimore Orioles over Los Angeles Dodgers, total score 13-2
1989 World Series: Oakland Athletics over San Francisco Giants, total score 32-14
2004 World Series: Boston Red Sox over St. Louis Cardinals, total score 24-12
2012 ALCS: Detroit Tigers over New York Yankees, total score 19-6
2015 NLCS: New York Mets over Chicago Cubs, total score 21-8
The Nationals are hoping not to follow in the footsteps of the last two LCS teams to complete an annihilation. Despite their dominance in the Championship Series, both the Tigers in 2012 and the Mets in 2015 lost in short order in the World Series, with Detroit getting swept by the San Francisco Giants and New York losing 4-1 to the Kansas City Royals.
Washington should be a live underdog in the World Series
The Houston Astros and the New York Yankees both finished the regular season with over 100 wins. The winner of the ALCS will have home field advantage in the World Series and will be the favorite to win the championship.
But this Nationals team doesn’t look like one that will go down without a fight. Washington has one of the league’s best pitching staffs in Max Scherzer, Stephen Stasburg, Patrick Corbin, and playoff standout Anibal Sanchez. They have shown that they can take care of business against an inferior team like St. Louis, and can overcome adversity against a seemingly superior team like the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The World Series should be a good one in 2019. While the Astros and Yankees duke it out, the Nationals have earned the chance to kick back and relax on the heels of their historic performance.