A clean slate, a fresh series, no records, no scores, nothing to this point matters, yet everything to this point mattered. Tonight the Houston Astros take on the Washington Nationals in the 115th World Series.
The favored team is likely the Astros. After spending much of the mid-aughts coming in second to the Cardinals in the NL Central, the team found itself near the bottom of the division for the remainder of the decade. Their fortunes grew worse to start the 2010s, though some of that was by design. From 2011 through 2013 the Astros won less that 60 games each season and used those high draft picks to stockpile low-cost talent. That talent has come into play in recent years. After winning 84 games in 2016 — good for a third place finish in the AL West — the Astros, led by second baseman José Altuve (who ironically was not drafted, but signed as an amateur free agent in 2007) won 101 games the following season. That success continued in the postseason, ending with the franchise's first World Series victory. They haven’t slowed down, winning 103 games in 2018 and 107 games in 2019. Their quest for a second championship in three years begins this evening.
The Washington Nationals are a different story. The Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos, like the Astros prior to 2017, are an expansion team that has never won a World Series. Struggling after the move from Montreal, the team finished last in the NL East every season from 2005 through 2010. In 2011 the team went through three managers and finished with in third place with 80 wins.
Then came the age of Bryce Harper.
Harper made his debut on April 28, 2012. Since then the team has experienced unprecedented success for their franchise, winning the NL East for the first time since 1994 in 2012 and never finishing lower than second since. They strengthened their team with free agent additions like Max Scherzer in 2015 and traded for Adam Eaton in 2017. In 2011 they drafted Anthony Rendon who has been a key player for the team since his debut in 2013. They added to that core by drafting Trea Turner in 2014 — a 2015 Rookie of the year finalist. The Nationals core was strong, but getting older or inching close to free agency. The team’s window was closing. Then in 2019 Bryce Harper elected free agency and joined the Phillies. The Nationals began the season 19-31. It looked like their reign of success would be ending, but the team finished the season strong, earning the first Wild Card spot. Their season looked over against the Brewers in the Wild Card elimination game, but they came back in the bottom of ninth. Things looked over again for the Nationals in a deciding NLDS game five against the winners of the last two NL Pennants, the Los Angeles Dodgers, but once again the team stormed back, another comeback led by 2018 Rookie of the Year finalist Juan Soto. The Nationals were on fire and they made quick work of the Cardinals in the NLCS, sweeping them in four games. Tonight the Team of Destiny looks to etch their place in history.
So who will prevail? We will find out soon enough.
Which team will win the World Series?
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