Peter Schmuck

Schmuck: How long have Washington baseball fans waited for World Series berth? Think ‘Curse of the Bambino’

WASHINGTON — It was one of the most exciting nights in Washington’s star-crossed baseball history, and yet it was almost devoid of drama.

The Washington Nationals had pretty much dispensed with the St. Louis Cardinals by the end of the first inning Tuesday night, scoring seven runs and turning Nationals Park into a den of delirium on the way to a 7-4 victory and a stunning four-game sweep of the National League Championship Series.


And why not? The World Series is coming back to the District for the first time since 1933, a span of 86 years, which — interestingly enough — equals the period of suffering that Boston fans endured before the Red Sox finally ended the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004.

Of course, the Red Sox waited that long between championships. Washington has waited that long just to be in the dance. The original Washington Senators last won a World Series in 1924, with Walter Johnson pitching them to victory in Game 7 over the New York Giants at Griffith Stadium.


The Nationals got there this time by completely dominating the Cardinals in a series that featured no-hitter suspense for seven-plus innings by Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer in each of the first two games and a similarly stifling performance by Stephen Strasburg in Game 3.

Manager Dave Martinez, who weathered a 19-31 start this season that put his job security in a negative spotlight, marveled at his new-found place in Washington’s baseball legacy.

“I’m just happy to be a part of it,'' he said after the game. “I’m just a small piece of the puzzle. ... It took a village to get us to where we’re at. I’m really proud of everyone in the organization.”

The Cardinals could only watch in amazement as their chance of mounting any kind of comeback in Game 4 vaporized almost instantly.

Nats starter Patrick Corbin struck out the side in the top of the first inning and the Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson didn’t get his second out until Corbin laid down a successful sacrifice bunt to set up the final two runs of the seven-run eruption.

The Cardinals scored a few runs in the middle innings and had a moment in the eighth when the game could have been salvaged, but this series — and this game — was never in serious doubt.

The sellout crowd was in full throat from the very start, but the decibel level rose throughout the inning as it became apparent that the Nats were finally going to shake off a span of seven seasons during which they reached the playoffs four times and failed to get past the Division Series.

This time, it obviously was meant to be, because they were on the brink of going down in the NLDS for a fifth time when they rallied from a two-run deficit in the eighth inning against Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and won the series on a 10-inning grand slam by well-traveled veteran Howie Kendrick.


The Nats also had to stage a late-inning rally against dominant Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader just to get past the wild-card round.

Kendrick was named the NLCS Most Valuable Player after batting .333 in the series and accounting for eight of the Nationals’ 20 runs. He scored four times and drove in four runs and probably got some extra credit for winning the Division Series.

"We couldn’t predict this, but we want to win,'' he said, "and I think at the end of the day, when you put everything out there on the field, and you’re not worried about your stats and you’re not worried about this or that or other teams — we worry about what we’re doing — that’s when success happens.

“I feel like our team is full of guys that really go out and they work hard. Whether it’s before the game, whether it’s in practice, they get prepared to play every day and that’s where you see the results out on the field.”

If it has been a circuitous postseason journey to the promised land for the Nats, it was nothing compared with the detours and displacement that denied the District for so long.

The Washington Senators franchise that reached the 1933 World Series left town in 1960 and relocated to Minnesota, where the Twins played in the Fall Classic just five years later and would win two of them in 1987 and 1991.


The departed franchise was immediately replaced by a new Senators expansion that lasted 11 years before leaving to become the Texas Rangers, who reached the World Series in 2010 and 2011, but have never won a championship.

Neither team is connected with the Nationals, who debuted in Washington in 2005 after moving from Montreal, where the Expos had their own unhappy postseason history.

They were denied a trip to the World Series after taking a two games-to-one lead over the Dodgers in the best-of-five NLCS in 1981, but the Dodgers rallied to win Game 4 in Montreal and eliminated the Expos when Rick Monday hit a tie-breaking solo homer in the ninth inning of the decisive Game 5.

The Expos also ended up being the answer to a dubious trivia question when they finished with the best record in all of baseball in 1994, the year the playoffs and World Series were cancelled because of baseball’s disastrous 1994-95 labor war.