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With World Series title, Washington Nationals cement their comeback season

The Washington Nationals have Major League Baseball’s oldest roster. Now, they also have a World Series title. The nation’s capital celebrated as the underestimated team clinched a Game 7 victory late Thursday. The Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty joins Nick Schifrin to discuss the Nationals’ pattern of successfully rallying from the brink of elimination and how they made history in Houston.

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  • Nick Schifrin:

    Finally from us, the biggest news in Washington today.

    Right as the impeachment vote took place, the top of The Washington Post's Web site, for those of us in D.C., was "At Last, the Nats Are Champs."

    The Nats, the Washington Nationals, the team with the oldest roster in baseball, the team everyone underestimated, won the World Series last night.

    And forgive a little hometown crowing, but they finished the fight the same way they have been fighting all season.

  • Announcer:

    There it is! The Washington Nationals are world champions!

  • Nick Schifrin:

    One final comeback, after a comeback season. The Nationals topped the Houston Astros in Houston to capture D.C.'s first World Series title in 95 years.

    They made history. Never before in any seven-game series in any sport has a visiting team won every game. The Nats trailed 2-0 in the seventh inning, before a pair of home runs, including this go-ahead blast by designated hitter Howie Kendrick.

  • Howie Kendrick:

    I mean, this is what it's about right here. This is what it's about. I mean, words can't even describe the feeling.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    For the fifth time this postseason, Washington came from behind to win an elimination game, including against baseball's two best teams.

    And through it all, the dugout dance parties, the "Baby Shark" theme. They always played with joy, and their D.C. fans celebrated a remarkable turnaround for a team that started the season as one of baseball's worst.

  • Woman:

    For us to come back and win — and win the championship, it's amazing. It's just amazing.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And The Washington Post's Jesse Dougherty was there last night. He's back in town already, joins us from The Post newsroom.

    Jesse, thanks very much. Welcome to the "NewsHour."

    On May 24, the Nats were 19-31. The chances of their winning were 1.5 percent.

    How much of this team is defined by playing from behind?

  • Jesse Dougherty:

    I think it's — this team is entirely defined by playing from behind.

    They did it for most of the season. They felt like they were backs against the wall from May — mid-May on, and, as you said, 19-31, no one gave them much of a chance of doing anything really. And I think they just took it as a, we can only go up from here.

    And we saw the results when they finally got to the mountaintop there.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The final mountaintop that they went over was a pretty tall one.

    The Astros' offense, I mean, surely one of the most impressive in history, Astros had the best home record in baseball this year, and the final two starting pitchers that the Nats faced were ranked number one and two on the active win list.

    So how do you think they won the World Series?

  • Jesse Dougherty:

    Yes.

    And then, on top of that, no team in history had ever won the World Series by winning all four road games. So I think they just — this team had a propensity to just make history one step at a time. And they won by just sticking it through.

    I mean, obviously, their starting pitching was great. You have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg. The ball is always in your court when you have those guys going on the mound. And the Nationals set it up that they had their best guys in the biggest moments. And they delivered.

    So I think it really was a star-driven victory. And, again, we saw the result that, when those stars came to play and they did their thing, the Nationals were pretty unstoppable in the end.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The fact that Scherzer was even on the mound was divine intervention, I think, one of your colleagues wrote.

    Let's talk about the success of this team and why you think they had it. There is a high payroll, obviously, but what really defines the success? Does it come from that high payroll, or does it come from something about how they develop these players and how these players play together?

  • Jesse Dougherty:

    Yes.

    I mean, since 2012, the Nationals have been building a contender. I mean, I think high payrolls, it's not new. That wasn't sort of a new ingredient for this team.

    So, when you think about success and what gets you over the hump, of course, I mean, you get the right mix of talent. You spend money in the right way, but also that chemistry mix was really important for this team. I mean, they were close. They played loose. They had a great mix of veterans. They were the oldest team in baseball, but also had some young guys that kept them on their toes.

    So I think, the way this team gelled, the way they love playing together, I think all of that comes into play, because, again, since 2012, this team has been spending and spending and spending and trying to get to this point, but there was something missing.

    And so when you think of the missing piece then, and you see the way this team really came together, I think you know all along that just liking each other and liking playing together actually can be pretty powerful.

    And when you have talent in that mix, I mean, that's when you get a championship team.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And, lastly, we're both talking from Washington about Washington. What does this mean for D.C.?

  • Jesse Dougherty:

    I mean, 86 years since D.C. had been to a World Series at all, and then decades without a team.

    There's generations of fans that lived without baseball for a long time. And then, again, since '05, there's been a lot of ups and downs, a lot of heartbreak.

    So for the city to finally get to see this team break through, I think you start to trust in the sport again, trust that it doesn't have to always have a bad ending, and you can sort of — you can enjoy baseball in the fall. And I think that's what we're going to see this city do now in the coming days.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    They finished the fight, Nats World Series victors.

    Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post, thanks so much.

  • Jesse Dougherty:

    Thanks much.

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