HOUSTON — What always tantalizes in advance of any seventh game of the World Series is the sense of the unpredictable.
Of the sequence, the moment few if anyone could see coming.
Light-hitting second baseman Bill Mazeroski taking Ralph Terry deep to beat the Yankees in 1960 to rock Forbes Field.
Jack Morris in 1991 daring Twins manager Tom Kelly to take him out before the 10th inning against the Braves at the Metrodome.
Luis Gonzalez capping an improbable Diamondbacks rally in the desert against the generally impenetrable Mariano Rivera in 2001.
Rajai Davis choking down and swatting a line-drive, game-tying, Progressive Field-shaking homer off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning to delay, for an hour or so anyway, a Cubs celebration 108 years in the making.
Howie Kendrick joined that group Wednesday night.
The 14-year veteran clanked an opposite-field two-run homer off the rightfield foul pole with one out in the seventh inning off Will Harris to the give the Nationals the lead and help send them to a 6-2 Game 7 victory in front of 43,326 mostly shocked fans at Minute Maid Park.
“Stay fair, stay fair, stay fair," Ryan Zimmerman said of his thoughts as he watched the ball come off Kendrick's bat. "We got the breaks this year. That ball stayed fair.”
The Nationals, previously the Expos before that franchise moved to Washington D.C., before the 2005 season and changed its name, won their first title.
The Washington Senators won the city’s only other baseball championship in 1924.
“It’s surreal right now," said manager Dave Martinez, who was born in Brooklyn and spent much of his childhood on Long Island in Brentwood. "We stayed in the fight all year and it was nice to say we won the fight, and we won the fight tonight.”
“Stay in the Fight” was the Nationals 2019 slogan, exemplified in them making the NL wild-card game after a horrendous 19-31 start, rallying from a two-run deficit in the eighth inning of that wild-card game against the Brewers, and doing the same against the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLCS.
And it was that way in Game 7, a contest that capped a remarkable series in which the home team did not win a game.
Though the Astros, who won their first championship in 2017, appeared poised to do just that in the late going.
Righthander Zack Greinke, brought in at the trade deadline as the piece to put the Astros over the top, was doing so in the biggest game of his career. The 36-year-old, hardly threatened all night, took a 2-0 lead into the seventh. That’s when Anthony Rendon, a free agent at season’s end whose postseason set him up for an even bigger payday with some team, homered with one out to make it 2-1. After Juan Soto walked, Houston manager AJ Hinch brought in the righty, Harris, to face Kendrick, the NLCS MVP vs. the Cardinals.
The 36-year-old, whose 10th-inning grand slam in Game 5 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium lifted the Nationals to victory, took an 0-and-1 cutter that arrived low and away and hit it down the rightfield line and off the foul pole to make it 3-2. At that point the only noise inside the stadium came from the Nationals dugout and the handful of their fans who managed to score tickets. Soto’s RBI single in the eighth off Roberto Osuna made it 4-2 and Adam Eaton’s two-run single in the ninth off Jose Urquidy made it 6-2.
Lefthander Patrick Corbin, Washington’s key offseason acquisition, took over for Max Scherzer in the sixth and pitched three scoreless innings of relief.
The 35-year-old Scherzer, of course, was quite a story himself. The three-time Cy Young Award winner was scratched from a scheduled Game 5 start Sunday night because of neck spasms that were so severe his wife had to dress him when he got out of bed that morning. Wednesday the righthander found a way to get through five innings in which he faced consistent base traffic but allowed just two runs. Through four innings the Astros were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and seven stranded, at last coming through in the fifth with a Carlos Correa RBI single that made it 2-0. It wasn’t enough.
“From the moment you become a big-leaguer, you want to be a World Series champion,” Scherzer said. “To be able to accomplish a dream like this, with this group of guys, it’s unbelievable.”
Like the night overall. And the Nationals 2019 season.