The Washington Nationals were 19-31 on May 23. Five months later, they're World Series champions.
Washington pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Fall Classic with a thrilling 6-2 win over the Houston Astros in Game 7 at Minute Maid Park.
It's the first World Series title for the Nationals/Montreal Expos franchise, founded in 1969, and the first for an MLB team from Washington, D.C., in 95 years. The nation's capital last celebrated a baseball championship of any kind in 1948 when the Homestead Grays won the Negro League World Series.
Howie Kendrick, who captured the National League Championship Series MVP, struck the winning blow with his go-ahead, two-run homer off the foul pole in the seventh inning.
Kendrick played hero for the second time this postseason after also hitting the series-winning grand slam in the NLDS.
The win completes a remarkable run for the Nats after their awful start to the season. Following the loss of Bryce Harper in free agency, the Nats' woeful record in mid-May led the team to change pitching coaches. Washington then went on an incredible run starting May 24; it was the best team in baseball from that point until the end of the regular season, when it entered the wild-card game.
In the playoffs, the Nationals narrowly escaped the NL wild-card game with a late victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. They went on to beat the two-time defending NL champions Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS before sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals to win the pennant. Finally, they outlasted Houston by winning four games on the road - the first time that's ever happened in a best-of-seven series in any of the major North American sports leagues.
"What a weird year. What a weird team. We just kept going, man," first baseman Ryan Zimmerman - a career Nat, and the first player ever drafted by the team after its move from Montreal - told Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times. "(We) could've quit. Could've rolled over. But this group of guys, we bounce back. It's almost fitting that we won this way."
The Nationals became only the second team to win the World Series after being at least 12 games under .500 during the regular season, joining the 1914 Boston Braves, according to ESPN Stats & Info. They're also the first team to win three straight winner-take-all contests en route to a championship.
The title didn't come easy, though. Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel got Minute Maid Park rocking Wednesday with a solo shot off Max Scherzer in the second inning. Carlos Correa added to that lead with an RBI single in the fifth.
But Scherzer - who was starting just two days after receiving a cortisone shot for neck spasms, an injury that kept him out of Game 5 - managed to hold his own despite clearly not having his best stuff. The 35-year-old walked more batters (four) than he struck out (three) but left having allowed just the two runs over five innings.
Patrick Corbin took over for Scherzer and earned the win with three shutout innings. Corbin, signed as a free agent in the winter, allowed only two Astros baserunners in relief, setting the stage for Kendrick's heroics.
Washington added to its lead in the eighth inning with Juan Soto's RBI single against Astros closer Roberto Osuna, then put the game away for good in the ninth courtesy Adam Eaton's two-run hit. Daniel Hudson threw a flawless ninth and struck out Michael Brantley to clinch the title.