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October has a way of finding the Howie Kendricks of the world.
Before this magical Washington Nationals World Series run, Kendrick was a 36-year-old MLB vet who had played for four teams in 14 years. He’s had a very serviceable but not quite spectacular career.
Now, he’ll never buy a drink at a bar in Washington D.C. ever again.
Now, he has etched his name into the Washington Nationals history books. Now, he’ll be remembered fondly at Nats legends weekends as long as he can swing a bat. That’s what two of the most clutch October home runs in franchise history can do for a player.
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Houston Astros fans were counting down the outs until they could pop champagne Wednesday night during Game 7. That is, until Kendrick came up in the seventh inning and clanked an opposite-field home run off the foul pole in right field, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 Nats lead. The Nats would win 6-2 to secure the franchise’s first-ever World Series win, and that homer will live forever in the highlight reel.
“I was looking at it like, man, stay fair, stay fair,” Kendrick said on the Fox Sports postgame show.
This was a Nats team that had become masters of defying the odds. They were famously 19-31 in May. Their manager was on the hot seat soon after. They were possible sellers at the trade deadline. They got hot over the summer and made the wild-card game, but they were odds-defyers in October too.
Four times before Game 7 they had their back against the wall in elimination games. Four times they’d fallen behind like they did in Game 7. And four times, they’d come back to win.
Howie Kendrick, Max Scherzer, Adam Eaton and the gang figured, “Why not make it five?”
This homer would have been more amazing if we hadn’t already witnessed Kendrick’s heroics in October. His game-winning grand slam in Game 5 of the National League Division Series on its own is a moment that would have endeared him in D.C. forever. That, too, was a winner-take-all game.
“Without that, we're not here,” Kendrick said. “After that, we went on a nice run.”
Maybe this is just Kendrick’s type of stage.
In all, he knocked in 12 runs for the Nationals in 17 games during their surprise October run. Before this year, he had played in 33 playoff games and knocked in a total of six runs.
Half the games, twice the RBIs? That seems like an upgrade.
It’s the type of thing that Nats fans will never forget. And neither will Kendrick.
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