— Michelle Basch (@mbaschWTOP) October 15, 2019
Make no mistake, the starters, bullpen and the bats got the Washington Nationals to the 2019 World Series. But they had some unlikely help.
It all started with outfielder Gerardo Parra in June. The team was in rough shape, far from September, and in honor of his kids, Parra made the viral hit “Baby Shark” his walkup song.
You’ve gotta see Gerardo Parra’s Baby Shark intro.
This is WILD. pic.twitter.com/kjmb6vaoUl
— Cut4 (@Cut4) July 24, 2019
Is Baby Shark the reason the Nats are now waiting to see who they’ll face off against for the title? Not singularly, no. But it made an impact.
“It loosened everybody up,” WTOP Sports Reporter Dave Preston said. “I think what got them to the World Series was, everybody got healthy. They wound up playing teams that weren’t as good, and everybody was better, so they got hot and they started believing in themselves. And pitching was a big thing too.”
Baby Shark “allows them to take everything a little less seriously,” he said. “It’s like, ‘You know, this isn’t life and death. We’re not performing surgery, we’re playing a game. Let’s enjoy ourselves.'”
The #NLCS takes Baby Shark to another level 🦈😆
— ESPN (@espn) October 16, 2019
Camaraderie runs deep in the Nationals clubhouse.
“I think one thing you really get from this team is they really enjoy being together,” Preston said. “When they entered September, they enjoyed being together so much as a group, some of it was the ‘Baby Shark’ thing where they didn’t take themselves too seriously.”
“When you’ve got a good vibe with a group thing going, you want to keep that group together as long as possible. That’s one of the things that helped. A lot of things worked into turning the season around. ‘Baby Shark’ was definitely one of them.”
There’s also the superstition and good-luck-charm angle to consider. The Nationals are 24-5 in their navy blue uniforms, which they started wearing almost exclusively in the latter half of the postseason. But it really has more to do with routine.
“I think a lot of guys will do the same thing the same way when they’re on a hot streak,” Preston said. “I mean, they’ll change their socks, but they’ll do a lot of things the same way. Because there are so many things going on, the fewer variables you have, the fewer outside things you have to think or worry about, you are able to concentrate fully on the matter at hand.”
In effect, it’s about saving some brainpower.
“If you drove to work five different ways every day of the week, you know wouldn’t be as focused on your job, because you’d be focused on getting to work,” Preston said. “It eliminates a lot of excess things you have to think about … hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do. Pitching is a bear. So you’ve got to focus.”
The fans, of course, have their own superstitions and good luck charms.
— Vickie Coleman (@vickievmc) October 15, 2019
— Kristi King (@kingWTOP) October 16, 2019
— LuckyEwe (@elle_elle_em) October 15, 2019
@WTOP I can’t help but think that #KellysNatsPurse and all it’s adventures this season has played a part as a #GoodLuckCharm for the @Nationals Does anyone want to take it to the #WorldSeries? pic.twitter.com/WiCjsylzJH
— Kelly Branaman (@KellyBranaman) October 16, 2019
— Alix Freeze (@AJFreeze15) October 16, 2019
One WTOP listener sent in a photo of a “good luck band aid” Tuesday afternoon before NLCS Game 4. It’s not official Nats merch though: it came from a Walgreens flu shot.
And WTOP sister station Federal News Network‘s Tom Temin has his own personal Nationals scoreboard that he maintains by hand.
Good luck charms or not, the Nats went from 19-31 during a mediocre May to the Fall Classic in an outstanding October — and they secured D.C.’s first World Series appearance since 1933.
And they’ll get plenty of time to rest and set up their so-far terrific rotation before beginning the last series of the season against either the Houston Astros or New York Yankees in a week. Houston leads the best-of-seven AL Championship Series 2-1 after winning Game 3 at New York 4-1 Tuesday.