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On this day exactly one year ago, Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run homer and Max Scherzer struck out seven in seven innings during Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers to keep the Washington Nationals’ playoff hopes alive. The city would soon celebrate the Nationals’ first World Series title since 1933. Three days after that NLDS game, the Washington Mystics rallied from a halftime deficit to beat the Connecticut Sun to win their first WNBA title in a decisive Game 5.
D.C. sports fans don’t need reminding, but 2019 was a historically successful year for Washington sports teams. (Well, with the notable exception of the since-renamed football team.)
But in a year that’s anything but normal, D.C. sports teams have struggled to replicate the magic of last year. It can be argued that with the coronavirus rates in the country, sports—particularly leagues that refuse to compete in a bubble or that use unpaid, college labor—shouldn’t even be happening right now.
The Wizards only won one of their eight games in Orlando. The Capitals lost in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year and fired their coach, Todd Reirden, just two years after winning the Stanley Cup. The Mystics lost in the first round of the WNBA playoffs on a last-second buzzer beater by a player that the team waived just a month earlier. The Nats failed to qualify for the playoffs and struggled to find consistency in the pandemic-shortened 60-game season. The Spirit, looking to build on its success last season, played a splintered schedule that ended with a fall series that only included four games against two opponents. None of the teams played in front of fans.
It’s enough to make professional athletes like Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle appreciate what his team accomplished last year even more.
“I can’t speak for everybody but for me, I absolutely feel that way,” Doolittle told reporters before the last game of the Nationals’ season. “I think this season has been so unique, especially since my injury, I found myself focusing on, rather than uncertainty of free agency and what’s going to happen next, just how lucky I was to be here for the last four years and really how cool winning the World Series really was, how special it was that we were able to accomplish that.”
—Kelyn Soong (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
City Desk links will return tomorrow.
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