HOUSTON (AP) — Stephen Strasburg paraded the MVP trophy for delirious fans packed behind the dugout. Max Scherzer tearfully hugged his teammates. Gerardo Parra did the Baby Shark chop, Sean Doolittle flapped snow angels next to the mound.
Almost out of contention in May, champs in October.
Howie Kendrick, Anthony Rendon and the Washington Nationals completed their amazing comeback journey — fittingly with one last late rally on the road.
In Game 7 of the World Series, no less.
With all eyes on Scherzer and his remarkable recovery after a painkilling injection, these Nationals truly embraced their shot in the only Series when the road team won every game.
Even more against the odds: Juan Soto and Washington came from behind to win five elimination games this postseason, an unprecedented feat.
"What a story," said Ryan Zimmerman, the only player who's been a part of every Nationals team.
"The way this game went is the way our whole season went."
Strasburg, new lefty Patrick Corbin and the Nats brought the first World Series championship to the nation's capital since ol' Walter Johnson delivered the crown for the Senators in 1924.
This franchise started out as the Montreal Expos in 1969 when the major leagues expanded beyond the border, putting a team with tricolor caps at jaunty Jarry Park. They moved to D.C. in 2005, ending Washington's three-decade-plus wait for big league baseball after the Senators skipped town to become the Texas Rangers.
But the incredible path these wild-card Nationals with the curly W logo took, well, no one could have imagined.
Because in one topsy-turvy week, they put aside the pain of past playoff failures and upended heavily favored Houston. Quite an ending to a season that began back in February with the Nationals and Astros working out side-by-side at the spring training complex they share in Florida.
"Resilient, relentless bunch of guys," manager Dave Martinez said. "They fought all year long."
Having lost star slugger Bryce Harper in free agency and beset by bullpen woes, Washington plummeted to 19-31 in late May. It got so bad there was talk the Nationals might fire Martinez and trade away Scherzer.
Instead, they stuck with the mantra that sprung up on T-shirts — Stay In The Fight.
"That was our motto," Scherzer said.
And months later they finished it, indeed.
Shut out on one hit by Zack Greinke going into the seventh, they still found a way to win.
"Guess what? We stayed in the fight. We won the fight!" Martinez shouted during the trophy celebration on the field."We were down and out. We were 19-31. We didn't quit then, we weren't going to quit now."
Strasburg earned the World Series MVP award with a pair of wins, including Game 6.
"It's almost like we've done it so many times that we have to get punched in the face to kind of wake up," he said.
As pitcher Aníbal Sánchez told Scherzer while hugging him in the middle of the diamond: "We won one. We finally won one."
For the 43,326 revved-up fans at Minute Maid Park, it was a combination of shock and disappointment. So close to seeing José Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer and their Astros add to the title they won in Game 7 at Dodger Stadium two years ago, they watched this chance suddenly vanish.
"I've got a group of heartbroken men in there that did everything they could to try to bring a World Series championship to this city. And we fell one win shy," Astros manager AJ Hinch said.
"Let's be honest, there's 28 other teams that would love to have our misery today," he said. "And I just told our team, it's hard to put into words and remember all the good that happened because right now we feel as bad as you can possibly feel," he added.
President Donald Trump, greeted with chants of "Lock him up!" when he attended Game 5 in Washington, tweeted his congratulations to the Nationals from the White House.
"Game 7 was amazing!" Trump tweeted.
Far away, a sizable crowd poured into Nationals Park for a watch party. That was the stadium where Houston hammered the Nats for three games last weekend in taking a 3-2 edge, but their luck changed in Texas.
They won the last two against a team that posted the best home record in the majors (60-21) over the last two decades. Houston earned home-field advantage throughout the postseason, but it didn't help in the end as the Astros went a stunning 0-4 in their own ballpark during the Series.
Martinez said Soto, who turned 21 last week, celebrated with his first beer. Meanwhile, the skipper, who had a heart procedure six weeks ago and can't resume his six-cups-a-day coffee habit, headed back to the clubhouse for a cigar.
"Yeah, the ultimate goal is to win the World Series, and we fell short to a great team. You can't hang your head low about that," Springer said. "You move on and start getting ready for spring training."
The Nationals became the first wild-card team to win the Series since Madison Bumgarner and the Giants in 2014. The last six champs have clinched on the road.