The stage is set for the 2019 World Series between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, a matchup that puts a storied pair of ballparks in the Fall Classic.
In Nationals Park and Minute Maid Park, there is an interesting contrast when it comes to their playoff histories. Minute Maid Park has hosted plenty of postseason action over its 20 seasons of existence and is now being prepared to welcome its third Fall Classic. Nationals Park, meanwhile, has seen less postseason action in its shorter history—it opened in 2008—and will now host its first World Series. What the two ballparks do have in common is that they have been the site of plenty of success for their franchise since opening.
Construction was completed by the 2000 season for the Astros’ new downtown ballpark, then known as Enron Field. The retractable-roof facility took over for the Astrodome—a beloved predecessor—and within short time became a regular October ballpark. After a disappointing 72-90 finish during their debut season at the ballpark, the Astros made the playoffs in three of the next five seasons, culminating in a 2005 campaign that saw them win the National League pennant.
The franchise’s first World Series appearance was ultimately followed by several disappointing seasons, and the Astros eventually undertook on an extensive rebuilding process that finally paid off with an American League Wild Card berth in 2015. (The team changed leagues in 2013). After missing the playoffs in 2016, the Astros won the American League West in 2017 and went on to win the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have won the American League West twice since and are now looking to secure their second World Series title in three seasons.
Overall, the Astros have made the playoffs seven times over their 20 seasons at Minute Maid Park. While being the site of some memorable moments for the franchise, the ballpark also helped usher in a wave of downtown Houston sports facility construction that included the completion of the Toyota Center for the NBA’s Rockets in 2003 and BBVA Stadium for MLS’s Dynamo in 2012. The Astros have also taken steps in recent years to ensure that Minute Maid Park remains their home for decades to come, completing various renovations—with more expected for the 2020 season—and signing a lease extension last year that runs through the 2050 season.
Minute Maid Park will host games one and two of the World Series, with the Fall Classic to return for games six and seven if needed. Games three-five will be staged at Nationals Park, which will finally host World Series games after being the site of some postseason heartbreak.
Nationals Park opened in 2008, giving the Nationals a permanent home after the franchise spent the 2005-2007 seasons at RFK Stadium following its relocation from Montreal. At the time, the Nationals were going through on-field struggles as they worked to build a brighter future, so they endured plenty of hardship until winning the National League East in 2012.
The 2012 title division was the Nationals’ first of four in this decade, with the Nationals also finishing atop the National League East in 2014, 2016 and 2017. In all of those years, however, the Nationals failed to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs and were eliminated at their own ballpark in every series except for 2014. This October, the Nationals beat the Milwaukee Brewers in a thrilling Wild Card Game at Nationals Park, before upsetting the Dodgers in a five-game National League Division Series and then sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals out of the NL Championship Series.
This season marks the franchise’s first appearance in the World Series, as it failed to reach the Fall Classic while playing as the Montreal Expos from 1969 through 2004. Nationals Park will be the first ballpark in Washington, DC to host World Series games since Griffith Stadium in 1933. In that series, the original Washington Senators—now the Minnesota Twins—lost to the New York Giants, who clinched the title with a 4-3, 10-inning victory in game five at Griffith Stadium. In their history, those original Senators won only won World Series, a 1924 triumph that saw a Game 7 win at Griffith Stadium against the New York Giants.
As a ballpark, Nationals Park has been notable in serving as the anchor of a broader redevelopment initiative in D.C.’s Navy Yard neighborhood. It was not an immediate trend, but in recent years, new residences, hotels, and bars and restaurants, and other amenities have opened, something we noted in our 2018 visit to the ballpark.
In this World Series, the Nationals will look to bring a title to a city that has not seen a World Series victory since 1924, while the Astros attempt to end the decade by solidifying their status as one of baseball’s best franchises. The World Series begins Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.
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