By: Joe Pohoryles
Last night, the second and final part of the documentary “Improbable” premiered on MASN. The documentary covers the Nats’ World Series run in 2019, with Part Two in particular focused solely on the World Series itself. You can find my thoughts from Part One here.
Like I said last time, I would say “Spoiler Alert,” but unless you are totally unfamiliar with the events of the 2019 MLB postseason, there’s really nothing to spoil.
However, if you have not seen the documentary yet and want to watch it without hearing outside opinions, you may want to wait to read this until after viewing.
I have a newfound respect for Kurt Suzuki, Joe Ross and Will Harris
Suzuki played such a huge role in Game 2 both offensively and defensively, hitting the go-ahead home run in the seventh inning (his first career postseason home run), and catching Jose Altuve trying to steal third base in the first inning, which meant Alex Bregman’s subsequent home run only tied the game instead of giving Houston the lead.
I wasn’t aware Suzuki was still dealing with issues in his arm during the World Series, and he had never been great at throwing out base runners to begin with, so the package served as a nice reminder of how crazy Suzuki’s impact was.
Then there was the whole ordeal before Game 5 with Max Scherzer scratched from starting, and Ross had to take the mound on such short notice. Hearing his thoughts and emotions behind the situation and seeing how the fans responded to it by chanting his name as he took the field was an awesome moment.
He didn’t get the win, and at the time I was upset about going down 3-2 in the series after being up 2-0, so I didn’t really take the time to appreciate his effort, but seeing how things worked out and seeing how he handled it, my respect for him was definitely reaffirmed.
Lastly, new National Will Harris, who was on the opposite side of Anthony Rendon’s game-breaking home run late in Game 6 AND Howie Kendrick’s go-ahead home run in Game 7, agreed to speak in the documentary. He gave up two huge home runs in the biggest games of his life, and he’s already at peace with it and willing to talk about it on camera.
Hearing how he processed those emotions and getting the perspective of someone from the other team was a refreshing look, and it takes a lot to open up about a terrible personal moment.
Speaking of, after Kendrick called the NLDS grand slam the “greatest moment of his career,” in Part One the night before, he called the home run in Game 7 “one of the happiest moments of my life,” and went on to say, “those two home runs pretty much made my career.” So I guess that balances things out.
No real mentions of the Astros cheating scandal
I guess that was not the focus of the documentary, and they didn’t want to take time away from the Nats winning, and the scandal may only apply to 2017 and ’18, but it still was a major storyline surrounding the series after the fact, and could have reasonably been mentioned.
The closest thing was how Stephen Strasburg and pitching coach Paul Menhart dealt with Strasburg tipping pitches in Game 6, which isn’t even cheating on the Astros’ end.
It was already known that Strasburg was tipping pitches and made an adjustment mid-game, but hearing how he and Menhart went about it, and getting to see what they were talking about specifically was one of the best moments of Part Two.
Juan Soto is the coolest guy in baseball
A lot of the talk surrounding Game 6 was about Bregman carrying his bat to first base after hitting a home run early, and then Soto following up with the same bat carry after his mammoth shot in the fifth inning.
The MASN reporters interviewed about that moment took exception with Bregman but praised Soto, which to me seems pretty biased. To me, you either love both gestures or you condemn both, and I stand on the “love” side. Baseball purists may disagree, but I thought the back-and-forth was fantastic.
The fact that Soto saw Bregman show up the Nats, thought “Ooo, that was nasty. I like it,” then proceed to go yard just a few innings later and clap back with the same move just shows how big-time he is.
“I just wanna feel the swag,” he would say. I can’t get enough of this guy. Also that No. 22 chain? Absolute fire.
Seeing Bregman flounder defensively in Game 2 will never get old
Neither will the final strikeout of Game 7.
The truth behind Dave Martinez’s ejection in Game 6
With the Nats leading by just one run with a runner on first, Trea Turner smacked a grounder to the infield, where he legged out a single as the ball reached Astros’ first baseman Yuli Gurriel. The ball bounced off Gurriel’s glove then hit Turner’s leg as he reached first, causing the ball to roll into foul territory. The runners advanced an extra base, and with runners on second and third with no outs, and the heart of the order on deck, things were looking good.
Then Turner was controversially called out for interference, and after a lengthy review, the call was upheld. What could have dramatically altered the outcome of the series was soon made moot when, after Adam Eaton popped out, Rendon stepped up to the plate and blasted a two-run home run to left field, extending the Nats’ lead to 5-2.
After the inning, Martinez left the dugout and blew up, confronting the umpires with intense anger as bench coach Chip Hale tried to restrain him. He wound up getting ejected, and everyone assumed he was still upset about the call on Turner. According to Martinez, that was not entirely the case.
“I was all done, I was good [after Rendon’s home run]. Gary Cederstrom [the third base umpire], in between innings, called me out,” Martinez said.
I don’t believe that detail came to light until the film. I just wonder what Cederstrom said exactly to set him off. Obviously it had to do with the call, but they probably couldn’t air the specifics.
Yan Gomes delivers again
After sharing great insight in Part One, Gomes provided some excellent stories surrounding the events of the bottom of the ninth in Game 7. He really opened up his thought processes during each at bat, and his ability to connect Ross’s pitching in Game 5 to the final at bat of Game 7 was really cool, proving that despite losing the game, Ross played a valuable role in winning the World Series.
Gomes described, “We weren’t coming in on a lot of their guys a lot, and Joe exposed a little bit of that game, so we ended up starting attacking Michael Brantley in a little bit more.”
After realizing Brantley was starting to swing on inside fastballs, that led directly to the final strikeout, and I found it to be just an incredible detail.
After watching the total three hours of the film this weekend, I would sit down and listen to Gomes talk about the entire 2019 season and playoff run for three hours if I could.
No Rendon or Gerardo Parra
Throughout the entirety of the documentary, there was not a testimonial from Rendon or Parra, two largely important pieces of the team’s run in completely different ways.
Rendon signed a huge contract with the Los Angeles Angels in the offseason, and Parra went off to play in Japan, so it seems neither were made available for comment. Given the fact that many of the players and coaches were wearing spring training uniforms in their testimonials, they were likely all shot during spring training.
Still, given Rendon’s MVP-caliber play and clutch hitting throughout the season, it would have been nice to hear from a player we absolutely would not have won without.
Parra was also the lifeblood of the clubhouse, leading the Baby Shark revolution and lifting everybody up from the dugout. I’m sure timing constraints and/or contract regulations got in the way of their appearance, but it would have been nice to see them featured. The whole Baby Shark thing should have gotten its own sequence, in Part One or otherwise.
Turner had the best line in Part Two
While Bo Porter held that title for Part One, Turner gets the recognition for Part Two, after cameras caught him on the way to the locker room just moments after the team had won Game 7.
He embraced owners Ted & Annette Lerner, both in their 90s, and told Annette, “I’m going to go party,” before high-tailing to the locker room in a celebratory scream as Annette turned around to the camera in amused disbelief saying, “Oh my god, he’s going to go party.”
It was a quick, funny moment that the cameras were lucky enough to catch amidst the celebration, and it was easily one of the best parts of the film.
As great as this whole documentary was, I think watching something like this once we’re further removed from the actual events will allow us to appreciate what happened even more. After all, this all happened less than a year ago, and it’s freshly ingrained in our minds, so I think the viewing experience would be significantly greater with the added effect of nostalgia and the context of whatever may come in the future.
In fact there should eventually be a whole film on the rise of the team through all the down years, through the back-to-back first overall picks of Strasburg and Bryce Harper in 2009 and 2010, respectively; then go through all the playoff exits and the Harper free agency saga to tell the complete story.
There’s certainly time for all of that, but for now I’d say “Improbable” does a good job of taking fans through the playoff run while getting to tap into the thoughts of the players, coaches and reporters involved.
(Cover Photo Credit: Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)