The Astros, a team looking for its second world championship in three years, led the major leagues with 107 regular season wins in 2019. They are a strong favorite in their World Series matchup with the Nationals, a franchise that was born out of expansion as the Montreal Expos in 1969 and is now making its World Series debut.
The Nationals got into the post-season as a Wild Card, but did knock off Braves, the NL East regular-season champions who finished one game ahead of the Nationals in the standings, and the NL Central champion Cardinals. It might be worth noting, however, that the Nationals did win 93 regular season games, which was more than the NL Central champion Cardinals (91). The Dodgers (106) and Braves (97) are the only NL teams who won more games.
And don't think a Wild Card is over matched in the World Series. As the post-season has expanded from what originally was a World Series, best-of-seven, to its current status with a one-game Wild Card, then a best-of-five Division Series, then a best-of-seven League Championship Series and finally a best-of-seven World Series the grind has taken a toll on the teams that had the best records in the regular season.
Since the advent of the Wild Card in 1995, in fact, the team with the best regular-season record has won only six of the 24 World Series.
Meanwhile, a Wild Card has also won six world championships, including twice when the World Series featured a Wild Card. The AL Wild Card Angels went the full seven games in knocking off the NL Wild Card Giants in the 2002
World Series, and in 2014, the NL Wild Card Giants beat the AL Wild Card Royals to claim what was San Francisco's third World Series in five years.
This is the Nationals 51st season of play -- they originally were the Montreal Expos -- but just the first appearance in the World Series. That is the longest any team has ever gone without a World Series appearance. So is there an added pressure on a first-team participant in the World Series? Well, 13 teams have won World Championships in their first visit to the World Series, including the expansion New York Mets (1969), Toronto Blue Jays (1992), Florida Marlins (1997), Arizona Diamondbacks (2001) and California Angles (2002).
Meanwhile, the Nationals are among seven teams who have never won a World Series. The Padres and Rangers have both made two appearances but failed to win either World Series.
The Mariners are now the only team to have never appeared in a World Series, and that includes coming up short in 2001 when they equaled a regular-season record by winning 116 games. They did defeat the Indians in five games in the AL Division Series that year, but lost four of five to the Yankees in the ALCS. They also lost to the Yankees in six games in the 2000 ALCS, and to the Indians in six games in the 1995 ALCS. In 1997, they were eliminated in four games by the Orioles in the AL Division Series.