Washington Nationals' Favorite Status in NCLS Odds Show How Far They Come

By Geoff Magliocchetti
Divisional Series - Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Five
Divisional Series - Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Five / Harry How/Getty Images

And to think they were four outs away from elimination barely a week ago.

The Washington Nationals have opened as favorites for the National League Championship Series. Per ESPN, the Nationals are -120 in the Caesars Sportsbook and stand at 7-2 at SugarHouse. They're set to take on the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, which opens on Friday night at Busch Stadium (8:08 p.m. ET, TBS).

This is perhaps the most telling sign of the Nationals' rise to glory. This NLCS will be the first for the franchise since it moved to Washington in 2005. The franchise previously made a five-game appearance in the 1981 NLCS as the Montreal Expos.

The Nationals appeared to be in trouble when they lost Bryce Harper to an expensive offseason deal from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Per Newsweek, the Nationals opened the 2019 season at 18-1 odds to reach the World Series, third-best in the NL East behind Philadelphia and the Atlanta Braves. The team missed Harper's prescience in the early going, and SugarHouse had the Nationals dropping to 70-1 odds in May when the team was faltering at 19-31.

Now, they're moving on while their rivals watch from home.

It's a big accomplishment for a team that few saw succeeding, but the Nationals' players and management know they're capable of much more.

“There’s a bunch of professional players in here that never pointed fingers, never gave anonymous quotes and tried to blow up the clubhouse,” general manager Mike Rizzo said, per Sam Fortier of the Washington Post. “It’s something that I won’t forget as a GM, because it’s a special group of guys.”

Now comes the hard part, proving the oddsmakers right. It's a position the Nationals certainly aren't used to it, but a challenge they'll undoubtedly welcome.