NEW YORK -- The Houston Astros competed in the National League from their formation in 1962 until they moved to the American League West in 2013. The Washington Nationals didn't exist until 2005, though their forerunners, the Montreal Expos, shared a league with the Astros from 1969 to 2004.
Thus, the only possible seasons that could have ended in an Astros-Nationals World Series have been the past seven. This season marked just the second time in those seven seasons that both teams made the playoffs. And so here we are: the Astros and Nationals in a brand-new Fall Classic rivalry.
In fact, there isn't a ton of history in terms of high-profile sports clashes between these two cities. The one that does come to mind is the 1984 NCAA tournament, in which the Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown Hoyas defeated Akeem (as it was spelled at the time) Olajuwon's Houston Cougars in the championship game.
There are a few elements of historical irony in play. The Astros spent most of their history in the NL, while Washington for decades was a fixture in the AL, albeit typically in the second division (Washington: first in war, first in peace and last in the American League). In that way, the teams are flip-flopped. This is Washington's first NL flag, and Houston now has two in the AL.
The Astros are playing in their second World Series in three seasons, having defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in a thrilling, seven-game series in 2017. On the other hand, this is the first pennant for the Expos/Nationals franchise. It's the first pennant for a Washington-based team since the Senators won the 1933 AL flag. When the Nationals host Game 3 on Friday, it will be the first World Series game in the nation's capital since Oct. 7, 1933, when the Senators lost to the New York Giants on a 10th-inning home run by Mel Ott.
History aside, the 2019 version of this brand-new rivalry is a fascinating one. Both teams have been playing elite baseball for months. The end points are arbitrary, but we're talking about a large swath of the schedule: After the Nationals' low-water point of 12 games under .500 on May 23, Washington went 74-38, with a Pythagorean win percentage of .651. Houston went 74-37 and .653 during that span. That's pretty much dead even.
With a bit of a layoff until the World Series begins on Tuesday, we'll have a couple of days to dig deep into this matchup. But here are a few morsels to chew on from what promises to be a compelling Fall Classic.