Wild-card Nationals head to World Series with sweep of Cards

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Washington is heading to the World Series for the first time in 86 years after the wild-card Nationals used a seven-run first inning and Patrick Corbin's 12-strikeout performance to hold on and beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-4 Tuesday night for a sweep of the NL Championship Series.

Quite a stunning turnaround for the Nationals, who went from 19-31 in May -- when there was talk of firing manager Dave Martinez and trading away players -- to the Fall Classic in October. They have won 16 of their last 18 games.

Corbin, a $140 million lefty, became the first pitcher to strike out 10 in the first four innings of a postseason game and earned the win. Washington put up seven runs in the first, all charged to rookie Dakota Hudson, who lasted all of 15 pitches.

Washington gets plenty of time to rest and set up its rotation before beginning the World Series in a week against the Houston Astros or New York Yankees. Houston leads the best-of-seven AL Championship Series 2-1 after winning Game 3 at New York 4-1 Tuesday.