Natitude is back! The Washington Nationals are back in the playoffs and this year they think their team is the most talented yet. Barring a miracle, the Nats will go into the postseason with the second best record in the National League and will most likely play the defending World Series Champion Chicago Cubs. This is sure to be one of the most intriguing NLDS matchups and will feature an array of stellar pitching. The Nationals did not get here overnight though.
The Nationals came into spring training with high expectations. Last year they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and the Nats seem to be stuck in a postseason rut. They can’t seem to get out of the NLDS even though they continue to dominate in the regular season. This year, they hope the story is different. Very early on in the season, the Nationals proved they were the best team in the N.L. East and one of the best teams in all of baseball. This is in big thanks to the hot start of Nationals veteran, Ryan Zimmerman. He started the season scorching though which was not expected and quickly became a run producing machine. They also got production from there superstar second basemen, Daniel Murphy and one of the best players in all of baseball, Bryce Harper. This offense is scary good when they are clicking on all cylinders but their most impressive thing is, their pitching might be even better. Max Scherzer is perhaps, the best pitcher in the game. He comes night in and night out with no-hitter stuff almost every time. He is like an artist on the mound and the batters box is his muse, painting the corners like its second nature. He is coming into the postseason with a 16-6 record along with 263 SO which is second in MLB and a 2.55 ERA. This is of course barring a late season start and if that changes, I will update the stats when they come. The point is if the Nats want to succeed in October a big contributor is going to have to be Scherzer. Another dominant pitcher this year has been Stephen Strasburg. He is arguably the best 2 in baseball and is having a career year. If the combination of Scherzer and Strasburg produce like they have all season, this team can be dangerous.
In order for them to win, I think there are two key points that have happen; offensive production and health. As many of you know, postseason play is usually dominated by pitching and usually the team that breaks through with the bats will succeed the most. We know the talent is there in the National’s bats. They have arguably the best 3-4-5 in all off baseball with Murphy, Harper, and Zimmerman and even at the bottom of the order they can produce runs. The second big point that will lead to success for the Nats is health. They must stay healthy. This season they have had plenty of problems with injuries. Whether it was Trea Turner who was out for a big chunk of the season, or Ace Max Scherzer who has been battling a neck problem throughout the second half of the season and even superstar Bryce Harper who has been out with a heavy knee contusion, the Nats have gone through it all. Nevertheless, it looks like Dusty Baker’s squad is coming into the postseason healthy and if it stays the way, I think you will see the Nationals as the N.L. representative in the World Series this year. This team is just way too talented not to play in the fall classic this year. I think their momentum will however run out and they will lose to the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.