Two years removed from one of the most devastating playoff losses in MLB history, the Washington Nationals have returned to the postseason. The Nationals convincingly won the NL East by 17 games over the Braves due to a strong second half of the season. Washington finished the 2014 season with the best record in the National League and earned home field advantage throughout National League playoffs. The Nationals were able to clinch the division title in grand fashion, beating the Braves in their ballpark and therefore celebrating on their field.
At the MLB All-Star break, Washington was tied with their rival Atlanta with a record of 51-42. Since the All-Star break, Washington has excelled while the Braves have spiraled out of contention. The catalysts for Washington’s stretch run have been a consistent pitching staff to go along with increased run production. The aces that have been most crucial to the Nationals have been Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann, and Stephen Strasburg who had Earned Run Averages (ERA’s) of 2.41, 2.66, and 3.14 respectively. Washington led the NL in team ERA during the regular season. On offense, Washington presents a balanced attack that includes one of the deepest lineups from top to bottom in the National League. The most consistent performances this season have come from the play of Washington’s top three hitters: Denard Span, Anthony Rendon, and Jayson Werth. The Nationals will need their production in the coming weeks.
After all the success during the regular season, now is the time when the Nationals will have to play at their best; something they did not do the last time they were in the playoffs in 2012. Washington will face either the Pittsburgh Pirates or the San Francisco Giants in the National League Divisional Series (NLDS). The Nationals seem poised this time around to achieve their ultimate goal; winning the World Series.
In 2012, Washington was an underdog team that surprised the MLB with how well they played. The Nationals seemed happy just to be in the postseason, as opposed to winning in the postseason. This time around, in 2014, the Nationals are not satisfied with just getting there. They seem focused and determined to accomplish their goal. “The Nats are more of a complete team this year because they are experienced and have more talent. They have the capability to win it all,” said junior John Griffin. Like 2012, the expectations are high for the playoffs. Will the result be the same?
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