Washington Nationals: Well-Rounded Team Has Great Shot To Advance

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Sep 24, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; The Washington Nationals celebrate in the clubhouse after clinching the National League Eastern Division Championship by defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. The Nationals won 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; The Washington Nationals celebrate in the clubhouse after clinching the National League Eastern Division Championship by defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. The Nationals won 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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With a dynamic and new offense combined with a first class pitching staff from top-to-bottom, the Washington Nationals have their best chance in years to secure home-field advantage and a postseason series win.

The goggles were out and the booze flowed.

After a disappointing season last year, yesterday’s 6-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates and division title is a true celebration for the players, coaches, and front office. And, now that the hoopla over the San Francisco Giants’ “even year” theory is over, it’s time to pass the torch to the Washington Nationals.

For the third time in five years (2012, 2014, 2016) the Nationals are NL East Division champions. This is a great accomplishment considering where the franchise was just five or six years ago. But — lest we forget — this has the potential to be the third time in five years Washington is beaten in the first round.

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That ending comes much closer to reality if the Nationals can’t manage to secure home-field advantage over the Dodgers as this season winds down. There is still work to be done.

Home field matters in baseball. The differences in each park, and the tendency of GM’s to build their roster in service of those differences, makes the end of the regular season important.

But whether they have home field or not, Nats fans will have the typical cautionary mindset for the playoffs. There is very little confidence in the on-paper talent to win a playoff series. As the recent Giant and Red Sox teams show us (and the 2012 Nats), it requires those mysterious, chemistry-driven intangibles to have playoff success.

It’s hard to ignore the advantages this roster has over the past playoff teams. Certain offensive stars, like Trea Turner, Wilson Ramos, and Daniel Murphy, fill roles that just weren’t present before. Turner, like Denard Span, is a great contact and speed player made for the top of the lineup. He separates himself from Span with some sneaky but consistent pop.

Ramos started on previous teams, but is now at a new level offensively. Murphy may be the Nationals’ most well-rounded hitter, other than 2015 Bryce Harper, in the past five years. Stephen Drew is one of the better utility veterans in baseball.

Most of the focus is placed on the pitching staff — and rightfully so — but this offense is versatile. Last night’s win showcased that. Everyone in the lineup had a hit except for Zimmerman. Ramos, Turner, and Drew combined for six of those hits, and Harper drove in two runs. Meanwhile old reliable — the Nationals’ pitching staff — displayed its versatility.

Joe Ross looked good in his second start after a stint on the 60-day DL. He struck out four in 2.2 innings of work. Reynaldo Lopez pitched a fantastic relief in five innings, only allowing three hits while striking out six. Lopez, Ross, and AJ Cole have turned into a dangerous trio of young pitchers, and Lucas Giolito is still waiting.

Next: How the Nats Won The NL East

With a dynamic and new offense combined with a first class pitching staff from top-to-bottom, the Nationals have their best chance in years to secure home-field advantage and a postseason series win. And if Harper wakes up? There will be much more than that in the cards.

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