Washington Nationals: How the NL East was won

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 09: Howie Kendrick /
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You cannot quantify what a good team playing as one can do. There are no sabermetrics for good clubhouses and coaching.

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There are plenty of nights you would see the lineup Dusty Baker assembled and scratch your head. As good as Anthony Rendon is why in the world would he hit sixth. Why? Because it worked.

In 2017, everything worked. Even when the bullpen gave games away like the Summer Steam Sale, the lead never shrunk. Twice this year the Nats lost four straight, but not a fifth. The last time they were a game out of first was April 12. A 3-1 win in Atlanta put them in first the rest of the way on April 18 after 13 games.

From Ryan Zimmerman’s comeback year to Victor Robles’ speed, the Nationals approached this season in lock step. The goal from February when Washington gathered in West Palm Beach was to return to the playoffs. Well, they are back.

Except for a pair of nameless quotes complaining about the bullpen early, not one bad peep came from the clubhouse. You can, and should, credit Baker and his veterans for keeping the peace. Whatever egos clashed in the heat of Summer stayed quiet.

The challenge of keeping a team motivated as the lead and injuries mounted, yet Washington excelled. When Hunter Strickland plunked Harper on Memorial Day, the team responded as one smashing the San Francisco Giants off the field.

The statistics show a superb team in all phases of the ball. Although not tremendous fielders, their .698 defensive efficiency is third in the NL. They never beat themselves.

Yet, the story of the regular season goes beyond a page on FanGraphs. Washington never believed they were out of any game. The tenacity was off the charts. Every night, they grew as a team.

Next: Taylor peaks at right time

How it ends is a story for another day. For now, enjoy the ride.