Washington Nationals: 2017 turning points for another title

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Brian Foley walks us through a rout:

On April 30, the Mets sent staff ace Noah Syndergaard to the mound with a weekend sweep on their mind. Instead, the Nationals plated 23 runs, pushed their division lead to five games, and sent New York into a season-long tailspin.

Syndergaard left the game in the second inning with a lat injury and missed most of the final five months of 2017. The 25-year-old owned a career 2.80 ERA entering the contest, and was the horse of that talented, yet fragile pitching staff. But once Syndergaard went down, the Mets’ already-cracking roster completely shattered.

Slugger Yoenis Cespedes pulled a hamstring on April 21 and missed 40 of the next 42 games. Captain David Wright has not played competitive baseball in 15 months. Pitchers Matt HarveySteven MatzSeth Lugo, and Zack Wheeler posted a bloated 5.75 ERA over just 62 combined starts. The Syndergaard injury was the tipping point for the Nats’ lone division competitor. Washington was on cruise control before Cinco de Mayo.

Besides the Mets implosion, the blowout game also proved vital for the Nationals’ steadiest player. Anthony Rendon struggled during the first month, batting just .226/.316/.250 through April 29. Rendon promptly blasted New York for three homers, six runs, and 10 RBIs, and has slashed an MVP-worthy .319/.419/.599 since the launch party. Rendon’s emergence, which kicked off against the hapless Mets, still lends Nats’ fans hope heading into October while Bryce Harper battles injury.