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Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman thriving with fresh start in playoffs

Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman thriving with fresh start in playoffs

Nationals teammates Bryce Harper and Gio Gonzalez each spoke at the end of the 2016 regular season how they viewed the playoffs as a new beginning, how their frustrating years were behind them and how the postseason offered a clean slate. All numbers start at zero again in October and they were determined to use that fresh start to their advantage.

First baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who also had a tough year involving injuries and struggles at the plate, including a career-worst .642 OPS, thought the same for himself.

"This year was frustrating for me. I'm not going to lie. I've always been a streaky guy and I just never really got going this year. Whether it was missing a little bit of time here or there, or just not being able to get going," he said.

"I was joking the other day. When you have a great regular season, you say 'I want to carry this into the postseason.' Then, when you don't have a good season, you say 'now I get to start a new one.' It's kind of whatever you want to make of it."

[RELATED: Lobaton unlikely hero as Nats win Game 2, draw even in NLDS]

Through two games in the Nats' NL Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Zimmerman has looked like a new version of himself, a revitalized offensive force delivering exactly what his team hoped he could provide. He has become more important in the Nats' lineup as a right-handed bat with All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos done for the season, and so far the results have been very good.

Zimmerman is 3-for-7 with a walk, having reached in exactly half of his NLDS plate appearances. He hasn't scored or brought in a run, but he is playing better than he was just recently when he closed the regular season going 4-for-19 in his final six games.

Zimmerman, 32, says he also just feels different.

"Something in this last week or 10 days, whether it was in [batting practice] or just having time to get healthy, I feel great at the plate," he explained. "I feel like I'm right where I need to be. I'm having great at-bats. I'm just excited it came. I guess it's better late than never."

[RELATED: Lobaton's series-changing homer defied odds, elements]

Zimmerman has been among several Nats players who weren't offensive standouts int he regular season, but have produced so far through two NLDS games. Catchers Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino, in particular, have been huge. Lobaton's three-run homer on Sunday essentially turned the series around.

Manager Dusty Baker, naturally, is encouraged by all of that.

"You need some untimely heroes during these playoffs. We're a team and we stress that all the time. Hey man, if one guy is not performing up to his level, then somebody else has got to pick him up," Baker said.

"This is how teams win. I mean, these guys, I'm proud of them to this point, how they have responded, especially with the injuries to front-line guys. I'm just hoping that some more guys step up."

[RELATED: Dodgers well-aware of Nats' Trea Turner and his threat to steal]

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Bryce Harper thanks Nationals fans for support during 2017 season

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USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Harper thanks Nationals fans for support during 2017 season

It's been a week since the air was sucked out of D.C. in the Nationals Game 5, 9-8 loss to the Chicago Cubs. 

And now that we've had a few days to decompress from another early D.C. playoff exit, Nats right fielder Bryce Harper decided to take some time to thank fans for their support this season.

Harper posted an Instagram video Wednesday afternoon, with a fresh cut, and thanked fans for continuing to pack Nats Park. In the video he says he looks forward to "chasing that championship" again next spring. 

The 2017 season could be described as a rough one for Harper after missing the last few weeks of the season with a bone bruise in his left knee. 

Harper had a .319 average during the 2017 season, along with 29 home runs, 97 RBI's, 95 runs scored and 4 stolen bases. He is entering the final year of his contract.

RELATED: 20 THINGS SAD D.C. SPORTS FANS SHOULD BE HAPPY ABOUT

National Fans. Thank you!💯 #RedLightRecording

A post shared by Bryce Harper (@bharper3407) on

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Nationals Game 5 meltdown yet another reminder why D.C. can't have nice things

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Nationals Game 5 meltdown yet another reminder why D.C. can't have nice things

On Thursday night, a Washington, D.C. pro sports team did something Washington, D.C. pro sports teams are very good at doing: fall short of making a league or championship game.

The Nationals' disastrous fifth inning against the Cubs in Game 5 of the National League Divisional Series was the beginning of the end, not to mention yet another in a long line of disappointing playoff results for Washington, D.C. sports teams.

You see, Washington, D.C. is the only city with at least three major pro sports teams to not have a single one make a conference or league championship game since 2000.

To make matters worse, Washington, D.C. sports teams have now lost 16 consecutive playoff games in which a win would've advanced the team to the conference or league championship. 

Think about that for a second. Four teams. Zero conference championship appearances since 1998. 

Here's the list.

Washington, D.C. sports fans are not greedy. We can't be. We've had some very good teams recently, with the type of talent, coaching and intangibles needed to win a championship. 

TRY THIS: 20 THINGS DC SPORTS FANS SHOULD BE HAPPY ABOUT. YES, HAPPY.

The last time a major Washington, D.C. pro sports team won a world championship was in 1992 when the Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI.  The last time a major Washington, D.C. pro sports team even made a conference championship game was in 1998, when the Capitals advanced to the Eastern Conference Final, defeating the Sabres to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Washington, D.C. isn't allowed to have nice sports things.

Sure, we have great players and great teams, but when the playoffs roll around, all the nice things go away. We aren't privy to plucky upstarts who run the table and we aren't privy to dominant teams that make long postseason runs.

Washington, D.C. will have its day, eventually. Sure it may only be a conference championship appearance, but for us, that's fine. We don't expect world championships. We just want something to get invested in.

Early playoff exits are rarely worth the investment.