Nationals

Quick Links

Nats club Cubbies

Nats club Cubbies

All year they've seen their pitching staff lauded for dominant performances and lifting them to the best record in the sport. And all the while, members of the Nationals lineup have wanted to let everyone know they're perfectly capable of winning a game by themselves.

"This is something we were thinking about in spring training," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "We knew we were capable of doing it. Unfortunately, we had some injuries and some streakiness this year. But we haven't had a six, seven-game outburst like this where we go out and score 18 runs. It's nice. We owe the starting pitchers for what they did the first couple months."

Consider the favor returned after Tuesday night's offensive explosion against a beleaguered Cubs pitching staff. Behind 19 hits -- six of them homers -- the Nationals muscled their way to an 11-5 victory that felt even more lopsided.

They're 31 games over .500 again, matching their high-water mark of the year. They've scored at least eight runs in five of their last seven games. And coupled with the Braves' 6-0 loss to the Rockies, the Nationals found themselves at night's end owning a season-high, 7 12-game lead over Atlanta with 27 left on the schedule.

Is this really the same team that one week ago was stuck in a five-game losing streak, with doubts starting to creep in for the first time all summer?

"I think we laughed it off the day we won," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "I think teams run into stretches like that, and hopefully that's the last one that we have. The team that we have, we understand that we're capable of winning any ballgame. It's nice to see that we're playing up to our potential again."

They're playing up to their potential thanks to a potent offense that suddenly has more dangerous hitters than available slots on the lineup card.

Six different Nationals have now hit 12 or more homers this season (LaRoche, Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, Bryce Harper and Michael Morse). Leadoff man Jayson Werth is hitting .324 with a .404 on-base percentage. Four reserves are hitting .279 or better (Roger Bernadina, Tyler Moore, Steve Lombardozzi and Chad Tracy. Moore has eight homers in only 136 at-bats.

Thanks to Tuesday's explosion, the Nationals now rank third in the NL with 151 home runs and 254 doubles and fourth with a .261 team batting average.

"Everybody in our lineup's capable of going out of the ballpark," manager Davey Johnson said. "We're in a pretty good place right now offensively. We've been kind of building to it."

The beneficiary of all that support on Tuesday was Edwin Jackson, who wasn't his absolute sharpest (four runs allowed in 5 23 innings) but was good enough (eight strikeouts, including five in a row at one point) to earn his ninth victory.

"There's definitely nobody in the clubhouse that's going to complain about run support," the right-hander said. "It just shows you what this team is capable of doing."

That this all occurred as the Braves were getting shut out by Colorado's suspect pitching staff only added to the wacky tone of the entire evening. Though they've tried to avoid paying too much attention to their lone remaining challenger in the NL East, the Nationals can't help but notice the out-of-town scoreboard in right field.

"Lately, yes," LaRoche said. "When you start seeing the number of games you need to win and they need to lose, you start peeking up there. Again, it's not going to change what we do. But we've got a chance to do something, so of course you do."

Quick Links

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

usatsi_10342243.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

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.

Quick Links

With contractual decisions looming, Nats missed chance at stress-free World Series run

With contractual decisions looming, Nats missed chance at stress-free World Series run

"This is the year."

That's the motto for almost every D.C. sports fan when their team is headed for the postseason.

The Nats led a weak NL East the entire season and clinched a spot to play October baseball early into September.

RELATED: COUNTLESS ERRORS DOOM NATIONALS IN SEASON-ENDING LOSS

The team overcame the obstacle of being plagued with injuries and with pitchers like Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer having a strong bullpen to back them up, the stars were aligning for the team to go all the way.

But now with players like Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy having contracts up for grabs in 2019, Nationals reporter Chelsea Janes says 2017 was really the last chance for the team to win a stress-free title.

"I think those questions you've raised like Bryce [Harper's] contract, [Daniel} Murphy may be leaving, you know Rizzo's contract's up after next year, I think those are the things they didn't have to deal with this year that made this such a free chance," Janes said on the Sports Junkies Friday.

"It was a free chance to just feel good and do it now and not have everyone say this is your absolute last chance, and next year it's their absolute last chance for a little while, I think."

"I mean they're not going to be awful in '19, but they're going to be different and I think they've sort of wasted their free pass here and there's legitimate and kind of unrelenting pressure on them next year to make it happen."

It's hard to make sense of what a team will look like one day after a devastating series loss. One thing that is fairly certain is that time is ticking for the Nats to make it happen with arguably the most talented group of players they've ever had.