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It's World Series or bust for Nationals in 2018

After near misses in recent years, club gears up for long October run
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- Only one team in all of baseball (the Dodgers) has won more regular-season games than the Nationals have during the past five seasons. The Nats have transformed themselves into one of the most successful franchises in MLB, winning the National League East four times in the past six seasons, including the past two division titles.

The Nationals have also made it clear that those regular-season wins are not enough. They have never advanced past the NL Division Series -- with the latest defeat coming in a heartbreaking five-game series against the Cubs to end their 2017 campaign.

WASHINGTON -- Only one team in all of baseball (the Dodgers) has won more regular-season games than the Nationals have during the past five seasons. The Nats have transformed themselves into one of the most successful franchises in MLB, winning the National League East four times in the past six seasons, including the past two division titles.

The Nationals have also made it clear that those regular-season wins are not enough. They have never advanced past the NL Division Series -- with the latest defeat coming in a heartbreaking five-game series against the Cubs to end their 2017 campaign.

A few teams with World Series droughts have reached the Fall Classic the past few years -- with the Cubs notably ending their historic run without a championship in 2016. The Indians and Dodgers both reached the Series and came within a game of capturing the ultimate prize, while the Astros won their first championship in November. The Nationals -- who have never won or reached a World Series in franchise history -- believe their turn is next.

That is Washington's vision for this season: bringing a championship parade to D.C. And the Nats are aware this may be their best opportunity for some time to come.

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Washington has retained much of the club that won 97 games in 2017 -- returning its top eight position players, top four starting pitchers and top three relievers. The Nationals spent this offseason ensuring that core will be surrounded by complementary pieces, re-signing right-hander Brandon Kintzler and utility man Howie Kendrick while adding first baseman Matt Adams. The Nats changed managers this offseason, bringing in Dave Martinez with the hope of finding someone to lead them to the next level. Those additions, combined with full, healthy seasons from Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper, are the upgrades the team will be counting on this season.

Video: Adams' impact on Nationals lineup in 2018

This year will prove to be a crucial one in Nats history. They are gearing up for what could be the final chance for this current core to achieve their ultimate goal of winning a World Series championship. A few key pieces will become free agents after this season -- most notably Harper, but also Daniel Murphy, Gio Gonzalez and general manager Mike Rizzo, the architect of the team's success.

So the Nationals want to capitalize now. That doesn't mean they are willing to mortgage all of their future -- such as super prospects Victor Robles and Juan Soto -- to do so. But Washington has a team that is primed to contend once again.

The Nats have championship aspirations in 2018, and they hope this is the year they can finally break through to achieve that goal.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper