WASHINGTON -- The Nationals believe this year's team is their most complete during their run of four National League East championships in six seasons. They're optimistic entering the postseason, with aspirations of making their first deep run in October and escaping the NL Division Series after three disappointing defeats.• NLDS
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals believe this year's team is their most complete during their run of four National League East championships in six seasons. They're optimistic entering the postseason, with aspirations of making their first deep run in October and escaping the NL Division Series after three disappointing defeats.
• NLDS Game 1: Tonight, 7:30 p.m. ET on TBS
Washington will be formidable this postseason, and the Nats have plenty of reasons to believe they can win the World Series. Here are three of them:
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1. Depth of the lineup
Inserting Bryce Harper back into the middle of the Nationals' lineup is not just a huge boost because of the upgrade Harper provides, but it also gives them perhaps the most formidable middle of the order in the postseason. No matter what order manager Dusty Baker decides to put them in, Harper, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman are all having stellar seasons, with Trea Turner setting the table at the top.
"[Harper's] presence in the lineup means a lot, not only for him, but for everybody in the lineup," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "He lengthens us greatly and makes the middle of the lineup potent, and I think he'll change the whole pitching attack on how teams to pitch to players around him."
2. Best 1-2 starting pitching punch in baseball
No team will have a stronger top of the rotation than Washington with right-hander Max Scherzer, one of the favorites to win the NL Cy Young Award, alongside Stephen Strasburg, who has been the most dominant pitcher in baseball during the second half.
Strasburg has made only one career postseason start, and the Nationals have never opened a postseason with their two aces at the top of their rotation. The Nats are thrilled to finally see those two in postseason action together, and the prospect of them taking the ball for four out of seven games will make the Nationals difficult to beat.
3. Revamped back end of the bullpen
Once a trouble spot, the Nationals' bullpen has transformed into a strength thanks to the acquisitions of Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, who converted his first 21 save opportunities after being acquired. If the Nats can take the lead into the later innings of games, they now feel comfortable they can secure the victory.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.