WASHINGTON -- The Nationals continued their recent stretch of success during the 2017 season. This past year marked the first time in team history they made the postseason in consecutive years and the fourth time in the past six years they were bound for October.Washington was one of the best
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals continued their recent stretch of success during the 2017 season. This past year marked the first time in team history they made the postseason in consecutive years and the fourth time in the past six years they were bound for October.
Washington was one of the best teams in baseball for the entire season, accumulating 97 wins and becoming the first team in baseball to secure a playoff spot after clinching the National League East in early September. Although the team ultimately came up short of its final goal, a World Series championship, there was a lot to cheer for this season in D.C.
The Nationals had franchise stalwarts Ryan Zimmerman and Giovany Gonzalez bounce back from down seasons, Bryce Harper return to an MVP level, Max Scherzer capture his second consecutive NL Cy Young Award and Stephen Strasburg on the best roll of his life. The highs were high, as fans enjoyed a roller-coaster year in Washington, even if the season ended in heartbreakingly familiar fashion.
Here are the top five moments from this past Nationals season:
Anthony Rendon's historic day
On a Sunday afternoon in April, what had been a slow start to the 2017 season for Rendon was erased by one of the best individual performances in baseball history. Rendon went 6-for-6, hitting three homers and driving in 10 runs to help lead the way during the Nats 23-5 drubbing of the Mets on April 30.
Rendon became the first player since 2007 with at least 10 RBIs in one game and joined Walker Cooper as the only players in Major League history with six hits, three homers and 10 RBIs in a single game. That day would help launch Rendon toward a career year and a sixth-place finish in voting for the NL MVP Award.
Bullpen help arrives
One of the biggest storylines for the first half of the 2017 season surrounded the Nationals' bullpen, after a particularly rough few months where the team could not find a proven closer. That made the midseason acquisitions of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from Oakland and Brandon Kintzler from Minnesota as important as any move to the team's success.
That bullpen trio arrived and stabilized the Nationals' relief corps -- with Doolittle sliding into the closing role, Madson in the eighth and Kintzler in the seventh -- addressing the club's only serious weakness and making Washington a serious World Series contender.
NL East winners again
The Nationals have been consistent winners over the past seven seasons, something that is seemingly increasingly difficult to do in today's era. But despite the injuries and obstacles they needed to overcome to get there, they cruised to another division title and secured a playoff spot on Sept. 10.
Even though they have been through it before, the champagne celebration still felt sweet for the Nationals as they celebrated their division title in front of their fans following an eight-inning gem from Strasburg.
Two franchise pillars, two game-changing home runs
In the eighth inning of Game 2 of the NL Division Series, the Nats were staring at the possibility of dropping the first two games at home to the Cubs, but two swings of the bat flipped everything. The first came off the bat of Harper, a titanic game-tying two-run homer, complete with a scowl and bat toss from one of baseball's best players. Harper's long ball was a career-defining highlight on the biggest stage in October, and it set the stage for another huge homer later in the inning.
With the score tied and a pair of runners on, Zimmerman launched a three-run blast that crept just over the left-field wall to send Nationals Park into a frenzy. Zimmerman, the first Draft pick in Nationals history, became the franchise's all-time home run leader this year, and he added perhaps the biggest homer of his career to launch the Nats to a postseason victory.
Strasburg dominates the Cubs in Game 4 of the NLDS
It was not until the morning of Game 4 that Strasburg knew he would be able to start after battling an illness the previous few days that put his status in question. By the time Strasburg took the mound, it became evident how ready for the moment he truly was.
Strasburg delivered his own career-defining performance at Wrigley Field to save the Nationals' season and extend the series to a decisive Game 5. He tossed seven shutout innings with a franchise-postseason-record 12 strikeouts, flummoxing the Cubs' offense and cementing himself as a big-game pitcher. It was a masterful performance to put an exclamation point on the best roll of Strasburg's career.
Special mention should be made for Michael A. Taylor's grand slam in the eighth inning, which broke Game 4 open.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.