WASHINGTON --The end of the season came so abruptly for the Nationals, with another loss in the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile, but that does not diminish what they accomplished before the ending.The Nationals won 97 games, the second most in franchise history, and captured their fourth division
WASHINGTON --The end of the season came so abruptly for the Nationals, with another loss in the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile, but that does not diminish what they accomplished before the ending.
The Nationals won 97 games, the second most in franchise history, and captured their fourth division championship in the past six seasons. Their offense shattered records for runs and home runs, with NL MVP Award candidates up and down the lineup. Washington's starting pitching was strong, with two aces at the top backed up by a career year from another franchise stalwart.
There was a lot to be proud of for these Nationals in one of the most exciting seasons in franchise history. Here are some of those good memories from the 2017 season.
Wrapping up the NL East
The day the Nationals officially secured their fourth division title in six seasons was a bit of an odd one. First, they beat the Phillies at Nationals Park then waited around, along with a section of fans, for hours until the end of a Braves-Marlins game, which went into extra innings. Jayson Werth even put on street clothes, ready to leave if Miami had secured a victory and postponed Washington's celebration.
Atlanta came back to win the game in extras, sending Washington to the postseason for consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. It sent the Nationals back out onto the field to celebrate with the fans before they sprayed champagne to commemorate one of the toughest accomplishments in the game.
It has still been just 13 seasons since baseball returned to Washington, and the Nats have transformed into one of the most successful regular-season teams in MLB.
A loud eighth inning
Facing the potential of dropping the first two games of the NLDS to the Cubs, the Nationals offense erupted in Game 2 at Nationals Park for one of the most memorable innings in team history.
First, came Bryce Harper, less than a week removed from a left knee injury that put his postseason in jeopardy producing one of the biggest moments of his career. His game-tying two-run home run, scowl and bat toss sent Nationals Park into a frenzy and awoke the offense out of its slumber. Before his injury, Harper was on track to be one of the favorites for the NL MVP Award, and he showed with one mighty swing his ability as a game-changing player.
That paved the way for Ryan Zimmerman's homer later in the inning, a three-run dinger to give Washington the lead and the franchise stalwart the biggest hit in his career. Zimmerman's 2017 season served as a renaissance for a career many considered on the decline. Instead, he rebounded with a career high in both home runs and OPS over a full season.
The Nationals often wondered how different the postseason would be if they had both of their aces at peak form. They had a chance to see their dominance in the NLDS against the Cubs, with a healthy Stephen Strasburg during one of the best stretches of his career and Max Scherzer, rebounding from a hamstring injury to look like his old self.
In two NLDS starts, Strasburg yielded just two unearned runs and six hits in 14 innings while striking out 22. That included his incredible performance in Game 4 when he struck out 12 in seven scoreless innings as he battled flu-like symptoms.
Pair him with Scherzer, who will be one of the favorites to capture the NL Cy Young Award this season, which would be his third overall and second consecutive. Scherzer had a stellar start in Game 3, when he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning as he pitched through a hamstring injury.
The Nationals began their own personal home run derby on July 27 that made them a part of MLB history. Brian Goodwin, Wilmer Difo, Harper and Zimmerman homered in four consecutive at-bats, marking only the eighth time a team hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers in a game.
And for good measure, Anthony Rendon homered again two batters later to make it five homers in six batters. Overall, the Nationals hit eight homers in the game, tying a franchise record. The 2017 Nationals finished with 215 home runs, the most in a single season in franchise history.
One of the first moments the Nationals showed how truly special this offense could be came in late April during a record-setting 23-5 shellacking of the Mets. The Nats scored 23 runs on 23 hits, the most since the team came to Washington in 2005. The day was highlighted by Rendon, who went 6-for-6 with three home runs and a franchise record 10 RBIs.
It helped launch Rendon forward to the best season of his career. He set career highs with 25 home runs, 100 RBIs, a .937 OPS, and 6.9 Wins Above Replacement, according to Fangraphs, that will make him a viable candidate for the NL MVP Award.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.