TINSMAN: Nats keep improving as 2019 season wears on

Brian Tinsman
October 24, 2019 - 1:36 am

The Washington Nationals, who couldn’t win to start the regular season, are careening through the postseason, seemingly unable to lose.

Wednesday night marked the team’s eighth-straight win, a streak that started in the NLDS, carried through an NLCS sweep, and has given the Nats a 2-0 in the World Series, which now travels back to Washington.

Over that span, the Nats have outscored opponents, all favorites to beat the Nats, 55-19. In the last two games, the Nats have scored more runs than the 1933 Washington Senators did in five games of their World Series.

Perhaps the most interesting part of their success is that they find a different way to win each time.

In Game 1, it was Juan Soto’s bat and the arms of Max Scherzer, Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle that delivered a one-run win.

In Game 2, Anthony Rendon, Kurt Suzuki and Howie Kendrick led an offensive onslaught in the later innings, at a time when the momentum seemed to be squarely in Houston’s corner.

No matter what the circumstances of the game may dictate, the Nats continue to play within themselves, throwing hard, swinging freely and dancing in the dugout. For fans of the team, this has been the norm for months.

For people just tuning in for the playoffs, it’s all a little bit confusing.

Isn’t this the team that started off the year 19-31? Weren’t they a Wild Card team that almost lost the first two rounds of the postseason?

How could they possibly compete with a team that has been in and around the World Series for several years, armed with some of the best pitching and best young hitters in the game?

“This is the last series of the season, win or lose,” Kurt Suzuki said after the game. “I’ve got energy now. If you can’t get up for this, you’re in the wrong business.

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“We’re just looking forward to the next game. We know what’s at stake...and we have our eye on the target: just to be 1-0 the next day.”

The Nationals have had the benefit of being in “playoff mode” since June. Dave Martinez has been masterful at hiding weaknesses and getting the most out of his best players.

When the Nats return to Nats Park on Friday, they will have savvy veteran Anibal Sanchez on the mound. Sanchez was electric in his only postseason start, carrying a no-hit bid into the eighth inning, buying innings back from the bullpen.

If he needs help, Patrick Corbin could be used in relief, or Corbin could be used to start Game 4. No matter what the circumstances of a game dictate, the Nationals have a player or two ready to carry the load.

As Suzuki noted, this is the final series of the season, no matter what happens. The Nats are only 54 outs away from glory, and they’re peaking at the right time.

Brian Tinsman has covered D.C. sports since 2011, both from the team marketing and skeptical fan perspectives. Tweet your criticisms @Brian_Tinsman.