Ten reasons the Nationals are going to the postseason

Ten reasons the Nationals are going to the postseason

From Bryce Harper to Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals had their share of injuries to major players. But they clinched their second National League East title in three years Tuesday against the Braves. Here are 10 reasons the Nationals are going to the postseason this year.

Anthony Rendon was more than just the team's best hitter, he played Gold Glove Award-caliber defense at third and second base. He could see himself back at second base during the postseason once Zimmerman recovers from his hamstring injury.

The leadoff man
Denard Span had his best season in five years with the Nationals. He is having his best year in the big leagues and could set career highs in runs scored and hits. He has already broken his personal record in stolen bases.

  Date Time Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 3   SF 3, WAS 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 4   SF 2, WAS 1 (18 inn.) video
Gm 3 Oct. 6   WAS 4, SF 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 7   SF 3, WAS 2 video

The manager
Hired to replace Davey Johnson, Matt Williams didn't rely on the long ball, which was his calling card as a player. It surprised no one when Williams would put on a hit-and-run play or have one of his players steal a base. Williams also showed that he is the boss. He took Harper out of a game for not hustling, and he had it out with left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who slammed the ball in Williams' hand after being taken out of a game.

The Nationals showed they can beat the Braves
It looked as though the Nationals would never beat the Braves, losing seven of the first right games vs. Atlanta this year. But things have turned around since then. Washington beat Atlanta seven of the next nine games and clinched the division on the Braves' home turf Tuesday.

Zimmerman the ultimate team player
After breaking his right thumb on April 12 against the Braves, Zimmerman returned to action June 3 and became the starting left fielder -- playing decent defense at a new position. Zimmerman went so far as to say that Rendon was the better third baseman. However, Zimmerman moved back to third base when Harper returned to action on June 30.

The Fister Factor
Right-hander Dan Haren was inconsistent in 2013, so the Nationals decided to go in a new direction and acquired Doug Fister from the Tigers for infielder Steve Lombardozzi and pitchers Ian Krol and Robbie Ray. The trade turned out to be a steal for the Nationals. Even though his season didn't start until May because of a lat strain, Fister is the team leader in wins and starter's ERA.

The 10-game winning streak
After dropping two of three to the Braves and leaving Atlanta with a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL East, the Nats went on a 10-game winning run from Aug. 12-21. Of the 10 victories, six were walk-offs. The winning streak matched the team record set in 2005, and the Nationals increased their division lead to seven games by the time the streak ended. The Braves didn't get closer than six games the rest of the season.

The Nationals get healthy
On May 24, the Nationals were 24-25 after losing to the Pirates, 3-2, at PNC Park. It didn't help that they were without Harper, Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche because of injuries. Since then, the Nationals have gone 63-38 entering Wednesday's action.

Storen for closer
Rafael Soriano lost the closer's job after posting an ERA of 6.98 from the All-Star break to Sept 5. Since becoming the new closer on Sept. 8, Drew Storen has saved six games and been unhittable thanks to his changeup, which has been a game changer.

The trade
With Zimmerman out with a Grade 3 hamstring strain, it meant Rendon had to move to third base. Washington had Kevin Frandsen and Danny Espinosa briefly filled in at second base, but before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, general manager Mike Rizzo traded infielder Zack Walters to Cleveland for Asdrubal Cabrera, who would solve the Nats' problems at second base. Cabrera has played solid defense and has hit in the clutch.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.