They finished April with a 13-10 record. However, by mid-May until the rest of the season, Washington played more like the 2009 team that lost 103 games.
Despite having a disappointing season, the Nats had their share of great moments. Here are the top 5 that will not be forgotten for a long time.
5. Espinosa makes big splash at Nationals Park
Danny Espinosa is the reason the Nationals were able to overcome a three-run deficit and pound the Mets, 13-3, at Nationals Park on Sept. 6. The rookie second baseman went 4-for-5, hit two home runs and knocked in six runs, which matched a season high for a Nats player. (Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman each also drove in six runs in a game in 2010.) Espinosa also became just the seventh player since 1920 to have a six-RBI game so early in his career, joining the Cubs' Starlin Castro, who drove in six runs in his Major League debut May 7.
4. Capps gets victory at All-Star Game
A few weeks before the Nationals traded him to the Twins, reliever Matt Capps played in his first All-Star Game and picked up the victory as the National League defeated the American League, 3-1, at Angel Stadium on July 13. Capps entered in the bottom of the sixth inning, replacing Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay with two outs, a runner on first base and the AL leading, 1-0. Capps faced Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, the 2010 State Farm Home Run Derby champion. Capps had not faced Ortiz before, and felt he had the advantage because Ortiz didn't have a scouting report on him. Capps found himself behind in the count, 2-0, but managed to strike out Ortiz on the next three pitches to end the inning. The NL took the lead in the top of the seventh on a three-run double by Braves catcher Brian McCann.
3. Harper reaches agreement with Nats
On Aug. 16, the Nationals announced that they agreed to terms on a five-year contract with outfielder Bryce Harper, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. The five-year contract is worth $9.9 million, which includes a $6.25 signing bonus. The deal was a new record for a position player signed out of the Draft. The previous record was held by Mark Teixeira, who received a $9.5 million, four-year Major League deal from the Rangers in 2001.
2. Nats signs Werth to lucrative deal
Washington showed it was a player in the free-agent market, signing outfielder Jayson Werth to a seven-year deal worth $126 million on Dec. 5. After losing Dunn to the White Sox, the Nationals had money to spend. Werth, 31, will help replace Dunn's bat in the middle of Washington's lineup. The Nats are not concerned that Werth will be 38 by the time the deal is done. Werth said he thought about playing for the Nationals the moment he hired Scott Boras as his agent late last season. Werth is impressed by how Washington has been able to acquire young talent such as Harper and right-hander Stephen Strasburg.
1. Strasburg makes phenomenal debut
On June 8, Strasburg, the first overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, made his Major League debut against the Pirates and was phenomenal. He pitched seven innings of two-run ball against the Pirates on June 8, earning the win and striking out 14 in a 5-2 win at Nationals Park. A sellout crowd of 40,315 saw Strasburg allow just four hits, and his 14 strikeouts established not only a club record, but also was one shy of the all-time mark of 15 in a Major League debut, set by Karl Spooner in 1954 and equaled by J.R. Richard in '71.
Even more amazing was that he struck out no more than nine batters in a game while pitching in the Minor Leagues. Strasburg, who did the job without looking at scouting reports, threw 94 pitches, 65 for strikes, and didn't walk a batter. The righty retired his final 10 batters, striking out his last seven.
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.