WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have been one of the most consistent teams in baseball all year, right behind the Cubs with the second-best record in the National League for most of the season, as they won their third NL East title in the past five years.
But Washington has its eyes set on a much bigger prize. Here are three reasons why the Nationals can achieve their ultimate goal of winning the World Series.
The Nationals have one of the truly elite starters in baseball in right-hander Max Scherzer, who could win the NL Cy Young Award. When Scherzer is on, there might not be another starter in baseball more capable of something historic. And after Tanner Roark's breakout season and emergence as a legitimate No. 2 starter, the Nationals can match any other team's talent at the front of the rotation. Then, if they get past the Dodgers in the NL Division Series, there is the chance that Stephen Strasburg (flexor mass strain) could rejoin the team for the later rounds. Those three give Washington as formidable a rotation as anyone at the top, and give the Nats a strong chance to win every night in the postseason.
2. Lineup depth
Although their lineup took a huge hit when catcher Wilson Ramos was lost for the year with a torn ACL, the Nationals boasted one of the deepest lineups in baseball this season. Since Trea Turner was called up and became the team's everyday center fielder, he has not only been a bona fide leadoff hitter, but has been one of the top players in the NL. Combine that with Daniel Murphy, an NL MVP Award candidate, the second-half surge of Anthony Rendon, as well as some power lower in the lineup from players such as Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa, and this Nationals' lineup has numerous ways it can strike.
Last year's postseason provided an example of what can happen when a player gets hot at the right time, when Murphy's historic postseason helped carry the Mets to the World Series. Harper, the reigning NL MVP Award winner, has that capability. He has never been one to shy away from the spotlight, so what better way to turn around what has been a disappointing season after winning the MVP Award in 2015 than with a strong postseason performance. If Harper is healthy -- and the Nationals have insisted that he is -- he has the ability to get hot at any point and carry the Nationals' offense through the postseason.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.