How Washington became National treasure

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
11:29
PM ET

Rob Carr/Getty ImagesBryce Harper can look ahead to postseason baseball.

The United States has had 13 presidents since a baseball team from Washington, D.C., made the postseason. This year’s Nationals franchise is the first since the Senators did Franklin Roosevelt proud by winning the American League pennant in 1933.

Let’s take a quick look back at how and why the Nationals got to this point.

How they won
The Nationals have won all season, posting a winning record in every month.

They beat bad teams (going 27-6 against the Mets, Cubs and Astros) and good teams (going 13-4 against the Reds, Giants and Cardinals).

They’ve won largely on the strength of their pitching. They have the best ERA and the fourth-most strikeouts in the majors.

Four Nationals starters have won in double figures, and the rotation leads the majors in wins, ERA and opponents’ batting average.

The Harper impact
Bryce Harper might not have had quite the season Mike Trout has had in the AL, but he contributed in multiple ways for the team.

Harper has 19 home runs and 50 RBIs, and is only the second player to hit both benchmarks in the same season in his “age-19-or-younger” season (age defined by age on June 30 of that season). Tony Conigliaro of the 1964 Red Sox is the other.

The Nationals went 27-6 in games in which Harper drove in at least one run this season.

Unlikely standout
Thursday’s winner, Ross Detwiler, has won 10 games, has made 25 starts and figures to be a key for the Nationals in the postseason with Stephen Strasburg out of the starting rotation.

Detwiler has won partly on the strength of his work against lefties. Lefties are hitting only .161 against him in his 25 starts, the lowest opponents’ batting average for a pitcher in his starts this season.

Did you know?
Nationals manager Davey Johnson joined Billy Martin as the only managers to take four different teams to the postseason. Johnson also got there with the Mets, Reds and Orioles, winning a World Series with the 1986 Mets.

Magic moments
Wins to remember for Nationals fans came with the arm, the bat and the glove.

April 17 -- Gio Gonzalez sets the tone for a spectacular season with his second straight start of seven innings, zero runs and two hits allowed in a 1-0 win over the Astros. It was Gonzalez’s first win with the Nationals. His second would come in his next start, in which he allowed no runs and two hits again, this time in six innings.

Stat of the Day: Gonzalez was the first pitcher in Nationals history to record three straight starts of at least six innings, allowing two hits or fewer. Four other pitchers have had such a streak since the Nationals became a franchise in 1969 -- Nolan Ryan (1981 Astros), Al Leiter (1996 Marlins), Randy Johnson (1997 Mariners) and Damian Moss (2002 Braves).

June 5 -- Harper notched his first career walk-off hit as the Nationals rallied in the eighth, 10th and 12th innings to beat the Mets, a win that kept the team in first place.

Elias Stat of the Day: Ian Desmond drove in the tying runs for the Nationals in the eighth, 10th and 12th innings. Desmond was the first player with three tying/go-ahead RBI events in the eighth inning or later of a game since the Reds’ Art Shamsky had three against the Pirates on Aug. 12, 1966.

Aug. 7 -- Roger Bernadina made an incredible catch up against the fence in Houston for the final out of the game, preserving a 3-2 12-inning win against the Houston Astros.

Stat of the Day: Bernadina’s catch was the night’s No. 1 Web Gem on "Baseball Tonight." The Nationals rank second in the majors with 39 Web Gems this season, trailing only the Royals.

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