State of the Nationals heading into the postseason

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

The Nationals don't have an elite offensive player in their lineup. Their ace has been shut down, and the rest of the rotation has limited postseason experience. And with a 11-11 record since Sept. 7, they haven't exactly been on fire down the stretch. But there is still plenty of reason to consider them at worst the co-favorites in the National League.

Lineup » There isn't a single regular with an OPS over .848 (shortstop Ian Desmond). And their seventh-best hitter, second baseman Danny Espinosa, still has a .724 OPS and 17 home runs. The top of the order, led by Jayson Werth and rookie Bryce Harper, mixes extreme patience at the plate with power. Harper has 22 home runs. Werth has a .387 on-base percentage.

Starters » Stephen Strasburg has been shut down for the season. But there's plenty left in the tank starting with 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez. He is expected to start Game 1 of the playoffs -- wherever and whenever that is. But Jordan Zimmermann isn't far behind. The Nats need better performances from Ross Detwiler and Edwin Jackson, who have had fine seasons but have struggled recently.

Bench » No one has more options off the bench than Davey Johnson. Washington's pinch hitters this season lead the majors with an .812 OPS led by veteran Chad Tracy. Roger Bernadina and Steve Lombardozzi spent much of the year starting thanks to injuries to teammates and have held their own at the plate. Bernadina has exceptional range in the outfield. Slugger Tyler Moore has nine homers and eight doubles.

Bullpen » How solid is Washington's bullpen? Tyler Clippard spent most of a successful year as the team's closer, and his 3.64 ERA is the worst of any regular contributor. The seven other relievers are at 3.12 or lower. Overall the bullpen has a 3.29 ERA -- not quite at the level of Cincinnati (2.68) or Atlanta (2.82) but not far behind. Closer Drew Storen has found his form late this season after a July return from spring elbow surgery.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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Brian McNally

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner