by Rick Snider

It is an exciting, yet terrifying time to be a Washington Nationals fan.

A fourth NL East title in six years has defending World Series champion Chicago coming to Washington for the NL Division Series on Friday. But, the Cubs aren’t quite as good as last season so there’s a chance for the Nats to advance… against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who merely won 104 games and righted themselves from a recent death spiral free-fall.

Two winnable series, but then the Nats have never won a postseason series. Sometimes in heartbreaking fashion, sometimes flat-out beaten. Maybe it’s the cross-town Capitals’ similar regular-season success/postseason busts cycle that worries Washingtonians, because it seems to happen annually in this town.

But there are four reasons why Washington can finally win in October — they ranked second, third and fifth in NL earned run average, and have a closer who was merely NL Reliever of the Month.

Stephen Strasburg is the opening starter. This is the moment Nats fans have long-awaited since his 2009 signing as the No. 1 overall draft pick. Injuries have kept him from truly fulfilling his potential, but he’s red hot entering the playoffs. Strasburg went 4-0 with an 0.83 ERA in September. There’s no reason why the Nats can’t jump to a 1-0 series lead.

Now, it gets a little murkier than it should with Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer. Gonzalez lost three of his final four starts in an otherwise strong 15-9 season. Scherzer strained his hamstring in the final start and the Nats are being conservative in his return hoping for a long postseason run. So, instead of a Scherzer-Strasburg opening punch, the Nats might need a longer series should Gonzalez’s recent woes continue.

That said, the Nats have never before sported a postseason lineup with five .300 hitters, so should the bats go silent as they have in the past, there’s enough overall power to still produce runs.

The Nats oust the Cubs in four. Finally, postseason success comes to Washington. And, maybe a World Series.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.

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