The 2014 Washington Nationals wrapped the NL East up early and finished the regular season with the best record in the National League.
Four games later, however, the Nationals' second postseason run in three years came to an end with a disappointing Game 4 loss to the San Francisco Giants, who took the NLDS 3-1.
First-year Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters after the Nationals were eliminated that he let his team know he was proud of the way they played all season long and in losing to the Giants.
"I told them that I'm proud of their effort," he said. "We established a way to go about this game in spring training, and we accomplished that goal. We played the way we wanted to play and did a lot of things right.
"So, you know, it's tender and it's bitter and all of those things, but I'm proud of them. I'm proud of the way they went about it."
Veteran skipper Bruce Bochy, whose team played their way into the postseason with an 8-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card Game, praised the Nationals after leading San Francisco to a decisive win in the NLDS.
"This club we played, and I congratulate them on their year," Bochy said, "they had the best record in the National League. And that staff, from starters to bullpen, could be one of the best staffs in baseball.
"We found a way to get it done. So I'm proud of these guys."
Does it make it any better that the Nationals lost to the eventual World Series winners?
Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore talked to Steve Balboni during the World Series and the former major leaguer who scouted the Nationals for the Giants late this season said he still wasn't really sure exactly how San Francisco beat the NL East champs.
"How we beat them, I don’t know," Balboni said. "These guys, [the Giants] just know how to play in this situation. They play with high energy, high adrenaline and relax at the same time. They perform to their very best. It’s pretty amazing to watch. You look at them during the season, it’s not the same."
Both current MLB commissioner Bud Selig and "commisioner-elect" Rob Manfred told veteran WaPost columnist Thomas Boswell last week that they thought the Nationals would be in the World Series.
Selig reminisced about the role he played in bringing baseball back to the nation's capital in 2005 and said he thought then about what it would be like to see the World Series played in D.C.
"'I thought how special it would be to have a World Series in the nation’s capital,'" Selig said. "'I thought it was going to be this year.'"
"'I thought this [World Series] was going to be in Washington,'" Manfred said. "'I was a Nationals picker.'"
Washington will likely be a favorite to repeat as NL East champs in 2015.
Barring a trade, the starting rotation will likely remain in tact. The cores of the lineup, rotation and bullpen will likely remain the same for at least one more season.
As Washington shortstop Ian Desmond put it immediately after the Nationals' 2014 season ended, "The window isn't closed, but it is closing," presumably for Washington to win with the current roster, which will undergo some changes this winter.
The Nats have decisions to make on Denard Span and Adam LaRoche, both of whom have options for the 2015 campaign.
An MLBA Press Release this morning noted that Asdrubal Cabrera, Scott Hairston and Nate Schierholtz officially became free agents as of today, along with 118 other major leaguers.
There has been talk of potentially trading one or more of the free-agents-to-be who hit free agency after the 2015 campaign like Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister if the Nats can't sign them to long-term deals.
The Nationals have surely been hard at work preparing for the new season already, but with the Giants' win last night, the 2014 campaign has officially come to an end.