It was Game 4 of the NLDS when Washington Nationals’ pitcher Stephen Strasburg struck out 12 batters, and outfielder Michael A. Taylor blasted a grand slam in the eighth inning as the Nats beat the Chicago Cubs and forced a Game 5.
This was the exact moment when I stared at the television in my college dorm, thinking the Nationals actually have a shot.
They have a shot at beating the 2016 World Series champions and advancing to the NLCS.
Then Game 5 came a day later and I witnessed now-former Cubs’ closer Wade Davis striking out Bryce Harper in the bottom of the ninth inning, ending one of the most exciting games of the season and continuing the dreadful D.C. sports curse, which has plagued fans for nearly two decades.
The Washington Capitals, Wizards, Redskins, and Nationals have played a combined 69 consecutive seasons and 7,137 days without reaching a conference championship.
2017 will go down as another year where the D.C. sports curse lived on.
The Wizards, Nationals, and Capitals were an inch away from a conference final, while the Redskins failed to make the postseason for the second straight season.
However, 2018 rolls in, bringing a fresh start and another chance at ending the curse.
Out of all the teams in Washington, D.C., the Nationals have a shot at breaking the longest conference final drought in North American sports.
I don’t see the Wizards doing it as long as LeBron James is in the Eastern Conference and the Redskins...well, they are the Redskins. There is not a lot you can expect from them.
The Nationals are expected be at the top of a weak NL East, which has seen the Miami Marlins unload its roster, the New York Mets trying to bounce back after a down year and the Braves and Phillies continuing the rebuilding process.
The Nationals will be bringing back key pieces from a team that won 97 games and earned its third division title in four years. The Nationals will have one of the best starting rotations in baseball. They will have outfielder Adam Eaton returning from his ACL injury. Outfielder Michael A. Taylor is coming off an impressive 2017 season, where he made a strong case at being in the starting lineup come Opening Day. Newcomer Matt Adams will provide a strong lefty bat off the bench. I still haven’t mentioned third baseman Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper and shortstop Trea Turner.
There are still some questions like what the Nationals will do with the catcher situation after Matt Wieters’ failed to produce offensively and defensively.
Will the Nationals continue to make improvements to the bullpen?
And how will second baseman Daniel Murphy respond after knee surgery?
And what to expect from first-year manager Dave Martinez?
Despite those questions, there is no doubt that the Nationals can compete against MLB’s heavyweights.
The Nationals will enter the new season as potential favorites to represent the National League barring any major injuries.
I have been a D.C. sports fan since I was four years old. I have been gifted with many memorable moments. From Jayson Werth’s walk-off home run in the 2012 NLDS to John Wall’s game winner against the Boston Celtics. Yet I have never experienced a championship, let alone a conference championship.
Maybe that will all change in 2018.