(Updated 9/29/2014) The Washington Nationals won five of their last seven games, securing the top seed in the National League and home field advantage in the playoffs. Washington won two of its three-game home series against the New York Mets, and then won three of four games in a four-game home series with the Miami Marlins, including a sensational no-hitter in the season finale against Miami Sunday. The Nationals (96-66) will rest for five days before facing the lowest ranking winner of the wildcard round in the divisional round best-of-seven series, starting on Friday Oct. 3.

Michael Taylor

Washington Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor (18) makes a sliding catch on a line drive by New York Mets’ Bobby Abreu during the eighth inning of the first baseball game of a doubleheader, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, in Washington. The Mets won 7-4. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Sept. 23-25:Nationals Handle Mets, 2-1, in Series

In Game One of their three game series against the NY Mets, Washington beat the Mets 4-2 on Sept. 23. Starting pitcher Tanner Roak picked up his 15th win of the season as he lasted into the seventh innings, allowing five hits and two earned runs. First baseman Adam LaRoche led the way on offense with two hits, including a three-run homer in the fifth inning. Relief pitcher Drew Storen earned his 10th save of the season.

The game scheduled for Sept 24 was postponed due to rain.

In Game Two on Sept. 25, the first of a double-header, the Mets defeated the Nationals 7-4. As starting pitcher for Washington, Blake Treinen had a rough performance allowing eight hits and four earned runs in less than five full innings pitched. Washington made a little noise on offense with 10 hits and four runs, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the poor pitching.

But in Game Three of the series against the Mets on Sept. 25, the second game of the double header, everything went in the exact opposite direction as the Nationals shut the Mets out 3-0.  Washington’s starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez was on fire, striking out 12 batters and giving up just one hit through seven innings.  Storen eventually entered in the ninth inning and gained his 11th save of the year. With such outstanding pitching, Washington didn’t need to score much on offense – first baseman Anthony Rendon did lead the team with two hits and one RBI.

Sept. 26-28: Washington Clinches Top Seed with Winning Series over Marlins

Marlins Nationals Baseball

Washington Nationals right fielder Steven Souza holds up the ball after making the catch of a ball hit by Miami Marlins’ Christian Yelich for the final out of a no-hitter by Washington Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann in a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Washington. The Nationals won 1-0. (AP Photo/The Washington Post, Katherine Frey)

The Nationals played in another double-header the following day, Sept. 26, as part of a four game series against the Marlins. They clinched the top seed in the League in Game One with a 4-0 shutout win. Like Gonzalez, starting pitcher Doug Fister had the hot hand, tossing nine strikeouts with just three hits allowed in a full nine innings pitched. Rendon was also the star on offense again, hitting his 21st home run of the season in the first inning.

Washington lost Game Two of their Marlins series, the second game of the double-header, giving up a shocking 22 hits in a 15-7 loss.

In Game Three of their series with the Marlins On Sept. 27, the Nationals turned the heat back up on their hot pitching in a 5-1 win. Starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg looked just as sharp as both Gonzalez and Fister, giving up just two hits and zero runs with seven strikeouts through six innings pitched.

But no one shined brighter than starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, who tossed a no-hitter in Washington’s 1-0 win in Game Four of the Marlin series and season finals on Sunday, Sept. 28. It was the first no-hitter in Nationals history, as Zimmerman pitched all nine innings, striking out 10 batters while walking just one batter. Zimmermann came very close to blowing the no-hitter at the very end.

With a 1-0 lead and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Zimmermann threw a pitch right down the middle of the plate and Marlins’ Christian Yelich smacked it out far to right field, where it looked destined to fall just in front of the back fence. But Nationals outfielder Stevan Souza Jr. made a fully extended dive out and heroically snatched the ball with his glove to get the third out and ultimately saved Zimmermann’s no hitter.

 

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor