What else can baseball fans do in January but dream of October? In You May Say I'm a Dreamer, the Outside Corner staff will imagine the route to a World Series in 2013 title for all 30 teams.
What a difference a year makes. In just one year, the Washington Nationals managed to go from a darkhorse club, with an outside shot at making the postseason, to National League powerhouse. And in their first year with their new status, and a new nucleus of talent, the Nats made it all count with their first World Series title.
The Nats and the Atlanta Braves completely ran away with the division this year, but it was the former who managed to grab the NL East title by just three games, thanks to a six-game winning streak to close out the regular season, leaving their record at 99-63, two games better than in 2012. Their strength all season was their starting pitching, obviously led by Stephen Strasburg at the top of the rotation that ranked no. 1 in the bigs in team ERA and second in strikeouts.
Without the dark cloud of an innings limit hanging over his head, Strasburg managed to run away with the Cy Young award in the National League. With an ERA that floated around 2.50 and an absurd 240 strikeouts on the season, Strasburg was simply dominant. Gio Gonzalez shook off the Biogenesis nonsense to post another solid year as the no. 2 in Washington. Rafael Soriano matched his career high with 45 saves and kept his ERA just under two, leading a bullpen that ranked in the top three in the National League.
You can't mention the Nationals without mentioning Bryce Harper, and he came out firing on all cylinders. After a strong finish to 2012, Harper put together a dominant season, coming in second in NL MVP voting. His home run total reached 30, he knocked in 93 runs, while maintaining an average of .309. He also added 24 swipes to the equation, bringing all five tools out on a near daily basis.
It wasn't just Harper that came through in a big way for the Nats in 2013, though. Jayson Werth and his massive beard posted a batting average over .300 for the first time in his career, while a completely healthy Ryan Zimmerman posted almost identical numbers to what he did in 2012, finishing with 25 dingers and a .290 average. Denard Span proved to be a quality pickup as well, mostly due to the career high 30 bases that he managed to steal.
Coming into a season with sky high isn't always an easy thing. The Nationals went into the 2013 season with expecations as high as they've been since they became a franchise and more than lived up to them. A series win over the Dodgers set up an NLDS rematch with the St. Louis Cardinals, who the Nats managed to quickly dispatch in five games to grab their revenge. That set up a tilt with the Los Angeles Angels in the World Series. Thanks to an early two-run home run in Game 7 by World Series MVP Bryce Harper, the Nats captured their first title in franchise history.