Looking back at what went right during the NLDS

There's been plenty of teeth-nashing, head-banging and face-palming in the last 36 hours over everything that went wrong for the Nationals in Games 4 and 5 of the National League Division Series. That's fine. Losses like this need to be analyzed and rehashed, with an eye on what could have been different.

Let's take a moment this morning, though, to do the opposite exercise. Instead of looking at what went wrong in the NLDS, let's take a brief look at what went right.

You may be surprised how much there actually is ...

You never know how a rookie is going to handle the postseason stage for the first time, but Turner didn't miss a beat. He hit .317 in the series (7-for-22), scored five runs and stole two bases. Five times he reached base to lead off an inning, and on four of those occasions he wound up coming around to score.

trea-turner-blue.jpgTurner wasn't perfect. He took a bad route on a ball hit to left-center during Game 4 at Dodger Stadium that proved costly. He drew only one walk and struck out a team-high 11 times (something he does legitimately need to work on next season).

But the Dodgers didn't hide the fact they saw Turner as the Nationals' most dangerous offensive weapon entering the series, and they weren't wrong to feel that way in the end.

"I can't say I necessarily learned anything, other than how to deal with playing in the postseason," Turner said. "It's fun. It's fun with everything on the line and working all year for this series, then getting a chance to finally play it. It's the postseason. It was nice to be here, and hopefully I can do it for many years."

The two senior members of the Nationals everyday lineup did not have great regular seasons (Werth was adequate, Zimmerman was downright awful) but they stepped it up in the playoffs. Werth hit .389 (7-for-18) with a .522 on-base percentage and a team-high three extra-base hits. Zimmerman hit .353 (6-for-17) with a .450 on-base percentage and only three strikeouts (fewer than all the regulars except for Daniel Murphy).

Did Werth and Zimmerman deliver in every key situation? No. Each stranded their share of baserunners, particularly Werth in Game 5 (he twice struck out with a man on third and one out). But given the concern that was there entering the series about either veteran's ability to recapture the form of their younger days, both proved they've still got it.

What can you say at this point? How about this: His 2015 postseason with the Mets wasn't a fluke, nor was his 2016 regular season with the Nationals, nor was his 2016 postseason with the Nats. This is who he legitimately is now.

If you want to get nitpicky, Murphy didn't hit for any power in the NLDS, with zero extra-base hits. But he hit .438 (7-for-16). He drove in a team-high six runs. He drew a team-high five walks. He struck out only once. He even stole two bases in Game 5.

And he certainly didn't do anything in the field to cost the Nationals, something the Mets always feared and let sway their decision not to retain him last winter. To them, the Nats say thank you very much.

Yes, the Nationals relief corps technically was responsible for the Games 4 and 5 losses, surrendering the decisive runs. But in the big picture, that group pitched awfully well in the series. The Nats bullpen opened the series with 12 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, playing a huge role in winning Games 2 and 3 and keeping Game 1 within reach.

Mark Melancon had only one true save opportunity, but the closer was strong in all four of his appearances. Sammy Solis pitched in all five games, not giving up his first run until Game 5. Oliver Perez had four scoreless appearances and retired 10 of the 12 batters he faced. Yes, Ollie Perez, the source of so much angst during the season.

There were plenty of decisions during the final three innings of Game 5 that were debated and will continue to be debated for some time. But not one of them was truly indefensible; you can make a strong case for what Baker did in each of them.

Besides, the veteran manager had a heck of a series overall. What was the biggest knock on him when he was hired? That he was too old-school and unwilling to adapt to the modern game. That he stuck with starting pitchers too long and burned them out.

Did he do any of that in this series? No. He was willing to go to his bullpen early. He was willing to get creative, recognizing the high-leverage situations, even in earlier innings. Above all else, he instilled a sense of confidence throughout the clubhouse. The Nationals were plenty of things in this series. They weren't tight. To a man, they all praised the job their manager did, something that wasn't necessarily the case after either the 2012 or 2014 NLDS under previous administrations.

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