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Now 20 games over .500, Nats reaching new heights

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Now 20 games over .500, Nats reaching new heights

Remember that blown 9-0 lead to the Braves exactly one week ago? That debacle of a ballgame that left some wondering whether the Nationals' charmed season was about to go down the toilet?

Feels like a long time ago, doesn't it?

In the week since, the Nationals have gone 6-1, losing only the opener of Saturday's doubleheader. They've seen their pitching staff produce seven consecutive quality starts, none of those member of the rotation having allowed more than two earned runs. They've scored an average of 5.7 runs per game. They've increased their lead in the NL East to five games. They sit 20 games above .500 for the first time since the franchise arrived in Washington. And, at 59-39, they own the best record in baseball along with the New York Yankees.

We've moved past the point where anyone should consider this a fluke. Guess what, folks: These guys are for real, and they aren't done yet.

Last night's 8-2 thumping of the Brewers certainly lifted the Nationals to a nice, new plateau. They've won six in a row, matching their longest winning streak of the season. And they earned their 59th win in Game No. 98. Three years ago, it took 162 games for this franchise to achieve its 59th win.

The Nationals also ascended to 20 games over .500, a mark not before seen during the franchise's eight seasons in town. In fact, to find the last Washington baseball club that sat 20 games over .500, you've got to go all the way back to Sept. 23, 1945, when manager Ossie Bluege's Senators beat the Philadelphia A's 4-3 on the season's final day to finish 87-67.

All of that is nice. For a town that hasn't experienced anything like this in 67 years, it's obviously reason to rejoice.

But this is just the beginning. There isn't one player inside the Nationals' clubhouse satisfied with what they've accomplished to date. The manager feels the same way. Once his team got to 15 games over .500, Davey Johnson said the goal was to get to 20 games over. And now that the Nats have done that, Johnson surely is looking to make it 25 games over.

The season is still only 60 percent complete, with a whole lot of baseball left to be played. And the pressure only grows as each passing day's game carries more and more significance.

The Nationals have done a remarkable job climbing to heights not seen in these parts in three generations.

But they know better than anyone how much more climbing there still is to be done.

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Washington Nationals celebrate NL East title

Washington Nationals celebrate NL East title

Two things had to happen for the Nationals to clinch the NL East title Saturday night. They had to beat the Pirates, and the Mets had to lose to the Phillies.

Both of those things happened, and the Nats wasted no time getting the celebration going. 

And they kept it going. 

Bryce Harper sported a Katie Ledecky swim cap to protect his flow from the flying liquid.

Then the team left the clubhouse, apparently to go roam Pittsburgh and find some Nats fans to celebrate with.

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Bryce Harper celebrates courtesy of Katie Ledecky in post-game celebration

Bryce Harper celebrates courtesy of Katie Ledecky in post-game celebration

Bryce Harper always talks about loving Washington, D.C. and after winning another NL East crown, he honored one of the local legends from the Rio games.

Katie Ledecky was one of the stars of the Olympics and the Bethesda resident appears to have given Harper a swimcap to celebrate clinching the NL East.

She reached out to Harper on twitter and appreciated the MVP sporting the swim cap.