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Nats enjoying attendance spike

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Nats enjoying attendance spike

More than one player in the Nationals' clubhouse following last night's win noted the energy emanating from the stands as the home team mounted its rally from four runs down in the bottom of the seventh.

"We had a great crowd out there tonight," Bryce Harper said. "That really propped everybody up to get going."

Perhaps it was the lack of loud music and scoreboard-encouraged chants, a byproduct of Turn Back the Clock Night. Or perhaps it was simply the growing excitement over the National League's best team through this season's first half.

This much is certain: Fans are pouring into Nationals Park in numbers not seen since the ballpark opened four years ago, and not seen at all in these parts since baseball's first season back in the District.

Through 37 home games, the Nationals' average attendance is 29,865. That currently ranks 15th out of 30 big-league clubs, and that ranking is only going to continue to rise as the rest of this season plays out.

Attendance is up 38 percent from this point last year, the second-highest increase in baseball. Only the Marlins (who moved into a new ballpark) have enjoyed a higher attendance bump (65 percent).

Perhaps most impressive about the Nationals' increase is that most of it has come over the last six weeks, as more and more fans have bought into this club's ascension to the top of the NL East.

Average attendance through the season's first 20 home games was 25,384. Average attendance over the last 17 home games (beginning with the May 18-20 series against the Orioles) has been 36,744.

Nationals Park hasn't hosted a crowd with fewer than 25,000 fans since May 15, when only 23,902 turned out for a Tuesday matinee against the Padres.

The way things are going, don't look for any more crowds under the 25,000 mark. You probably won't see many crowds under 30,000, either.

In addition to the home team's lure, nearly every remaining opponent on the home schedule is a popular draw on its own. The Cardinals, Cubs and Dodgers still haven't made their lone trips to the District this season. The Phillies, Braves and Mets all make two more visits to town.

Even the less-popular opponents -- the Rockies, Brewers and Marlins -- all come to D.C. only for weekend series, which tend to draw better regardless of any other factors.

At this point, it seems a safe bet that the Nationals will wind up with their best attendance in five seasons on South Capitol Street, besting the 2008 high of 2.32 million. And they might just outdraw the inaugural 2005 club's total of 2.73 million, which was boosted not only by a season-ticket base of more than 20,000 but also RFK Stadium's capacity of 45,016 (about 4,000 more than Nationals Park holds).

In other words, expect the scene that played out during last night's rally -- a large and boisterous crowd willing its home club to victory -- to become a regular occurrence.

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MLB Postseason projection: Updated bracket with one week left

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USA Today Sports Images

MLB Postseason projection: Updated bracket with one week left

A week from today, the 2017 MLB postseason is scheduled to take off with the American League Wild Card game.

Still with six or less games remaining for every team, there is little that we know in terms of the exact positioning of each team in the postseason.

As of Tuesday morning, there are seven teams that are guaranteed to be in the playoffs. Three spots, the NL Central and a Wild Card spot in each league, are still up for grabs.

RELATED: IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE WILD CARD RACE

Besides the NL Central, only the AL East is the other division that has not announced a division winner.

Also up for grabs is overall home field throughout the World Series. Without the MLB All-Star Game determining who starts as the host of the series, whichever team finishes with a higher record will have home field. That race is alive and well.

Right now it is the Los Angles Dodgers (100-57), who have leveled out after a rough August stretch, that leads the charge. Right behind them is the Cleveland Indians (1.5 GB), the Houston Astros (3.5 GB) and the Washington Nationals (4.5 GB). Surprisingly enough the Nationals face the easiest competition against the Phillies and Pirates to end the season. It will be tough for the Dodgers to keep up the pace finishing the season playing the Rockies who are still trying to claim the second NL Wild Card.

For the final three remaining postseason spots, there are nine teams mathematically alive as of Tuesday morning.

Since the last bracket update on September 22, the New York Yankees have clinched a postseason spot and the Arizona Diamondbacks have clinched the top Wild Card spot in the National League.

NATIONAL LEAGUE:

Leveling out and winning five of their last 10, the Dodgers are limping into the playoffs. Ultimately, with no push from the Nationals, Los Angeles will go on to claim the top spot in the National League.

With that, the Nationals will be regulated to second place as they have been resting their top players for over a week. Still the team is waiting for Bryce Harper to come back from what could have been a devastating injury. He is expected to be back in the line-up at some point this week.

Having a scary schedule to end the season, the Chicago Cubs (88-68) took care of business winning three of four against the Brewers this past weekend. It has garnered a magic number of now one for Chicago to claim the division and also the No. 3 seed in the postseason.

MORE NATS: WOULD YOU RATHER TAKE THE CUBS OR BREWERS?

The Arizona Diamondbacks are the only team in the postseason to know their fate once the season ends. They will be hosting the National League Wild Card Game on Oct. 4, clinching the first Wild Card spot.

Essentially, the only race in the National League is for the second Wild Card. Colorado holds the edge but only slightly as they play the Marlins and then host the Dodgers to end the year. The Brewers (1.5 GB) and Cardinals (-2.5 games) stay alive but have to win and hope for the Rockies to lose. Click here for an in-depth look at the NL Wild Card race.

If the season were to end today, here is how the National League bracket would look:

Wild Card Round (Winner-take-all):

No. 5 Colorado Rockies (84-73) at No. 4 Arizona Diamondbacks (90-67)

National League Divisional Series (Best-of-5):

No. 1 Los Angeles Dodgers (100-57) vs. Wild Card Round Winner
No. 2 Washington Nationals (95-61) vs. No. 3 Chicago Cubs (88-68)

Wild Card Race:

Colorado Rockies:             ---
Milwaukee Brewers:        -1.5
St. Louis Cardinals:          -2.5

AMERICAN LEAGUE:

Every year it seems that as the season comes to a close, the American League East is still up for grabs. Both the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have already clinched a playoff spot, but with New York’s win and Boston’s loss on Monday, the race has opened up once again. It ultimately will be the difference between the No. 3 seed and the Wild Card play-in game, but likely the Red Sox are not going to relinquish the division crown.

Both the Indians (AL Central Division Winner) and the Astros (AL West Division Winner) now have a heated battle for the top seed in the American League. Neither team appears to be conceding to rest players either. The lead for Cleveland is currently at 2.0 games. The remaining schedule favors the Indians as the Astros face the Rangers and the Red Sox to end the year, all on the road.

By the end of the night, the Minnesota Twins, who have a magic number of two, could wrap up the second Wild Card. A win over Cleveland and a loss by the Angels against the White Sox is all they need to clinch a postseason berth. The only saving grace for Los Angeles is that the Twins do have a three game series with Cleveland who has won 29 of their last 31. Click here for an in-depth look at the AL Wild Card race.

If the season were to end today, here is how the American League bracket would look:

Wild Card Round (Winner-take-all):

No. 5 Minnesota Twins (82-74) at No. 4 New York Yankees (87-69)

American League Divisional Series (Best-of-5):

No. 1 Cleveland Indians (98-58) vs. Wild Card Round Winner
No. 2 Houston Astros (96-60) vs. No. 3 Boston Red Sox (91-65)

Wild Card Race:

New York Yankees:     +5.0
Minnesota Twins:           ---
Los Angeles Angels:     -5.0
Texas Rangers:             -6.0
Kansas City Royals:      -6.0
Tampa Bay Rays:          -6.0

All records and standings are as of Thursday morning at 9:00 am.

MORE NATS: NATS’ COSTUMES FROM PLAYER’S GAME OF THRONES NIGHT

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Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth awesomely lead Nats' 'Game of Thrones' dress-up

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Instagram: @bharper3407

Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth awesomely lead Nats' 'Game of Thrones' dress-up

The Washington Nationals are known for getting dressing up as fictional and real characters and getting really into it, but Sunday, they topped themselves. 

Led by Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, the team went all-out, die-hard "Game of Thrones" this year, and it was spectacular. Werth was dressed as Jon Snow, while Harper got super into it as Snow's direwolf, Ghost. 

But while Harper and Werth are definitely the highlight of this tradtion, other Nats' costumes looked pretty great (and accurate) as well. 

Number 1 team this side of The Wall!! #nats #mlb #gameofthrones #rookiedressup

A post shared by Sammy Solis (@sammy22solis) on

Rookie dress up time! #gameofthrones #faithmilitant #nats #mlb

A post shared by Sammy Solis (@sammy22solis) on

And thanks to Sammy Solis' Instagram account, there's also proof he ran into George R.R. Martin, the novelist behind "Game of Thrones."

Weird running into George R. R. Martin in the lobby 🤔 #gameofthrones #nats

A post shared by Sammy Solis (@sammy22solis) on

MORE MLB: Updated Wild Card Standings with 7 days remaining