In a matter of a month, the Washington Nationals (37-40, .481) have managed to change the narrative around them from that of a disappointing season. A team many thought would be potential sellers by the trade deadline. Now with Washington only three games out from the second wild card spot, they’ll likely be buyers of pitching relief help.
The Nationals went 4-2 in six games against division opponents Atlanta (46-33, .582) and Philadelphia (40-38, .513). This included a three-game sweep of the Phillies, who are immediately ahead of them in the standings. While the Nats could have won the series against the Braves – they lost both games in heart-breaking fashion – taking 4 out of 6 in division play is something that they should feel good about.
The schedule ahead looks promising for Washington. The team will go on the road starting tonight and face the Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers. They then return home to play Miami again followed by the Kansas City Royals before hitting the All-Star break.
All of those teams are struggling with records under the .400 mark, with the Marlins having the best record of the three at 30-46 (.395). Detroit plays for 26-47 (.356) while Kansas City plays for 27-52 (.342).
What this means is that it is time for Washington to build upon the foundation that they’ve laid in the last month and win these series if they truly want to be in position to pursue a wild card spot come September.
While catching Atlanta is not impossible, I would argue that it is implausible. The Braves are playing great baseball, even with pieces like Kevin Gausman (2-5, 6.21) and Ender Inciarte (.218, 2 HR, 9 RBI) on the injured list. Mike Foltynewicz (2-5, 6.37) is far from the dominant pitcher that we saw last season. But the rest of the Braves are making it happen in a true team effort.
If the Nationals win the four series ahead and manage to come out of that stretch taking eight out of 12 games, they would put themselves five games over .500 and with a wild card berth well within reach.
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