The Nationals entered last Thursday’s game against the Giants riding a 5 game winning streak and some of us Nats fans got sucked in again. I just KNEW the Nationals were better than they’d played and it seemed like they were finally ready to go on that 10 or 15 game winning streak we’d all expected. After all, the Dodgers have done it, why can’t the Nats?
Then, Rafael Soriano happened. He coughed up a two run lead and the 5 game winning streak was snapped. But like a gambler in Vegas who just blew Jr.’s college fund and had won a small portion of it back, I pushed all of my chips to the middle of the table and told myself a solid series against the Braves would get them back on track. The Nats offense once again looked offensive on Friday night, but somehow they clawed back and tied it up in the 8th. Maybe this was the turning point, the game that turned it all around. One hanging breaking ball to Justin Upton later and it was obvious that it wasn’t, but there was still hope, the Nats could still take 2 of 3, you just gotta believe.
Saturday was exactly the type of game that can feed into a delusional fans beliefs. Strasbug stepped up and finally hit someone on the Braves. Players around the league–at least according to F.P. Santangelo–were starting to question whether the Nats even liked Harper, but Strasburg had hopefully put that to bed. Even after Strasburg was tossed in the second inning, the Nats seemed to be cruising to victory as if Strasburg drilling Upton had finally exercised some kind of Old Hoss Radbourn demons, then Rafael Soriano happened again (just to make me look smart), but this time the Nats kept clawing. Stammen was brilliant in extra innings and Adam LaRoche did something positive with the bat. Finally, this was the game that would turn the Nats season around. A 15 inning affair, that was the longest in the team’s history.
I guess I should have known better, the Nats have had tons of these games this year, whether it was Harper’s walk off, Zim’s walk off or any of the other games that seemed to be the turning point in the season, the nats have done this more than once this year. Each time they followed it up by losing the next day.
This time proved to be no different, the Nats lost 2-1 yesterday. They dropped 2 of 3 to the Braves, even though one of those 3 games essentially featured the Braves “B” lineup without Justin Upton or Jason Heyward. The Nats stranded a ton of runners again and blah, blah, blah. Same old story for a very talented, yet very mediocre Nationals team.
The thing that’s finally struck me, is that while we all keep alluding to how talented this Nationals team is, the numbers don’t bear that out. This is a team that is 23rd in the majors in hitters WAR. It’s nearly the end of August and they have just 3 players who have a WAR higher than 2 (Desmond, Werth & Harper). Adam LaRoche has posted a WAR of just 0.2 thus far. Basically, he’s a replacement level player. Denard Span, who the Nationals felt so good about that they gave up a top 50 prospect for in Alex Meyer, has an OBP of .314. Maybe Span and LaRoche will be better next year, perhaps this is just a down year for Zimmerman too, but the Nats lost 2 of 3 to the Braves and in their two losses scored a whopping 3 runs….total.
The Nationals are a young team and the building blocks are there, but while I’ll probably get sucked in to thinking they’re only 8.5 games out of the Wild Card and they could still go on a run, I probably shouldn’t.