I know, I know I have discouraged Nats fans from getting their hopes up, but a recent post from our very own Beltway Boy Jason Rorrer in which he pointed out that the Reds and Pirates would play each other 6 more times this season got me to thinking–which is dangerous–what would need to happen for the Nationals to make the playoffs?
First, let’s take a look at the old remaining schedule: 1 game in New York, followed by 3 games at home against the Philthies, then 3 at home games against the Barves, then an MiLB set with 4 games against the Marlins, before the Nats hit the road for 3 against St. Louis finally closing it out with 3 in Arizona. Really, it’s one of the toughest stretches of the Nats second half schedule with 9 of their last 13 games coming against–gasp–winning teams.
For the Reds, they travel to Milwaukee for 3, before going to visit the Astros’ AAA team in Houston, then they travel to Pittsburgh for 3 games before coming home for 3 against the Mets and 3 against the Pirates to close the year out.
For the Pirates, the Cubs come to Pittsburgh for 4 games, followed by the Padres for 4 games and then the Reds for 3 games. They finish out the season on the road with 3 games in Chicago followed by 3 games in Cincinatti.
By far the Nats have the toughest schedule remaining, but the Barves are pretty banged up and St. Louis could have the Central wrapped up by the time the Nationals come to town putting them into resting their guys and setting their rotation mode. For the teams that are out of it like the Cubs, Mets and Astros, the Reds and Pirates represent their postseason because those games will actually be meaningful in the standings, although not for them.
The easiest route would be for the Pirates to beat the Reds in all 6 games. If that happens, the Nats really don’t need to go crazy to make the playoffs, something like a 12-5 record oughta do it because the Reds would need to go 7-2 in games not against the Pirates to hold them off, especially considering that they’re only 5 back in the loss column. However, if the reverse happens and the Reds sweep those six games from the Pirates–a more likely scenario in my opinion–the Nats have a tougher row to hoe because the Pirates are 8 games up in the loss column. If that happens and the Nats go 12-5 down the stretch, the Pirates would only need to go 5-6 in games not against the Reds to hold the Nats off so you can probably bump that up to 16-2 realistically.
The more likely scenario is that Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will split their 6 remaining games, if the Reds go 6-3 in their other games the Nats would need to go 13-3 just to force a one game playoff. To catch the Pirates, the Nats would need to go 17-0 and the Pirates just 6-5 in games not against the Reds for there to be a tie.
If you’re like me, by now you feel like a little kid who’s watching his favorite football team losing by 17 with 4 minutes to go trying to explain to your dad why there’s still a chance. Sure, there’s still a chance, but it’s pretty slim. That being said, history does offer the Nats some support. According to coolstandings.com the 2011 Rays came back from 9.5 games back on September 3rd to catch the Red Sox. The 2011 Cardinals were 10 games out on August 27 and came back to make the playoffs. Of course, both of those required epic collapses from the Red Sox and Braves respectively.
Finally, for those of you looking for hope I offer up these two nuggets: the Reds, are in fact, still managed by Dusty Baker. The same Dusty Baker who gave Russ Ortiz the game ball during the 7th inning of game 6 in the 2002 World Series before the Giants epic collapse. The same Dusty Baker who managed the Cubs out of a World Series and left Mark Prior and Kerry Wood on the side of the road along the way. Second, the Pirates haven’t made the playoffs since “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix A-lot topped the charts. (For those over 30 I apologize as this song is now undoubtedly stuck in your head.)
Basically it comes down to this: the Reds magic number stands at 11. So 11 more Reds wins and/or Nationals losses and the Nats are done, but 11 is a big number with only 18 games to play. If that doesn’t happen, we’ll all be subject to the most annoying sound in the world, no, not Bob Carpenter talking about serious jammage–although that’s close–the sound of a silent Nationals park and a quiet offseason waiting until the day pitchers and catchers report.