Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Washington Nationals have been nothing short of a disappointment this season, but they have shown some recent signs of life with a nice 6-4 road trip that has them back at .500 (65-65). They are back home and starting a string of 19 games against the Miami Marlins, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies that could allow them to get back into the thick of the NL Wildcard race if they take care of business.
Going into today’s MLB action the Nats are trailing the Cincinnati Reds by eight games. The Reds have entered a very tough stretch of games. They have six games remaining against the St. Louis Cardinals, three with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and then later in September they will face the Pittsburgh Pirates a total of six more times. Now the Reds won’t lose every game, but they will lose enough that I believe it will give the Nats an opening to get back into this race coming down the stretch.
The biggest change for the Nats has been the offense has finally started swinging the bats and driving in some badly needed runs. Since the All-Star Break they are hitting .265 as a team which is 6th best in MLB over that time.
In this Marlins series the Nats won’t have to face pitcher Jose Fernandez and the Mets won’t have the hard-throwing Matt Harvey to worry about. The Nats do have a tough six game road trip to finish the regular season, but that’s something to worry about later because it won’t matter much if they don’t take advantage of this soft stretch of games.
With 32 games the Nats need to win as many as they can in order to make this late season run, but they won’t be going 32-0. So how many do I think it will take? I think somewhere in the neighborhood of 24-8 or 25-7 should make things damn close. The Nats have the talent and the upcoming schedule to make this closing stretch a reality, but the time is now. There’s no more time for excuses, it’s now or never for them to make that run we’ve been waiting for all season.
We’re going to need a couple of series sweeps a long the way and can’t afford to give anymore late game leads away. My biggest concern going forward is closer Rafael Soriano who has been absolutely horrible since the All-Star Break with a 7.98 ERA in 16 appearances. I’m a nervous wreck whenever I see the bullpen gates open up and Soriano heading to the mound. How much longer can manager Davey Johnson continue to ride with this guy with our season hanging in the balance?
I know making up an eight game deficit is not easy, but I believe all the ingredients are in place for the Nats to make this a September to remember. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.