Washington Nationals Rapid Reaction: Nats Amidst a Season of Misfortune
The Washington Nationals (78-73) approached the trade deadline 54-47, two games ahead of the New York Mets. Just having traded for closer Jonathan Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies, the organization felt confident that no additional moves needed to be made, as many position players were set to return from injury. However, 49 games later, the Nats sit 6.5 games back the Mets and find their elimination number falling to five. Manager Matt Williams is on the hot seat and a few pending free agents just entered their final homestand in a Washington uniform. What went wrong for the Nats?
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Max Scherzer entered the All-Star Break a frontrunner in the Cy Young race, nearing the top of the league in nearly every pitching category. Since then, he has allowed 12 home runs, while watching his ERA jump from 2.22 to 2.98. His fall from stardom that had kept Washington alive left the Nats stumbling. With no true ace at the top of the rotation, the Nats dropped series after series. While Scherzer has recovered in recent performances, he still remains susceptible to the long ball.
Injuries may have been at their peak at the trade deadline, but things never really got much better for the Nats. Denard Span was lost for the year after repeated back spasms, and Ryan Zimmerman has spent more time off the field than on it. Williams has made many questionable moves with the bullpen, and his status for next season remains unclear. Wilson Ramos, who finally remained healthy for an entire season, is hitting a measly .232. Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark have been inconsistent in the rotation as well. While they still remain mathematically alive in the playoff race, they sure aren’t playing like they’re in it.
Did Washington management make the right decision in buying at the trade deadline? Based on the facts they had at the time, it makes complete sense. No one expected the Nats’ offense to completely fall apart like they did. While Papelbon has not been used very much, he still will supply a dependable arm next season as the closer. The prospect they gave up for him, Nick Pivetta, was expendable in the Nationals’ farm system. All-in-all, the Nats gave all they could into 2015, entering the season with World Series aspirations. Misfortunes of injury and bullpen management have caused the Nats to slip behind the Mets in the NL East. With eleven games left to play, the Nats look to have been caught at the end of a lost season.
Next: Recap: Nats Fall To O's As Playoff Hopes Continue To Slip Away