With last night’s win over the Padres, the Washington Nationals gained another game over the Mets in the NL East and are looking more and more like playoff contenders each day.
Last night’s win over the Padres was significant for several reasons. For starters, it was the Nationals’ third win in a row and their eighth win in their last 10 games. The win, coupled with the Mets’ loss to the Braves, also pushed the Nationals’ NL East lead to a season-high six games.
According to FanGraphs, the Nationals now have an 81.7 percent chance of winning the NL East — a feat they last accomplished in 2014. The Mets, who won the division in 2015, sit in second place with a 16.3 percent chance of repeating as division champs this season.
These are the current NL East standings, heading into Saturday’s games:
|New York Mets||36||30||.545||6|
Despite their impressive numbers, the Nationals actually have the smallest division lead in the National League.
The Cubs lead the Cardinals in the NL Central by 10.5 games, and the Giants lead the Dodgers by 6.5 games in the NL West. But all that really demonstrates is that there are a few teams in the National League going above and beyond the others in terms of performance, and the Nationals are one of those teams.
For perspective, the largest division lead in baseball at this point last year was four games. In the NL East, the Mets were 1.5 games ahead of the Nationals at this point in 2015.
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This year’s Nationals have, thus far, performed far better than the 2015 Nationals — which were arguably the biggest disappointment in baseball. The Nationals are 18 games over .500, they have the second best record in baseball, and they have the second-highest run differential in the game (+84). The Mets, by comparison, have the lowest run differential (+24) of any second-place team in the National League.
There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, and injuries and losing streaks can make a June division lead disappear in a hurry. But the Nationals are playing their best baseball right now, and if they continue to play well against good teams like the Cubs — and not so good teams like the Padres — then they should be able to grow their division lead even more in the coming weeks and months.
The Nationals and Padres will be back in action tonight, when the Nationals will look to go 19-games over .500 for the first time this season and continue their most dominant stretch of the year.