With 11 players on the disabled list, the Washington Nationals are on the verge of the playoffs. Perhaps the greatest feat in franchise history.
Regardless of how this season ends, this is an amazing year for the Washington Nationals.
Injuries derail the best of plans. Yet with 11 players on the disabled list, the Nats hold such a commanding lead in the National League East that they are impossible to catch. The entire starting Opening Day outfield is hurt. You see players step to the plate you have no idea who they are. Sometimes, you ask yourself is this West Palm Beach, Syracuse or Washington.
The Nats are 73-48. No one else in the division is above .500. As we enter the final quarter of the season, it is time to be amazed. Teams lose players all the time. You are not going through a 162-game marathon without a few bumps and bruises.
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One of the question marks heading into the 2017 season was the Nats depth. On paper, the bench could spell starters when needed and pinch hit okay, but relying on it to win a pennant was risky. Wilmer Difo, Michael Taylor and Brian Goodwin were not major-league talent. The New York Mets, by keeping Yoenis Cespedes, were poised to make 2017 a nail-biter.
Boy, we could not be more wrong. If you look to see how injuries can destroy a team, look no further than Queens.
On the terminus of the Acela Express, Washington survived the season-ending loss to Adam Eaton and Joe Ross. Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Trea Turner suffered extensive injuries while Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg scared fans and front office officials alike.
As the rest of the NL East stumbled over themselves, not only did the Nats survive, they thrived. When you add how bad the bullpen was over the first half of 2017, you understand this is nothing short of a miracle.
The last time Washington’s lead fell below five games, usually the definition of a pennant race, was May 9 following a loss to Baltimore. The Nats have held a minimum of a 10-game bulge since July 17 when they swept the Cincinnati Reds after the All-Star break.
Although Mike Rizzo’s deals in July gave the bullpen, the cement needed for strength, the credit must go to Dusty Baker for pulling all the right strings.
Sure, there are times you wonder if Baker pulled his starting lineup out of a hat. It works. The offense that promised to score at will has. Not always pretty, the Nats longest losing streak this year is four.
As everyone except Eaton returns over the last six weeks of the season, they can only improve. An amazing run that ends with Washington’s first back-to-back trip to the postseason.