Aug. 21 – Sept. 12: NL East showdown (9 games against Philadelphia in 23 days)
In less than a month, the Nationals will play the Phillies nine times, including six times at Citizens Bank Park.
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If the Phillies fancy themselves a contender after their foray into free agency, then these series will be make or break. A 6-3 or better stretch for the Nats will likely shut the door on the Phils’ division title hopes, but a split or worse gives Philadelphia a chance down the stretch. (This hypothesis only works if the season goes as expected and the Nats enter mid-August with a decent lead in the division).
A Philly-D.C. rivalry may be brewing once again for the first time since the Nats’ original division-winning campaign.
Sept. 20-26: Chance to clinch
The Nationals finish the season on the road, so a four-game series against the Mets and a three-gamer with the Marlins signal their final two series at Nats Park.
These seven games also represent a reasonable time frame as to when Washington could clinch the NL East. The Nationals could win the division by double-digits again, but a handful of games is more likely. Plus, it’s always nice to clinch at home in front of the fans.
Sept. 30: Final day of the regular season (at Colorado)
Washington wraps up the regular season in Colorado. Ideally, this will be a time to set up the rotation and get some rest before the playoffs. But if not, this series could be an opportunity for the Nationals to fight their way into playoffs against a Wild Card contender.
This season really feels like a countdown to the playoffs, but there will be plenty of key moments throughout the year. These 11 dates are crucial, attention-grabbing opportunities and storylines for the Nationals as they strive for their third-consecutive NL East title.
You can see the Nationals full schedule here.