Will the Nationals make the playoffs?
Picks: NL East Champions (5 votes), Wild Card (2 votes), Miss Playoffs (2 votes)
They aren’t dead yet! Well, at least according to most of our staff, with seven of the nine picking the Washington Nationals to make the postseason. And five of those – including myself – still expecting a third straight division crown.
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Washington certainly hasn’t hit the jets in July, and the thrilling comeback against Miami on July 5 did not exactly ignite the team heading into the break, with the Nats finishing just 5-5 after the rally. The Nationals now sit five-and-a-half games back of Philadelphia in the NL East, and five games behind Atlanta for the second Wild Card spot, with four teams crammed in between.
Though this team has done everything possible over the last six-and-a-half seasons to prove why it doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt in pressure situations, there are still reasons for hope in 2018.
Yes, it’s just a dumb Home Run Derby, but there was something cathartic about Monday’s performance for Harper, the team, and the fans. When he feels like a superstar, it’s like a weight is lifted off the entire franchise.
Strasburg, Zimmerman, and Doolittle should also be back in D.C. to kick off the second half, which would be the first time the Nationals would have its full, projected lineup – now with Soto and Jeremy Hellickson – back together this year.
The Nationals have a chance to make a run out of the break and fly up the division standings to boot. The first six games – vs. Atlanta and at Milwaukee – look tough on paper, but both clubs sputtered to finish the first half, losing 8 of 11 and 8 of 10, respectively.
Win those series against the two current Wild Card teams, and the Nats will be feeling good as they head into a 10-game stretch at Miami, vs. the New York Mets, and vs. Cincinnati. There is a real opportunity to make up ground quickly, and turn the divisional race into a tight battle by mid-August.
The Washington Nationals are yet to play up to expectations this season. It is frustrating for its fans but should be just as frightening for its enemies. The Nats have the talent to string together some wins, and now is the time to do so.