On the Nats and Losing Streaks
With today's 4-1 loss to the Phillies the Nationals have now lost four games in a row for just the third time this season, the last being between June 15-19 to the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. One of the benefits to having a great pitching staff is that it is very difficult to have long losing streaks. Only once this season have the Nationals made it all the way through the rotation without a win, and they have had no losing streaks longer than five games. It is remarkable if thought about and demonstrates greatly the difference between a winning team and a losing team.
Put things in perspective with this losing streak and until the Nationals lost to the Phillies on Friday night they hadn't lost back to back games in the month of August, and with their 15 victories in the month the Nationals have clinched their fifth straight winning month on the season. Before the losing streak started the Nats were playing .700 ball since the All-Star break. They are a good team, but they aren't that good, and in reality they were due for a losing streak. Teams don't stay as hot as the Nationals were for an entire half of a season.
The consternation that the Nats sweep at the hands of the Phillies caused may be due to the fact that the Phillies have a losing record on the season or that they are the chief division rival of the Nationals. The fact remains though that the Phillies that are playing now are not the Phillies that got them to a losing record. Hector Luna is no longer at first and Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are still two of the best pitchers in baseball. The Phillies might not have as good a roster as the Nationals, but that doesn't mean that for three days in August they can't outplay them.
Baseball is a game of streaks and this losing streak might last until the end of the road trip, but even that won't greatly hurt the Nationals chances for making the playoffs or even winning the division. As it stands right now before the Braves take on the Giants in Sunday night baseball the Nats are five games up in the division. If the Giants can manage to beat the Braves tonight then today's loss to the Phillies matters even less.
As of this moment in time the Nationals and Braves both have 35 games left. If the Braves were to go 18-17 for the rest of the season the Nationals would have to go 12-23 to lose the division and conversely if the Nationals were to go 18-17 for the rest of the season the Braves would have to go 23-12 to win the division. In both those scenarios the Nationals are still likely to grab one of the Wild Card spots.
In order for the Nationals to miss out completely on the playoffs they would have to be caught by the Dodgers. Who are currently eight games back of the Nationals in the loss column and losing to the Marlins 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh in Miami. Assuming that score holds and the Dodgers fall to nine games back of the Nationals. The Nats would need to go 8-27 assuming a .500 record for the Dodgers in their 34 remaining games and if the Nationals could go 18-17 in their remaining 35 games the Dodgers would need to go 27-7 on the rest of the season to catch the Nationals.
The point of all this is that the Nats current four game losing streak doesn't hurt their chances all that much. Sure it would have been great to win a game or two in Philly, but losing streaks happen. They have happened to baseball teams since the game of baseball was invented, and one happening now to the Nationals isn't a sign that the team is falling apart or has no chance for the playoffs anymore.
There is a real good chance that this Nationals team could play .500 baseball from this point out. In fact if they play just at .500 baseball for the last month of the season it will be their worst month of the season. On the other hand there isn't a good chance for the Braves to play .657 baseball from now until the end of the season. The Nationals don't have to be better than the Braves from this point until the end of the season in order to win the division. If the Nationals play four games worse than the Braves from now until the end of the season they win the division. It is that simple, and while this losing streak isn't fun it will end, and it is almost certain that the Nats will have a winning streak or two before October 3.