After the Sweep
The Washington Nationals have lost eleven series in 2012 and of those have been swept in five of them. What matters isn't the results of those series it is how the Nationals responded. A sweep can be humiliating. Not only was a team not good enough to win the series they weren't even good enough to win a game in the series. The Nationals in 2012 have dealt with a lot of adversity. They have suffered through injuries to every nearly every single member of the projected opening day line-up and now with Espinosa's shoulder hurting it will be every member of the projected opening day line-up. The Nats have also endured the pressure of making one of the most controversial baseball decisions in recent memory and being the focus of the media for all the wrong reason.
So, it stands to reason that the pressure of getting humiliated on the field should be no pressure at all for the Washington Nationals. The first time the Nats got swept was all the way back at the end of April against the Dodgers. It was an intriguing serious in that the Nationals were out scored by a grand total of four runs in the three games. They lost two one run games and a two run game. It was a very close series and it was the Nats first taste of a playoff atmosphere, and while that series didn't go their way in the next ten games the Nats were 6-4.
The next time the Nats suffered a sweep wouldn't be until late May against the Miami Marlins. Once again every one of the games was close and the Nats this time got out scored by a total of six runs as every game was decided by a two run margin. The more disheartening aspect of this series was that in two of the three games the Nats held the lead in the sixth inning, and in the third entered the late innings tied. Probability dictates that the Nats should have pulled out at least one win in this series, but they didn't, but after getting swept by the Marlins the Nats went 8-2 over their next ten games.
The one thing both the Dodgers and Marlins series had going for them were they were showdown series. At the time the Nats played the Marlins the Marlins were still in the hunt for the NL East crown after a very impressive May and back in April when they played the Dodgers it was a series for the best record in the NL. The next sweep had that same atmosphere. It was the Nationals against the Yankees. A possible World Series preview, and a series to find out if the Nats belonged with the big boys.
In it the Nationals lost ever game and lost by a combined margin of ten runs. In this series the Nats truly were embarrassed on the field. The Nats did have a chance in the middle game of the series and perhaps should have won as Tyler Moore crossed the plate with the go-ahead run in the eighth inning but was ruled out by home plate umpire Tim Timmons. It was a disheartening sweep and was used as many at the time as justification to write off the Nationals as serious contenders, but after getting swept the Nats went 5-5 in their next ten games. Not as great as the previous two times, but also not a losing record.
Now is where we fast forward quite a bit to find the next time the Nats were swept. This time by division rivals the Philadelphia Phillies. This series also wasn't that close as the Nats lost by a combined score of seven runs and never once held a lead. This sweep also came in the middle of a five game losing streak that had many Nats fans headed for the Wilson Bridge. After heading out of Philadelphia unable to beat their division rivals the Nats went 8-2 in their next ten games many of which were part of a 8-3 homestand.
The Nats this past weekend were swept by the Atlanta Braves by a margin of six runs including two one run games and one they may have won if first base umpire Marvin Hudson had called Prado out at first ahead of a Jason Heyward homer. It was again a series that could be called a showdown series and some might use this evidence to say that the Nats wilt under pressure, but they have had more series than these five that have been played under pressure. The fact is that the Nats have been the best team in baseball for much of the season and have been a top the NL East from almost day one. It has been an impressive season for the Washington Nationals and how they have responded to adversity on and off the field has been one of the impressive aspects of the team.
It remains a question as how the Nationals will respond to this most recent sweep, but in their next ten games after the previous four they haven't once had a losing record and twice have gone 8-2. At this point it would take a collapse of epic proportions for the Nationals to miss out on winning the NL East. If they only go 8-8 in their remaining games the Braves would have to go 14-1. Baseball is a sport where past results clue us in on the likely future outcomes, and according to what has happened before when the Nationals have been swept they will respond and there is little to nothing to worry about.