The Washington Nationals, Playoffs, and Fun


Momentarily this season I forgot I liked baseball. Part of that is the Nats had such high expectations and another is they spent a large part of the middle of the season playing such dreadful baseball. They couldn't score, they could prevent scoring, and they were sloppy overall. They made too many errors in the field and the bullpen let too many games slip away late. All in all it was not enjoyable to watch, but without the expectations it may have been slightly tolerable while we waited for the good times to come, because in baseball the good times always come. Even the Marlins have gotten the pleasure of watching Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton this season. There is always a reason to go out to the park.   

Every team is close to guaranteed to have a six game winning streak and the Nats finally have their’s. They are playing their best brand of baseball to close out the season. It might be too late for it to matter. A lot has to go right, but the Reds and Pirates play each other six more times. If those series go the way that they should then it will end 3-3. If the Nationals can do something special and win on all those days then they can chop off another three games. That is asking a lot. That is asking for things to line-up, but the Nationals put themselves in a position where things have to line up. The injury stretch from the end of April to the beginning of June hurt the Nationals; but not as much as some think. They were four games under .500 during that stretch with a line-up that at times was missing Zimmerman, Harper, Werth, and Ramos all while playing with a severely diminished Danny Espinosa.      

Injuries are a big reason for why the Nationals are where they are. Perhaps they can ask the Reds to stop playing with Votto, Bruce, Phillips, and Choo for the last couple weeks to make up for those earlier months. But the Reds won't do that. Baseball doesn't have to be fair. The Nationals are in this position for a variety of reasons. Some are of their own making and others are because of circumstances out of their control, but they are here and they are playing well. They need luck on their side and they need to keep playing well so that it matters.  

Don't get caught up in the game of hope or in the game of I told you so. After the Nationals won yesterday, completing a four game sweep, and pulling within 5.5 a few of us, myself included, were almost mocking the team. Mocking the joy they had at winning and the hope they felt that they could catch the Reds. That isn't the right response. I realized that and corrected myself. They right response is to leave fate to the hands of fate and to enjoy what is happening. Earlier in the season, when the Braves got off to a fast start, it felt like the Nationals weren't as concerned with their own games as they were with what the Braves were doing, and quickly that caused them to fall too far behind in that race. Teams can't play concerned about what other teams are doing, and it would be for the benefit of the Nationals to only concentrate on what they can control. If the Reds start to worry about the Nationals, then that plays into their hands, but 5.5 games is a lot to make up in three weeks. It isn't impossible by any stretch, but it is highly improbable.  

Let's say the Reds go 7-8 in their final 15 games to win 90. In order for the Nats to tie them they have to go 13-3. It isn't easy, but it isn't out of the realm of possibilities, but even if the Nats go 13-3 all the Reds have to do is go 8-7. For a team that has played .565 ball this season that is one of the more likely outcomes. It is sobering to look at that and to understand that the Nationals can play as well as they won't and it still in most realities won't be enough, but none of this means that fans shouldn't have fun. It is the end of the season. We are about to endure six months without baseball, and right now the Nats are playing the best they have all season. There is no better time to watch them, and maybe just maybe if heaven and earth and all the stars line up and something magical happens you can say you were there when. Never forget that sometimes in baseball the improbable happens. Remember what Dave Jageler said after Wilson Ramos hit a walk-off homerun in a game the Nats had a 0.5% chance of winning, "If you left early, you blew it."  

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