By: Jason Smith
We are approaching mid-August, leaving us with a month and a half of regular season baseball left. Currently, the Washington Nationals sit 5.5 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies for first place in the NL East. They are 4.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the second Wild Card spot. Needless to say, time is running out. Are either of those deficits impossible to overcome? No, especially when the Nationals have nine games remaining this season against the Phillies. However, if the Nationals are going to climb out of this whole, they are going to not only have to win games, but win MEANINGFUL games. What I mean by that is they will have to start winning the close games. Just this week the Nationals dropped two games where their starting pitcher left the game with the lead. Losing in the ninth inning to the Braves and in the seventh inning to the Cubs not only hurt because their bullpen squandered their lead, but because the Phillies also lost on those nights.
That being said, the Nationals have played fairly well since the All-Star Break. Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark have really turned it on in their last few starts and if the Nationals are going to make a run, those two guys are going to have to continue to pitch well. Bryce Harper is another player who seems to have found his stride since the All-Star Break. In the last 30 games, Harper is hitting .304 with 7 home runs and 21 RBI. If Harper can continue hitting like he is capable, and you add that to Daniel Murphy who is still working his way back from missing most of the year, this lineup should be able to give the starting pitchers the run support they need.
It is not going to be impossible for the Nationals to climb out of this whole, but it is going to be extremely difficult. The Phillies remind me of the 2012 Nationals where we see a very young team that we knew would be competitive in 2019-2020 entering the scene a year early. I believe the Phillies will hold onto, and win, the NL East this season. That leaves the Wild Card for the Nationals. Four and a half games is nothing to make up, however, the difficult part will be the six teams the Nationals will need to pass in order to make the second Wild Card spot. The Nationals have the talent, they have the time, but do they have what it takes to fight off the diversity and climb back into the playoffs? We will find out over the next month and a half.