So that ends that. Any chance of the Mets being a threat to the Nats ended last night as the Nats pitching held the game close and forced Terry Collins to go deep into a bullpen where even the top guys aren't reliable. Eventually in that cirucmstance, the Nats would win and they did busting it wide open in the 10th. Before this game Mets fans could dream of a sweep, closing the gap back to 5.5 games, and a record of 2 games over .500. I know that doesn't sound like much but it keeps the dream alive (they are still talking about Wild Card right now and this is roughly where they stand in that). But now the best they can do is 7.5 back and a .500 record and does anyone want to bet on the Nats losing back to back Gio / Strasburg games? Does it change your mind if I tell you the great Jeremy Hefner is pitching game 2?
So as NL East contenders the Mets are done, the Phillies were toast at first pitch of the season (but still won't admit it), and the Marlins, in trading Sanchez and Infante, have waived the white flag for 2012 (smart move by Hill/Beinfest - really this is a franchise to look out for, just not this year). That leaves the Braves, who have consistently gone out of their way to not crest that hill and truly challenge the Nats, as the last contender. The Nats don't play the Braves again for a month. Between then and now the Braves have a slightly easier go of it than the Nats. I imagine the Nats will go into that series on August 20th with about the same lead they have now, maybe a game less or more. If that's the case, the Nats could land a knockout blow on the Braves that week and spend a month doing a victory lap as NL East champions.
Here I'll add the caveat that anything can happen, because it can, but likely scenarios are all pointing to the Nats as NL East Champs. As of now, the Braves can't afford to go on an extended (let's say 6+ games) losing streak or have the Nats go on the equivalent winning streak. Even if the actual games lost by the Braves is just 1 and a half, it becomes too big a hill to climb. Think of it - right now if the Nats went 34-33 for the rest of the season (disappointing based on how they've played the first 95 games) the Braves would have to go 38-28 to tie (better pace than they've played this season). Not impossible but both are unlikely situations. Now lose a game and a half in standings and more importantly 6 games to make it up. If the Nats go the same mediocre 31-30, the Braves have to go 37-23. That's the pace of a 100 win team over the last two months of the season.
It's almost here folks. I don't think we'll be able to call it until after that next Braves series but it's almost here.