Really we shouldn't be having this conversation, and we wouldn't be if it wasn't for the fluke situation that makes the Nats the Braves closest contender to the crown. The Nats are in 2nd place in the NL East and have been for much of the year. Yet the reality of the situation is that they are 12 and a half games out. The Yankees are in 4th place in the AL East behind the team with the most wins in baseball and they are 3 games closer to the division lead than the Nats. The Giants are in last place in the NL West and they are a half-game closer. The Nats are nowhere near winning the East.
Which is why in all good conscience we should call this race right now. Hell, it should have been called 2 weeks ago. NO! I WON'T DO IT!
I won't do it not because of any silly slogan handed out on a t-shirt. Nor won't I do it because the Providence GrassCutters in 18-dickety-2 won 20 out of 22 to end the season and win their division from the same spot the Nats are in now.* No, I won't do it because I don't want to. Give up the NL East and all you have is the Wild Card, an undesirable 1 game playoff that is baseball's equivalent to the NCAA tournament's play-in games. Give up the NL East and the season becomes a lot less fun.
But I don't want to deny the grim reality in front of the Nats so as a compromise I've set this unwavering goal in front of the Nats. Sweep the Braves and we'll keep talking. Sweep the Braves and I'll at least consider the Nats are starting a miracle run to a pennant. Lose one game, though, and I have to call it and we can start discussing WC possibilities.
Other Notes :
You may have been blinded by those wins but the Nats scored 7 runs in two games vs Donovan Hand and the Brewers emergency bullpen staff fillers.
There is a Werth appreciation article coming. No the guy isn't back to being as good as he was when he left the Phillies. This year's production is more average based and the average is high BABIP based (but not unsustainable - just on his high end). But he has been real good at the plate when healthy and that's important. He will be terrible and the Nats will be paying him a lot to BE terrible. The goal is to keep that time frame as short as possible. His performance this year says - that won't be a 4 year thing, and probably not 3. If you can get it down to 1... I can live with that.
What do the two above notes have in common? A lot. After Werth the next best National hitter in the past week has been Rendon. His line? .250 / .316 / .438. Hope Stras and Gio are ready.
After hitting nine homers in June, Ian Desmond hit one homer in July.
Is Dan Haren better? Signs point to yes. He's basically abandoned his normal fastball and throws nothing but cutters, sinkers, and splitters. Looks like it's working. He won't face another good offense until Sept 16 if the rotation holds so we could see this last the rest of the season. (still - don't resign him please)
*The 1996 Orioles are the newest "Nats could be this team" team. The O's at 103 games? 51-52, 5 games out of the WC. The Nats? 49-54, 9 games out of the 2nd WC. O's at 111 games 57-54. Nats at 111 games? 54-57. By the time August 16th rolled around the O's were 9 games over .500 and 1 game out of the WC. For the Nats to be in the same basic situation assuming the Reds go .500 over that time like the '96 White Sox did, they'd have to win their next 11 in a row. Anyone betting on that? Just because something has happened, that it could happen, doesn't mean it will happen.