The Nats won last night. The Nats also lost last night.
You see the Nats don't just need to win enough games to make the playoffs. They need to win enough games to make the playoffs in the time allotted.The Nats won their game last night, but so did the Reds. (and the Braves if you care, the D-backs didn't though) Therefore even though the Nats won, they lost. They lost one game off the schedule that they might need to make up ground. It's the baseball equivalent of "running out the clock". Play just good enough so your opponent doesn't catch you and you win.
The entire baseball watching nation wasn't suffering from mass delusion to start the year. The Nats, looking at their starting lineup and expected rotation, was a team that should be good enough to make the playoffs easily. This team we are seeing right now is pretty much that team. But this team doesn't have 162 games to show that their level of talent is superior to most others in the National League. It had 31 games to try to play at a level at least 7 games better than the Reds. Now it has 30 to do the same. (You see the Nats can't be in this position 24 games from now)
Don't think a game matters? Look at the fangraphs playoff odds. Yesterday it was 13.1%. Today 11.8%. Making the playoffs became 10% harder after a win. It matters. A lot.
OK enough depressing reality. Let's look at some happy stuff, like how bad the rest of the NL East is.
Miami is the 2nd worst team in the majors. Houston then Miami and they are both bad enough that you'd bet on them to hold their spots if there were some sort of reverse playoffs going. Miami's pitching is decent but they can't score. 15th in the NL out of 1,2,3....oh yeah 15 teams. It's not even close really. The Marlins score 3.2 runs a game. The 14th best team in the league scores 3.79. That distance is the same as the distance between the 14th best team and the 2nd. Their best hitter, Stanton, is pretty good. His season has been better than Desmond's not quite as good as Bryce's, and most think he can do better. Their 2nd best hitter, Morrison, is ok. His season is kind of like Zimmerman's. The next best hitter in their lineup is probably the rookie Yelich. He's kind of having a Span like year. Their third best hitter is providing offense on a Span like level.
The Nats play the Marlins 8 more times
The Phillies are surprisingly terrible all around. Because they lack
that true OMG badness of the Marlins offense they aren't going to
challenge for worst in the league, but it's surprising that they aren't
closer to that. 13th in runs scored, 15th in ERA. They shouldn't be this
bad hitting, but they can't keep everyone healthy on this aging team.
Utley has missed 30 games, Howard and Ruiz more than 50 a piece. Revere
broke his foot. Brown is taking it slow with a sore Achilles. About the
only healthy player has been Jimmy Rollins, but if you haven't noticed
Rollins has been average in his best years since 2007. Its so bad that
Bernadina has started the past 5 games for the Phillies. The pitching
this seasons for the Phils boils down to if this - if you can get Hamels
and Lee to get to Bastardo and Papelbon you were good. If anything else
happened it was bad. That was up until Bastardo got suspended. Oops!
Now Halladay is back so that's something I guess. If the rotation holds
the Nats will get Hamels twice, but Martin twice too and will miss Lee.
The Nats play the Phillies 6 more times
The Mets are doing better than most people thought they would but again, most people thought they'd be avert your eyes bad. They are kind of a typical bad, mediocre in hitting and a little better in pitching. That was with with Harvey (and Mejia) though. Without them they don't collapse, they got a lot of decent arms, but they do drop to mediocre all around. Oh wait the offense lost some guys too. Byrd and Buck. Byrd was the second best hitter on the team and thanks to the Mets OF prospects being so bad he will be replaced with whatever they can find. Right now that's 28 yr old Andrew Brown. Buck is replaced by an actual prospect in Travis d'Arnaud. Of course that is a prospect hitting .107 right now. Still they aren't a terrible offense as long as they have David Wright in there. Oh, did I forget to mention he's injured and will almost certainly miss this Nats series?
The Nats play the Mets 7 more times, (3 without Wright for sure)
The Nats play 23 games against these guys to end the year. If you like them to be about .500 against the other competition (ATL, STL, ARI) then they have to go about 19-4 against these guys. They are 2-0 so far. Look at the above. 17-4 doable? Just maybe it is.