I told you I'd call it and I have. It's over. The Braves can start taking estimates for the making of a 2013 NL East Pennant. The facts are that the Nats, even if they were to sweep the Braves in their remaining 8 games (which why would you think that would happen?), would have to make up 5.5 games in 42 remaining games. That's at the edge of believability, especially considering for the first 110+ games the Braves have played much much better than the Nats. Each single win from the Braves versus the Nats takes more of the "nigh" out of the nigh-impossible task I listed above. Nats go 6-2? Great, now make up 9.5 games in a month and a half.
So the NL East is over, but there is still the WC play-in play-off. What's the current situation look like?
St. Louis +4.5
Ok, that isn't promising but its not thirteen and a half games. I won't worry about San Diego or Colorado who sit a few games behind the Nats because if they pass the Nats... well playoff dreams are likely over too. And let's not worry about St. Louis either. 7 games is one thing, 11.5 is completely another.
Are there any head to head match-ups left with these teams?
The Nats were done with Cincinnati before April ended (4-3). They play the D-Backs in a 3 game set in Arizona to end the season. Cincinnati will host Arizona in a four game set from the 19th-22nd.
Who has the easiest schedule?
The Nats do, but it's not as super obvious as you might have believed at the beginning of the year now that we know the Nats aren't one of the best teams in baseball.
Including finishing out some of these current series the Nats have 6 series (17 games) against above .500 teams. The Reds and Arizona both have 7 (22 games apiece). Even better for the Nats it's only 3 between now and September 15th, meaning if they are going to make up ground now (or really Aug 27th-Sep15th) is prime time to do it.
Also in the Nats favor each team ends the season heavy with in-division games and the runs scored/allowed numbers say the NL East is the weakest of the three.
What's not on the Nats side? They play more games away (26) than the D-Backs (24) or the Reds (22)
Any injuries to take note of?
Everyone has got their nicks and bumps to deal with but Cincy has the biggest guy out with injury. Johnny Cueto has been out since early June and there isn't a timetable on his return. The sooner he comes back the more things tilt in the Reds favor.
Any young players coming up?
Probably not. The D-Backs have the best prospect in Archie Bradley, but he likely will be held back until 2014. They have a couple live bats in AAA with Chris Owings and Matt Davidson, but they aren't going to unseat Hill and Prado, and they like Gregorious at SS for his D. If they do come up in September it'll be on the bench. Tyler Skaggs has busted out of the majors twice this year, not sure he'll get a 3rd chance. Most interesting for the D-backs is Adam Eaton who came back about a month ago from injury. He's a good prospect but hasn't shown it yet. Could come on strong down the stretch.
For the Reds, they don't have much. Billy Hamilton doesn't seem bat-ready for the majors yet. They could call him up to pinch-run and utilize his all world speed, but is that enough reason to start the clock? Tony Cingrani is it, and he's been up for a while doing a good job in the rotation.
The Nats will need a pitcher to fill in but no budding star is ready to fill in. Rendon's progress is going to be critical down the stretch.
The D-backs (4) and the Nats (3) will play a chunk of good teams in the next 2 and a half weeks. The Reds should expand their lead a bit during this time. If we wake up on August 26th , though and find someone within 4-5 games of the Reds, things could get interesting in September.
Really though, you have to like the Reds with the 4.5 games in hand and enough games vs Milwaukee and Chicago to offset those vs St. Louis and Pittsburgh. If Cueto comes back anytime relatively soon, they could even run away with 2nd WC.
Catch and pass the D-backs first. They have to finish a series versus the Rays, then after a Mets interlude, they'll face the Orioles and Pirates. If the Nats can close 2.5 games by then, we'll be at the Reds/D-backs series where the Nats, if they win their games vs the Cubs, will be certain to catch up to someone.