Here are the matchups
Phillies @ Nats
Kendrick v Strasburg
Hamels v Gonzalez
Cloyd v Zimmermann
Nats have the edge in every match-up, though it's not like Hamels is a pushover, or Kendrick isn't good. Strasburg though, has been Strasburg, and Gio has been one of the hottest pitchers in the league. Potential for the sweep is there, but 2-1 for the Nats is a must.
Prediction : Nats sweep. Phillies are dead in the water. The one guy that has been on and off, ZNN pitches against a guy the Nats should pound. Hamels gem is the biggest threat.
Mariners @ Cardinals
Iwakuma v Wainwright
Paxton v Wacha
Ramirez v Miller
The Mariners three have actually all settled into a nice groove. Wainwright finally pitched a great game after a couple shaky outings. Other Cardinal youngsters are doing well.
Prediction : Cards Sweep. Nats aren't catching the Cardinals.
Cubs @ Pirates
Arrieta v Morton
Baker v Cole
Wood v Liriano
Pirates have the edge in the first two (Baker has a 0.00 ERA but one start total) Liriano has been not up to snuff recently while Wood has looked pretty good.
Prediction : Pirates 2 of 3. Fall a game out of the NL Central lead, but Nats chances of catching them for WC moves close to the "not going to happen" realm as they'd have 13 games to make up 7.
Reds @ Brewers
Latos v Lohse
Bailey v Hellweg
Arroyo v Gallardo
Normally you'd like the Lohse matchup but he has not been pitching well. Bailey has been as hot as Gio vs someone who may never start 20 games in the majors.. The Arroyo Gallardo matchup though, that tilts to the Brew Crew.
Prediction : Reds 2 of 3. 4.5 back as Reds fans begin to panic as they realize they are almost as close to the NL Central lead (3.5 games) they've been focused on, as they are to being out of the playoffs entirely.
Then the real test for the Nats begins. Four series left. Two against two of the best teams in the NL (Braves and Cards) one against the pretty good D-Backs who have a decent chance at a sweep this weekend themselves vs the Rockies to keep their even crazier dream alive. To get back into this the Nats needed to dominate the bad teams and be .500 versus the good ones and get a little luck. A sweep vs the Phillies would complete the first requirement (even a 2-1 would still be ok if they can make up a game on the Reds). The last one is out of their hands. The second requirement is going to make or break this miracle run.