"In fact I fully expect the Nats to be in 2nd (or 3rd - since the division is so tight) by the time May 11th rolls around What I also expect is the Nats to be within a game or two of first"What genius said that? Oh it was me!
I wasn't quite right, the Cubbies rolled over for the Braves giving them a sweep when I expected the Braves to simply win the series, and the Nats rolled over for the A's when I expected them to take at least one game, but a half-game doesn't change the point. The Nats are close enough to first place to take it back in the next two weeks.
They have a golden opportunity to do schedule wise.
Over the next 13, the Nats play :
Pirates (16-21) .
The Braves play
Rockies (23-17) (when did that happen?)
The Marlins play
In short the Braves and Marlins should struggle to go .500 over the next two weeks. The Nats should easily go a couple games over. Those scenarios would have an end result of the Nats in first place. I set 8-5 as the low bar for these 13 games and really want a 9-4 or 10-3 stretch, injuries be damned. It's time for the Nats to pitch their way to the playoffs.
First place on Memorial Day is no reason to celebrate. The script flips on the Nats and in Mid June they face all the good teams. Unless the Braves and Marlins both tank over the next two weeks while the Nats soar, chances are June would be a dog fight to hold onto that spot. First place is simply where they should be if they want ito be in good position for a post-season run.
NOT first place on Memorial Day though IS reason to worry. I'd expect given the schedules for the Nats to lose a few games to the Braves (easy stretch end of June through AS Break), and Marlins (easy stretch the middle of June) before the All-Star game. If the Nats sit in 2nd down a couple on Memorial Day, that would put them 4-5 or more games out come the break. While certainly a comeback from there is a possibility It's not where you want to be. One streak in the wrong direction at this point ends your year.
Now's the time Nats.