People who get into accidents on major roads during rush hour should have their licenses revoked.
It's funny but there was a sense of uneasiness when the Nats lost on Friday and the Braves won. Only 6 games out? A tough stretch for the Nats ahead? Here's where things get interesting! Nope. Two Nats wins and two Braves losses later and we're back tubing down easy street... or easy river I suppose if I want to carry that analogy to a more logical place.
As for calling the race - there are four times you can call a race. In order of decreasing certainty :
The first is when it's officially over, say 11 games out with 10 to play. It is impossible. This is the cowards call.
The second is when it isn't officially over but the circumstances needed to make it happen are two unlikely performances. Say 6 games out with 10 to play. If the following team goes 8-2 (great!) and the leading team goes 2-8 (terrible!) that would tie them up. It isn't likely that the following team does that though, and even less likely that the leading team does that, so calling it makes sense. It's the realist call.
The third is when only one unlikely performance is needed. Say 3 games out with 10 to play. If the following team goes 8-2 then the leading team only has to go 5-5 to reach a tie. 8-2 is unlikely (the Nats have only hit that kind of stretch 3 times this year and they would presumably be the better team in this scenario). Or vice versa 6-4 and 3-7 would work, but 3-7 isn't likely for a team that has done well enough to lead a division. (Nats have had two of these time periods). It's a gutsy call.
The fourth is when there's no reason to call it. Say 1 game out with 10 to play. What kind of call this is depends on the person making it. It could be a fun call, for those who don't take it seriously. It could be a fool's call, for those that don't understand. It could be a "Jeane Dixon" call for those in public who like to say a bunch of things and then pick out the couple that end up working out to be true. Anyway - not a call I'd ever seriously make.
Where do the Nats stand with just over 30 games left (Nats 33, Braves 31)? Somewhere between the second and the third. The good thing is these don't extrapolate linearly. It's would be one thing to say the Nats need to go 2-8 and the Braves 8-2. It's a whole 'nother thing to bump that up to 4-16 and 16-4. If the first is unlikey for each then the latter is crazy unlikely because you're stretching out something rare for 10 games into something rare for two sets of ten games. If you think there's a 20% chance the Nats can go 2-8 and then same chance the Braves go 8-2 (just work with me here) then you'd being saying there's a 4% chance the Braves can catch up 6 in 10 games. That's tiny. Catching up 12 in 20 games? The chance would be 0.16%, assuming you didn't change the odds. That's impossible.
In other words the Nats don't need to be 12 games up with 20 to play to have the "realist call". 8-10 would do it. At 30 games out... maybe 10-12? It all depends on what you think of the teams. We're getting close though. Right now the Nats going 16-17 would force the Braves to go 23-8. The Braves going 23-8 is unlikely. The Nats going 16-17 is getting close to unlikely. A couple more games ahead for the Nats and we might get there.
*What does the H2H games do? They increase the magic number because they add certainty to the chance of one team rising and one team falling at the same time. Normally I'd call it 8 games up with 21 to play (when they next meet) but the H2H will give me pause. I probably wouldn't call it unless the Nats were up at least 10.
You can see how this works though - if the Nats get up 12 games before then I might call it because to say the Braves have a chance you'd be saying (1) The Braves close that gap by 3 games in ~5 games, which is hard, and then (2) catch up 9 games - basically winning all the head to heads- before the season ends. That's two unlikely things.