Strasburg was great. Bryce was great. Nats win and stave off seeing their elimination number drop into the single digits for another day.
As others noted, last night was a good reminder that 2016, not 2015 marks the closing of this chapter of Nats history. There will be big losses this year but the team is equipped to handle them. Next year Ross/Roark slide in, Danny holds the spot for Trea, and MAT takes over officially. It may not work mind you, but there is a plan in place. If you are a sunshine and ponies type, add a bullpen arm or two and get lucky with injuries and this team could win the division pretty much as is.
Of course this kind of plan would be exactly in line with 2012-2015, setting up scenarios where "get lucky with injuries" isn't a hope, but a necessity. I think we all are expecting more, especially given a Mets team that should be a rival next year, assuming they keep the right pieces or bring in the right replacements.
The other story that floats around is the "question" of whether Bryce Harper should be the MVP. Look, he's going to win it. He's having the best season in over a decade and is head and shoulders more productive than his competition. But because we are inclined to link value with playoffs, and the Nats aren't making it, there's push back. Then, as long as it remains a story, you'll have off-shoots that go in other directions. Like this which actually tries to quantify value in a number. It's not a bad goal, but I'm of the mindset if you are asking people to vote - let them decide for themselves based on their own opinions. It's fine. The world won't end. Sabrmetrics has great value in creating a team, but for giving awards? To me that's like coming up with an algorithm to judge a beauty contest. It's an interesting angle but it misses the larger point. We are wanting to come up with personal interpretations of an abstraction. It's art, not science.
The Nats are actually 16-11 since August 18th. You know I hate arbitrary dates but if we say "this is the date when everyone was healthy again" it ceases to be arbitrary and has some meaning. Small sample but this is a 96 win pace. The problem again isn't the healthy talent but the hole they dug themselves when injured/recovering. After losing on the 16th, they Nats were a game under .500, 4.5 out of first and 9.5 out of the WC. They've played well but at that point playing well wasn't enough. They had two non-crazy ways into the playoffs, beating the Mets H2H or have the Cubs collapse. They didn't beat the Mets (and the Mets play outside of the Nats games has almost made that moot*). The Cubs didn't collapse, going 16-12 over that time.
All games are important. That opening 7-13 swoon? The post-May 9-16 malaise? The "we don't need anyone new" 4-13 run? It adds up. You can keep telling yourself you have a chance as the season winds down. The Nats did. But you don't want to have to do that. You don't want to have to figure out how if things break you can still win.
That last run was the back-breaker. At the trade deadline the Nats were up 3 in the division, 1.5 games out of the 2nd WC. Not only were they in good position but 2015 was looking SO familiar in comparison to 2014. In 2014, they were only about 10 games over at the time. They were just ahead of the next team (last year the Braves) as the deadline approached. They were getting injury return guys back into the swing of things. Why not do what they did last year, make a middling deal? It worked, didn't it? But there were big differences. The fact that the injuries were less severe and the players returned a month earlier in 2014. The fact that the Braves made no substantial moves to get better, but the Mets did. The Nats assumed things would work out to the point they didn't try to put the Mets away in that July 31st series. The Mets took that series seriously. After that the Mets were ahead, the Nats were free-falling, and the trade deadline had passed.
Sigh. Oh well. Maybe Bryce will hit another 3 homers tonight.
*Mets have gone 20-7 in that same time frame. Even if the Nats sweep the Mets they are still 2.5 games out right now, fighting to make the last series relevant. Ok, yes "if the Nats sweep though maybe they play better or the Mets play worse" yeah yeah. But maybe it sparks the Mets to try harder in these other series, or maybe the Nats get complacent against some of these teams. Let's just assume what happened, would happen, ok?