I fully expected, about halfway through the game yesterday, that the Nats were going to come out winners. It would have been a proper way to wrap up the road trip because with a win no one could think of the road trip as anything but a success. They would have gone 6-4. They would have held onto 1st place. They would have beaten the Cubs, yes only once in 4 games, but that's about what you expect playing a good team on the road and beating them at all is important. They would have ended the whole thing with a win.
Instead we walk out a bit fuzzy. Not worried mind you. Nats look good. They just went on the toughest road trip they are likely to have (still true regardless of what you think of KC/STL) and went 5-5. They are still in a good position in general, just a half-game out of first and in solid playoff position. Just fuzzy. They were competitive sometimes, but were swept by the Cubs who are the standard bearers for the majors right now. The Mets, now on an easier part of their schedule, have taken the lead in the East. They did beat the Cardinals and Royals on the road but both those teams come into today at .500. At the same time the Marlins and Phillies, supposed patsies, have gone over .500.
It's hard to figure how to slot the Nats because the other teams aren't cooperating by separating themselves. The Cubs are great. The Nats haven't beat them. The Braves are terrible. The Nats haven't lost to them. The strong guesses are it's pretty likely the Reds, Brewers, and Padres aren't good. The Nats haven't played them. It's pretty likely that the Nats and Mets and maybe Pirates, are good. The Nats haven't played them either. The other 7 teams? The teams the Nats have played their other games against? Good luck.
Doesn't really matter - what's really important is how the Nats stack up to the Mets and we'll know a lot more about that two weeks from now after the first round of H2H games is over.
I noted that he Cubs were using the Phillies strategy of walking Bryce and letting the rest of the team beat them. The Nats did score but I don't know how well they'd have done if the Cubs were sending out their best men. They did a lot of late damage against the likes of Clayton Richard and Travis Wood. It'll be interesting to see if the Tigers, and the rest of the league continue the trend. Given that the Nats are 2-6 now in games where Bryce walks 2 or more times (and they scored the most in the Cubs series in the game he walked once) I don't see any reason why they shouldn't. At this point you press what may be a psychological advantage.
The important thing now isn't beating the Tigers, it's staying close to or passing the Mets. If we're all right then the Nats and Mets are going to be good enough to be playoff teams, or at least challenge for that position. No one wants to be the Wild Card, not because winning from there is impossible. It's totally possible. But losing from there is down to the random bounces and outcomes from a single game. One bad day destroys a season of work.
So what about the Tigers series? Don't get swept. That's where I'm setting the bar. It's low but right now I'm just looking to settle the team and stay close to the Mets. Of course I want them to win the series. I think they should win the series. But I'm setting the worry level at "being swept" That's what I'm saying. One win isn't good but it doesn't worry me.