If not for anything else, than so we can maybe not talk about it for the next 3 weeks.
The Nats faced a great pitcher on his game and wilted. That's not surprising, just disappointing when you are looking for them to step up and put together a good showing. And by that I don't mean much, I mean manufacturing maybe 3 runs over 7? Is that too much to ask?
I get it. Sometimes that IS too much to ask. Sometimes the other guy is just that good but still...
I just browsed so this could be wrong, but it seems like the last decent (sub 4.00 ERA) starter the Nats really got to in any way was Teheran on the 19th of August (6H, 3 BB in 5 innings) and before that Danny Salazar on July 26th. Yeah yeah part of that I'm sure is facing an easier schedule so there aren't going to be as many good starters to go against and yeah yeah part of that is that you don't do well against good pitchers or else they wouldn't be good pitchers, but there is something offensively going on you can't deny. Last night was the 12 time in the last 17 games where they've scored 4 or fewer runs (9th in 16 scoring 3 or under). If you want to be cruel and pull the Atlanta series out those numbers become 12 in 14 & 9 in 13. They've been a bad offensive team for going over 3 weeks now.
Is it just a slump? Perhaps. Look before we start to go down a "what do we do" road, let's see what happens today. Gsellman isn't Sydergaard, we can't write it off if he dominates the Nats. Gsellman isn't Montero, or at least in 4 games he hasn't shown that, we can't write it off if the Nats bomb him. We're going to take Gsellman as he stands right now, a decent middle of the road pitcher. A good #3 and we're going to see if the Nats can't score 3-5 runs in 5-6 innings off him. Can they offensively create a winning scenario off a decent pitcher who's team really needs to win?
The flipside is the Nats pitching is really coming through. Because we're focused on finding problems it gets lost but the Nats haven't tanked along with the middling offense. They are 11-6 in their last 17 games. Their starters have been good in the past 3 weeks, which is meaningful given that they are using fill-ins for two spots. Their relievers have been great. We remember the occasional mess-up, like last nights bomb off Melancon, but in total the relief pitching gave up 1 run over 5 innings last night. You can't ask for more than that.
The same sort of "well maybe Zimm is this and Espy is this and Ramos is this" shoe dropping that haunts the offense, makes you feel real good about the pitching. Maybe Kelley is dominant. Maybe Treinen has turned a corner. Maye Burnett is back and Rep can get all the lefties. Maybe Scherzer is the guy to carry the team in the playoffs. He is in the argument for Cy Young. Maybe Roark is good enough to be that 2nd up. He has a 2.38 ERA since his 2nd start after the All-Star break. Maybe Gio is ready to shutdown the lefty bats of a Los Angeles or San Francisco. He had a 3.16 ERA in July and August and just gave you one of his best starts of the year.
The Nats have always been a pitching first team. This year is no different. That was almost good enough in 2012, when it took some terrible bullpen mismanagement to lose that final game. That was almost good enough in 2014 when the Nats lost three one-run games in the NLDS. We can and should talk about the offense but as long as the pitching is doing this well the Nats have more than a fair chance to move further in the playoffs.
Back to today - I hope Dusty treats this game like a playoff game. Why shouldn't he? It's the last game versus a team with anything to play for until October. Tomorrow is meaningless and you have pitchers to burn. So make this a test run. Put in the line-up you'd have in the playoffs. Aim to manufacture runs if that's the way the game seems to be going. Score a handful against Gsellman. Keep the Mets, a surging team, down for the third game in a row. Pivot the imaginary series your way. That's the way I'd look at today.