Real quick one today
The Nats failed to put away (in my opinion) the Mets this weekend. Opportunity knocked and the Nats hid in the bed with the covers over their head until it went away. They could have been over 10 games up on the Mets if they swept this series at home. But Max failed to come up big in the first game, as an initially shaky deGrom did what he couldn't. In the next game, the Nats pen yielded 2 runs in two innings to keep the game out of reach. That was that. The dream of finishing off the Mets by May 1st was done.
Of course that doesn't mean the Nats are in a bad position. In fact, neither the Phillies or Marlins, the two closest teams, could pick up a game. The Nats find themselves with the biggest division lead in the majors at 5 games. While the Mets have managed to stick around they lost their best bat (Cespedes) going into the series and maybe lost their best arm (Sydergaard) coming out of it. The Nats didn't put away the Mets, but they haven't done anything to lose their place as a early favorite.
The Nats also suffered a major injury, losing Adam Eaton for the year. Center field has been a major issue for the Nationals since 2005 as a parade of players have come and gone trying to fit the very specific, very traditional role that apparently the Nats need. Adam served to be this top of the order hitter the Nats have always wanted.* Now the Nats are once again searching. The first guy up is again Michael A Taylor who has been very consistent over 800 PA in baseball so far. He will not hit for average (around .230). He will not show patience (walk rate around 6.5%). He will show moderate power (isoSLG about .140) but he'll strike out a ton (K rate over 30%). He's young enough that this could change but he's at the end of that range. After this try it won't be natural progression if he gets better, it'll be luck.
But the Nats line-up had shown itself to be 8 deep. The worst hitters currently being the aged Jayson Werth, who has shown an ability to at least keep himself competent this long, and Anthony Rendon, who if isn't hurt has shown himself to be a very good hitter, as evidence by yesterdays breakout. The Nats line-up is now 7 deep. That's still deep and it's not 7 deep with moderate talent. Bryce and Murphy are potentially MVP bats. Turner could be the same. Zimm (tomorrow!) just had a special April and is a solid bat at worst when healthy. Things may have gotten easier for opponent's pitching but they haven't gotten easy.
Was it an ideal weekend? No. Was it an ideal April? No, you had the Eaton injury and the bullpen situation hasn't gotten any better. But despite all that the Nats are staying up there with the best teams in baseball with one month down and a nice sized lead in their favor. I'll take it.
*You know who else was that? Denard Span in 2014-15. I'm not sure why that has seemingly slipped everyone's mind.