Suffering is a Result of the Game

Baseball is not a sport for those that hang importance on every victory.
What is ultimately important in baseball is winning series and having winning
streaks that last longer than losing streaks. The 2013 Nationals are off to the
same 4-2 start as the 2012 Nationals even though those records
were achieved in very different manners. The 2012 Nationals won
series 2-1 against the Cubs (61-101) and Mets (74-88) to open up the
season. The 2013 Nationals swept the understaffed Marlins and lost a series on
the road 1-2 to the projected NL Central champion Reds. When the Nats play that
Reds, Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers, and Braves on the road the result of the
series should be 1-2. Those are the coin-flip games the Nationals are going to
play and when those games are on the road the advantage turns ever so slightly
in the favor of the home team.

Last season the Nationals had an April
showdown series against the Dodgers. Bryce Harper made his debut, the Nats
pitching was brilliant, Henry Rodriguez blew a save, and the Nats got swept.
This past series against the Reds was very different. The Nats had their big
free agent starting pitcher give up six runs in four innings of work, Ross
Detwiler pitch brilliant and club five homers on offense to take the middle
game, and then had their Ace, Stephen Strasburg, attempt to emulate Dan Haren’s
performance by giving up six runs in six innings of work. The argument can be
made that Strasburg was finished after five innings, but if he truly is the Ace
of this staff then he is the pitcher the team wants on the mound in the sixth
no matter how he has looked.

Unlike the series against the Dodgers
in 2012 where the Nationals just got plain beat the Nationals did a lot to help
the Reds cause. There were a number of defensive errors and miscues that cost
the team precious outs. With seven errors the Nats are not off to a
great defensive start, but with their level of talent that will even out. The
good news of all this is that the Nationals went on the road against one of the
best teams in the NL, didn’t play their best baseball, and still got out of
town with a win. That series could have and maybe should have gone much worse
with the way the Nationals played. If they hadn’t have had a power show
Saturday afternoon then they would have lost all three games and the complaints
from the peanut gallery would be much louder.  

Baseball is the longest season of all
sports. The Nats finished 2012 with the best overall record and still lost 64
games. Many believe it would be an achievement for the Nats to match
their 2012 record, but in order for that to be the case they have to lose 62
more games. Fans of baseball understand that the results of individual games
don’t matter as much as the results of a week or a month, and after the first
week of the season the Nats are 4-2. If they play this way every week they will
end up with 108 wins. That is on the margins of the possible, but not in the
realm of the probable. The Nats have the talent to end the season with a win
total in the high 90’s and maybe even eclipse the 100 win mark. One series in
April, on the road, against one of the best teams in baseball changes nothing.
 

The first two months of the 2013 season
are brutal for the Nats. They now welcome in the White Sox and Braves for a
homestand. Both of those teams finished over .500 in 2012 and the White Sox led
the AL Central for much of the season. The Braves are the Nats chief division
rival and added every Upton they could find this off-season, and are off to a
fast start. After that the Nats head out on the road to play the Marlins and
Mets which isn’t bad except for being on the road, but the Nats should return
home having won a majority of those games, but they happen to return to Pete
Kozma and the Cardinals for three before the early rematch between the Reds.
Every one of those games is going to be tough, and then the Nats strike back
out on the road to play that Braves and Pirates. The Pirates are a
team desperate to finish over .500 for the first time since 1992, and
Andrew McCutchen is hitting .442/.505/.907 against the Nationals.  

May is a month full of road games the
Nats play 18 of 28 games on the road including a 10 game road trip against the
Dodgers, Padres, and Giants. Those games against the Dodgers and Giants are
going to be some of the toughest the Nats play all season. The rest of May has
the Nats playing Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers at home, the Cubs at home, then
the ten game west coast trip, returning home to play the Phillies who may still
have a healthy Utley and Howard, the Orioles, and then finishing the month at Baltimore
and Atlanta. 12 of the Nats 16 remaining April/May series are against
teams labeled as contenders. The only series the Nats should win are
those against the Marlins, Mets, Padres, and Cubs. All the rest could go either
way.  

Baseball is a sport with a lot of suffering
built in. Do not be shocked if the Nats happen to be at .500 at the end of May.
Things do loosen up quite a bit once May passes, but the important thing is
getting there and hanging around until that date arrives. The Nats are a very
good team, but so are a number of the teams the Nats have to play in April and
May and many of those series are on the road. This is a tough early schedule
for the Nationals, and the results of it should do little to change any
predictions for the Nats. It would be great if they could get hot while playing
a number of these good teams and take a number of these coin-flip series. The
baseball season is 162 games for a reason. It is a season of attrition,
and as Ross Detwiler showed on Saturday the Nats have stoppers along every
point of their rotation. The Nats had a good first week winning four out of
two, and now it is time for week two and the Nats to do it again.

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