All the way back in April when the Nats were a mistake prone team the
finished under .500 for the month and looked like they were trying to win 98
games and the World Series all in one month. They played tight and most of
their talk was how they were better than the Braves, and not how they needed to
play better. The Nats in April were trying too hard to control their destiny
instead of playing games and letting fate happen.
After that it was May and the injuries
came. As Zimmerman was returning from the DL Werth went down with a pulled
groin and Harper bruised his ribs on a wall in Atlanta before bruising his knee
on a wall in LA. Ramos was missed more than anyone knew with multiple hamstring
injuries and Danny Espinosa spent all season ignoring the obvious and refusing
to get surgery.
Combine April and May and the Nats dug
themselves a deep hole. In June they made some progress with cutting the dead weight
of Zach Duke and Henry Rodriguez as well as optioning Espinosa to the minors. They
were able to score more runs per game than in any other month as Rendon came up
and Werth returned from injury. It still wasn’t enough to play much better than
.500 ball as once the offense got healthy the pitching cascaded off a cliff.
The Nats bullpen has been mismanaged
all season long with hot pitchers being left to sit for entire series while
cold pitchers appear in every game. It is a strange way to manage, but Davey
Johnson trusts his guys and will give them every opportunity to fail. When they
don’t respond it isn’t always their personal failure that is the issue; but the
team’s ever descending path past mediocrity. July was just this way. The Nats
worst month by win/loss record but the best month by team OPS and the only
month with an over .300 team OBP.
Now three games into August and a solid
2-1 start the Nats face a nine game homestand. This is it. This is the Nats
last chance to dig out of the hole they have dug themselves in or to pile the
rest of the dirt on top. A 5-4 homestand would have been the goal in April or
May, but the Nationals scuffled so much that now they must win every series and
sweep a few between to really have a chance, and even if they go 7-2 in these
next nine games can it be trusted as more than a death rattle?
The 2013 Washington Nationals, the most
disappointing team in baseball, face one last stand, one last chance to make a
charge, but will it be Picket’s Charge, the charge of the Light Brigade, or
something far more triumphant. Tragedy or triumph, that is what the Nationals
season has come down to. The old cliché of games in September being worth more
will be tested because the Nats may already be eliminated when that month rolls
around. Those early games that were just one game, just another loss, are now
the dirt the Nats must crawl through to make sure their April hole doesn’t
become their October tomb.
Whatever happens, it happens now. This homestand is either the final nail in
the coffin or the Nats last chance to make this season matter.
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