If you’re a baseball fan you’re really going to enjoy these final two months. If you’re a Nationals fan it is going to be pure torture. With the addition of the second Wild Card in 2012 there are now five playoff teams and in the NL there are currently seven teams within three games of each other. If things broke right in three days’ time the Pittsburgh Pirates could have the best record in the NL and the Milwaukee Brewers out of the playoffs entirely. This creates real danger for the teams leading a division.
No NL division leader has more than a three game lead with the Giants and Nationals both being half a game up in their divisions. The current Wild Card leaders are the Dodgers and Braves with the Cardinals and Pirates only a half game back of them. It isn’t hard to imagine one of the current division leaders not just losing the lead in the division but falling out of the playoffs entirely and it doesn’t take much of a slip to do so.
The Brewers currently have the best record in the NL and are on pace to win 91 games while the Pirates are the seventh best team in the NL and on pace to win 86 games. If this pace holds then the difference between the best team in the NL and the second team out of the playoffs is only going to be five games. That isn’t a big difference and two good teams are going to miss the playoffs this season. That means these last two months are going to be very tense. It is going to be two months of watching a save situation for those teams that currently own one of the five playoff spots.
If you’re a baseball fan and don’t have any investment in the teams involved in this race then this is going to be highly enjoyable drama, but for a fan of any of these teams it is going to be pure torture, and it makes the upcoming trade deadline that much more important. The danger of falling completely out of the playoffs with just a little slip makes the price per win that much more. Adding a players that amount to only one or two wins in the standings could be the difference between making the playoffs and having a chance to win a World Series and sitting at home, and that means GMs of the contending teams in the NL may be willing to give up just a little more.
With just a two-game losing streak the Nationals could lose the division lead and find themselves even with the Pirates or Cardinals as one of the first two teams out of the playoffs. A two-game losing streak. The Nationals are going to suffer more than one of those before the season comes to an end, and any one of them could put them out of the playoffs. With Ryan Zimmerman out for an extended period of time that puts even more pressure on the Nationals to make a move.
This isn’t so much like a save situation for the Nationals but more like a hockey team in the final minute on the penalty kill with the opposing goalie pulled. The Nationals have two months to hold on and that is going to be a lot harder with Zimmerman not on the field. Getting someone better than what they have is going to help, but it is no guarantee. The National League is very bunched up and it is going to be a lot of fun for fans of the sport of baseball, but pure torture for fans of the Nationals as they desperately cling to their slim division and playoff lead.