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What would it take to catch the Reds?

Aug 27, 2013, 6:00 AM EST

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Washington Nationals

We spent yesterday morning detailing the reasons why a last-ditch, late-season-playoff-charge-for-the-ages is highly unlikely for the Nationals. But I’d hate to be labeled as too negative. Especially in the midst of this blog’s redesign.

So let’s actually spend a few minutes this morning running through a scenario in which the Nationals actually could make it to October.

That doesn’t mean anyone is predicting this will happen, only that it could happen.

As they wake up this morning, the Nationals find themselves eight games back in the NL Wild Card race, having picked up 1/2-game last night when the Reds lost a big game to the Cardinals in St. Louis. So, they need to make up eight games in the standings with 32 to play. How hard can that be?

Well, actually, it’s a lot harder than it sounds. Consider this: If the Reds play .500 ball the rest of the way, they’d finish at 89-73. In order to catch Cincinnati and force a one-game playoff, the Nats would need to go 24-8. That’s a .750 winning percentage.

But there is good news. Four teams actually have won 24-of-32 games at one point this season: the Dodgers, Tigers, Rays and Cardinals. And while the Nationals haven’t come close to a prolonged stretch like that this season (their best 32-game record has been 18-14), they have done it twice in their history (June 2005 and July-August 2012).

The odds get a bit more promising if Cincinnati plays sub-.500 ball to finish out its season. If the Reds go 13-17, they’d wind up 87-75. To catch them, the Nationals would need to go 22-10, a .688 winning percentage which is a bit more manageable. For comparison’s sake, the Nats are 11-5 over their last 16 games. They’d simply need to keep that exact same pace up over the rest of the season to pull it off.

Now, is there any reason to believe the Nationals can keep up that pace? Or that the Reds could tank so dramatically during the season’s final five weeks? Well, there is one glimmer of hope: The schedule.

The Nationals have one of MLB’s easiest remaining schedules, with 23 of 32 games coming against sub-.500 teams. In fact, their next 19 games all come against the three bottom-feeders of the NL East: the Mets, Phillies and Marlins.

The Nats have gone 45-29 against teams with losing records this year, a .608 winning percentage. But that’s not good enough anymore. That would equate to a 14-9 record in those 23 remaining games against sub-.500 teams, and that’s not going to get the job done. Realistically, the Nationals would need to go, at minimum, 16-7 in those games to give themselves a chance.

They would then need to go 6-3 in their nine games against winning teams (the Braves, Cardinals and Diamondbacks) to finish 87-75.

Of course, none of this matters if the Reds finish with 88 or more wins, so what are the odds they can’t pull that off? Well, 15 of their remaining 30 games come against teams over the .500 mark (six apiece with the NL Central-contending Pirates and Cardinals, plus three against the ridiculously-hot Dodgers).

What is Cincinnati’s record against winning teams this season? 26-35, a very uninspired .426 percentage. Suppose the Reds go 5-10 in those 15 games against Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Los Angeles. They could then still go 8-7 in their 15 other games against the Rockies, Cubs, Brewers, Astros and Mets and finish with only 87 wins.

So there you have it: I just concocted a scenario in which the Nationals and Reds each finish 87-75, forcing a one-game playoff to get into the one-game Wild Card.

Is is plausible? Not really. But is it possible? Sure.

And the way 2013 has gone in D.C., the fact it’s even possible to consider a last-ditch pennant race for the Nationals is reason enough to celebrate.

  1. unterp - Aug 27, 2013 at 6:55 AM

    I’d be happy if Nationals finished with a winning record and less than 80 loses, say 83-79…

    • iconicwoodencap - Aug 27, 2013 at 10:51 AM

      +1 pundits have speculated that the upsurge in play has something to do with being out of the pressure of making the playoffs. I certainly have had more fun watching good baseball, and find myself less anguished when losing since it became generally assumed this wasn’t the Nats year.

      So stretch credulity if you must, but I’m just happy to go out strong. It’s nice to see the guys feel some success, loosen up, and have some fun out there. I sure am.

  2. goteddy - Aug 27, 2013 at 6:55 AM

    OK – but it was a lot more fun last year when we were starting to think about how to calculate our majic number to win the division .

  3. farazs1 - Aug 27, 2013 at 6:57 AM

    This is going to be tough. I think NatsLady already pointed this out, but if we can get somewhat close by September 8 (say 4 games). Think of it as making up one game per series from there on. We both have ten series each. I am not sure we deserve to be in playoffs, given how we played most of season but I would love it if we make it there.

    • ehay2k - Aug 27, 2013 at 7:34 AM

      farazs1, on the contrary, if the Nats somehow make it to the playoffs, they could be considered to be very deserving! They have had to overcome a slew of injuries, and many think they played well below their potential (I’m not sure they really have, to be honest) but it’s the number of wins that matters.

      Last year, the Nats were ready to play right out of ST, got hot early (especially when BH came up), then played just a few games over .500 for the rest of the season and wound up with 98 wins. (I can’t remember if they were something like 14 over early, then 3 over for the rest of the season?)

      They can sweep teams, this we know. So, they just need to start doing it now with regularity.

      I would love to be able to preview posts.

      • farazs1 - Aug 27, 2013 at 9:46 AM

        I don’t agree with that. Lucky, yes but not deserving.

      • novasnow - Aug 27, 2013 at 11:34 AM

        Check your math (14 over early; 3 over the rest of the way). The 2012 Nats ended up 34 games over .500.

  4. Hondo Fan - Aug 27, 2013 at 7:09 AM

    Stranger things have happened. The key is strong showing by the Nats in the next 10 games. If we get to 5 or 6 games behind the Reds with 20 to go, they’ll start to THINK about the Nats. Pressure does a funny thing to ball clubs. Go Nats.

  5. DCDINGO - Aug 27, 2013 at 7:22 AM

    Now I’m back to hoping again. I’m so easily led. Win every series and see where we land.

  6. natsguy - Aug 27, 2013 at 7:49 AM


    Really hate the new site. More complicated to get in, doesn’t work on android phones, is way too busy, and not very pretty. Gotta give it a negative 10 so far.

    • Candide - Aug 27, 2013 at 8:48 AM

      Maybe it doesn’t work on your/i> android phone. Works on mine just fine – and a lot of others, apparently. Bugs and tweaks to be ironed out, but that’s always the case when you move any system over to new software.

    • sonnyg10 - Aug 27, 2013 at 10:52 AM

      It comes up on my android phone just fine. I haven’t tried to post anything from it yet though.

  7. natsfan1a - Aug 27, 2013 at 8:05 AM

    Now, that’s funny. :-)

    Me, I’d just like to see them play good, clean baseball down the stretch.

    “But I’d hate to be labeled as too negative. Especially in the midst of this blog’s redesign.”

  8. courtswift - Aug 27, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    The Nats have got to sweep the Fish. It keeps the roll going and if they can put pressure on the Reds, who knows what could happen.

    Love the new site – especially commenting.

  9. habs3 - Aug 27, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    Your post is all well and good but lets be realistic. How do you in good conscience expect this team to go on such a run when they continue to put on a display like the bottom eighth of last Sunday’s game? For those who didn’t witness this brutal display of baseball, we had a pitcher who walked two batters, a pitcher fail to cover first, a shortstop fail to field a little league ground ball and a third basemen fail to cover his bag. Can someone please explain how do you expect this team to go on a sustained run when they play like this on a regular basis.

    • farazs1 - Aug 27, 2013 at 9:24 AM

      Look at Dodgers. They did not make any serious additions. They just got hot, thanks to their players who all of a sudden started hitting and pitching. Talent-wise, I don’t think nationals are too far behind from Dodgers. They have a good SS, so do we. They have a young OF, so do we. They have good pitching, so do we. Believing now will probably crush me at the end of the season, but heck why not.

    • unterp - Aug 27, 2013 at 9:31 AM

      I concur and further more, I don’t quite understand the play. It’s as though they went brain dead much of the season. It’s the little things that’s upsetting, like routine fielding, base running, bunting, etc…

  10. ghostofstevem - Aug 27, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    The Braves meltdown 3 seasons ago was epic. It can happen. Just needs the Reds to start stumbling and the Nats to surge.

  11. umpiressuk - Aug 27, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    I’m with you natsfan1a. Just play with heart and make plays. Mark has given us fans some hope, but reality will play out.


  12. Candide - Aug 27, 2013 at 8:54 AM

    Mark: That doesn’t mean anyone is predicting this will happen, only that it could happen.

    It can’t happen if they don’t start playing sharper, more alert ball. They’re not going to sleepwalk to 87 wins. And they’ve been sleepwalking, except in short bursts, pretty much all season long.

    Yeah, it could happen. But that’s not how the smart money is betting.

  13. natslady - Aug 27, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    It’s going to be hot and humid tonight. Game time temp near 90.

  14. pdowdy83 - Aug 27, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    Over the Nats next 12 games they play the Marlins, Mets, Phillies and Marlins. The Reds play the Cardinals, Rockies, Cardinals and Dodgers over their next 12. If there is a stretch where this team can make any sort of run it is now. As someone mentioned above the key is to go out and sweep the Fish to get the ball rolling. 3 wins would mean the team at least picks up another half a game (Reds off Wed.) and I think it is a good chance the Reds will lose at least 1 more to the Cardinals. If the Nationals head into this weekend against the Mets only 6.5 games back with 9 games in a row against subpar teams then you have to admit the end of the season will be A LOT more interesting.

    • pdowdy83 - Aug 27, 2013 at 9:25 AM

      Not that I am scoreboard watching or anything lol

  15. Baseballswami - Aug 27, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    If it’s possible to concoct, then it could conceivably happen.

  16. originalnatsfan - Aug 27, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    I’d like the Nats to play good baseball for the rest of the season.
    Then if some other team falters, they are in the hunt.

  17. Section 222 - Aug 27, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    This is what happens when you’re basically a .500 team. You get to the last month of the season and you have to play .750 ball to even have a shot. And the team you’re chasing, which is almost by definition a better team than you are, has to play .500 ball. The chances of both of those things happening is basically .000. (Well, ok, Coolstandings has it at .045. )

  18. Joe Seamhead - Aug 27, 2013 at 10:30 AM

    Meanwhile up in Philly, the Shark is impressing with his outfielding:

    • Candide - Aug 27, 2013 at 10:41 AM

      From the linked article: In the seventh he extended his body to the fullest in making a diving catch on a ball hit by Tuffy Gosewisch.

      Yes, we know Roger makes these spectacular diving catches.

      I prefer the guy who positions himself well, gets a good jump on the ball, and takes a clean route. Wish we had a center fielder like that.

      Oh, wait…

      We get enough hold-your-breath drama as it is, every time Soriano comes in with a two-run lead.

  19. Section 222 - Aug 27, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    Look at Dodgers. They did not make any serious additions.

    Huh? How about Zach Greinke, Yasiel Puig, and Ryu Hyun-jin. Plus, they got Gonzales, Crawford, and Beckett last year at the end of August, and Hanley at the end of July, too late to make much of a difference in their season. They were expected to be good this year and they were, despite a slow start.

    • farazs1 - Aug 27, 2013 at 11:12 AM

      I meant after their slow start. Puig is the only one who came up in June. Everyone else was there all year long.

  20. sonnyg10 - Aug 27, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    I just want to watch some good winning baseball down the home stretch. If we back into the playoffs, it would be nice but I’ll not hold my breath on that one.

  21. natsdoc - Aug 27, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    It ain’t over until it’s over. One game at a time. Let’s win tonight!. Go Ross! Go Nats!

  22. Theophilus T.S. - Aug 27, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    New format stinks. Still can’t figure out how to load avatar a half hour later.

    No point in fanciful speculations. I suppose winning 24 out of 32 might do it. With this group, when donkeys fly.

    Mostly, as participants in this blog, we have nothing to do between now and, say, the start of the winter meetings. Nothing this team does between now in September 30 is going to lead to a happy ending, make anybody feel anything other than hollow.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 27, 2013 at 12:55 PM

      Hmmmm. I see a nice little niche market here, uploading people’s profiles and fixing the goofs.

      I’ll just need your login, password, SSN, mother’s maiden name, home ZIP Code, and the key to your safety deposit box.

      • timdz - Aug 27, 2013 at 3:06 PM

        Interesting concept….
        How do you look in stripes?

  23. NatsLady - Aug 27, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    Nats and Marlins–
    Injuries, Rankings for Pitching/Offense/Defense
    Players Stats, last 14 days

    Series Preview

  24. letswin3 - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Hi, Im a new member (revised site, why not?), but I’ve been reading posts and comments here for the last 2 years. Although I’ve been a casual fan since the early 60’s, the last few years have lit it up for me. I’m a better and more informed fan through learning more from your comments and insight. And the humor provided by several of you (like Candide) is both entertaining and theraputic in times of team troubles. Even some of the negative comments generally have a grain of information worth absorbing. Thanks to all of you for sharing your knowledge and insight.

    As for the remainder of ’13, it’s probably futile to hope for a playoff spot, but we have seen some growth…..Rendon has been a blessing and will only get better, center field is improved defensively (and that bat has warmed lately too), several BP additions have been unexpected gains and delightful to see, Srass is becoming more mature, Storen seams to be rejuvinated, Moore has again showed promise and Werth’s health has allowed him to become a real offensive threat. I was a little spoiled by last year’s unexpected positive run, but I’m genuinely enthusiastic about this next offseason and next year…..and if something turns in our favor this year, count me in. GYFNG

  25. veejh - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    Season’s over. Time to give the young guys more playing time. Put Ryan Zimmerman on the 60 day DL so he can get that shoulder 100% for next year.

  26. jdiame - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    Clearly the odds are long especially as half the equation depends on things out of our control. However the odds are not 0 and as long as that is the case I choose to continue following and hoping.

    Theo, you can choose to turn it off and move on to Football or whatever makes you happy. You can come back during the winter meetings if you wish. I just choose to follow my team through the end of the season and continue investing in it emotionally.

  27. jdiame - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    Every team has had innings such as the Nats had in KC on Sunday. Probably on multiple occasions. Those skewering the players for their mistakes in the 8th inning have undoubtedly never made a mistake in their jobs, never had a bad day. Just a modicum of perfection.

    • letswin3 - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:43 PM

      Yeah, wouldn’t it be interesting if anyone could just post comments anonymously about our performance on the job……..” and what about Jimmy Joe blowing the Gotham account last Tuesday….he shudda never made a pass at that guys daughter”. It aint easy being a ballplayer. But I guess that’s why they get the big bucks.

    • habs3 - Aug 27, 2013 at 4:20 PM

      Why can’t you restrict your comments to the Nats instead of taking a shot at some poster. You come come across as a bore and malcontent. If you having nothing to say about the team, positive or negative, then just does us all a favor and shut up.

  28. nats106 - Aug 27, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    Cards did their part last night. Now we need 6 more from them and the Nats need to take care of business. I believe we go to the last week of the season.

  29. sjm308 - Aug 27, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    Wow – I am on my way home and there is a new layout!

    Looks like I am able to comment so all is good

    Go Nats!

  30. natsfansince55 - Aug 30, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    Need to get TyMo some more at bats





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

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