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Reality sinks in

Sep 24, 2013, 1:36 AM EST

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ST. LOUIS — For two months now, the Nationals knew they faced a near-impossible task, trying to make up what at their nadir was a 15 1/2-game deficit in the NL East and a 9-game deficit in the NL Wild Card race.

Yet there they stood Sunday morning, with an opportunity to move to within 3 games of a postseason berth entering the final week of play, an improbable, last-gasp rally looking at least like a distinct possibility at long last.

Even after splitting a doubleheader with the Marlins, the Nationals still had a glimmer of life Monday night as they battled down to the wire with the Cardinals, while elsewhere the Pirates and Reds were engaged in their own dogfights.

And then, in the span of 11 frantic — and, for the Nationals, torturous — minutes, it all came grinding to a halt.

The Pirates pulled off a dramatic 2-1 win in Chicago. The Reds beat the Mets 3-2 in extra innings. And the Nats went down quietly to St. Louis in the ninth inning, dropping a 4-3 ballgame that served as the final nail in their 2013 coffin.

World Series or bust? We now know the definitive answer to that statement made by Davey Johnson 10 months ago.

“We dug our own hole,” the departing manager said, “and we just couldn’t dig out of it.”

That hole proved far too deep, though the Nationals certainly tried their best to climb all the way back out the top. They took the field on Aug. 9 with a 54-60 record, a full 15 1/2 games behind the Braves in the division, 9 games behind the Reds for the final Wild Card berth.

Over the next six weeks, they went on the kind of sustained tear everyone expected from this team way back in April, winning 29 of 40 games to at minimum make Pittsburgh and Cincinnati sweat into the season’s final week.

Deep down, the Nationals knew how long the odds were. But they tried to convince themselves it was somehow possible, right up until the moment it no longer was.

“You never consider it,” Johnson said of elimination. “I didn’t consider it. Something good was going to happen here, like it did last year.”

The 2012 Nationals won a league-best 98 games and captured their first-ever division title. The 2013 Nationals won’t even reach the 90-win mark, done in by a sluggish first half and perhaps the weight of sky-high expectations placed on them from every corner of the baseball world.

“We created this expectation, nobody else,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “Two years ago, you would’ve said ‘Washington Nationals: postseason,’ people would’ve laughed you out of town. The guys who are in here, for the most part, are the guys that created this atmosphere, created the expectations. And I’m proud to be a part of that.”

That didn’t make official elimination easy for anyone to accept. Inside a dead-silent clubhouse at Busch Stadium, Bryce Harper sat at his locker, still in full uniform nearly 45 minutes after the final out had been recorded.

“I don’t want to get in the shower or anything,” Harper said. “It sucks. We want to make the playoffs, and that’s that. You play the whole year to try to get deep in the playoffs, October, November, and see if you can get to the World Series. It’s a bummer we didn’t get there.”

That the end came here, of all places, and against the Cardinals, of all teams, was both fitting and an extra knife to the gut. This is the club that ruined the Nationals’ first-ever postseason party one year ago, and the sting of that Game 5 NLDS loss loomed over this entire season, even if few wanted to admit it.

“I don’t think that had anything to do with it,” Johnson said. “That’s water over the dam, water under the bridge, whatever you want to call it. I think we had a few little shortcomings, and we didn’t know how to overcome them. You can put that on me.”

The Nationals will have a full winter to contemplate what happened and dissect why it happened. They’ll take solace in their torrid play over the season’s final six week, but they’ll also wonder what might have been had they simply played like that at any point in the previous 4 1/2 months.

Above all, they’ll head home knowing a talented roster and a confident manager guarantee nothing. The Nationals had every reason to believe they’d reach October this year, but it takes more than conviction to actually get there.

“Just goes to show us it’s tough to make the playoffs,” Adam LaRoche said. “A lot of things got to go right. You have to play consistent baseball. It’s not easy.”

  1. laddieblahblah - Sep 24, 2013 at 3:30 AM

    Forget it. Get ‘em next year.

  2. Baseballswami - Sep 24, 2013 at 5:36 AM

    Moving on…..

  3. natsfan1a - Sep 24, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    Reposting: didn’t see the game (I record later starts rather than watching them in real time) but did check the results before breakfast this a.m. I made a similar remark to the one below to my husband at breakfast. Right before I said I’d like to see the Nats to beat the Cardinals regardless of the impact (or not) on standings, just because. I have a feeling that at least some of the team has the same inclination. Go, Nats. Love ya!

    David Proctor – Sep 23, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    They fought to the end. With how poorly they played for much of the year, it’s a minor miracle that it took until the final week of the season for us to be eliminated.

    • Hiram Hover - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:21 AM

      Amen!

      And a PS – season ain’t over, and I’m not done watching. Beat the Cards, beat the Dbacks!

  4. adcwonk - Sep 24, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    I take solace in the fact that — thankfully — the Nats have a good solid core, and a young team. They’ll be, at least “in the hunt” for a number of years. For any fan in a baseball town that didn’t even have a team for decades, that’s a darn good situation.

  5. natsfan1a - Sep 24, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    Nor does having the best record in baseball, but we learned that last year. Anyhoo…

    Above all, they’ll head home knowing a talented roster and a confident manager guarantee nothing.

  6. Candide - Sep 24, 2013 at 8:26 AM

    If LaRoche doesn’t come out of the blocks like a house on fire next April (hmmm, THERE’S a mixed metaphor for you…), I want to see TyMo platooning at first base with him. I keep hearing so much about how Davey is a genius at bringing young players along, but the way he used Moore this season bordered on dereliction. Nats have played 23 games so far this month, and Moore has started in only six of them; he hasn’t played AT ALL in 11 games this month – not even as a pinch hitter.

    For September he’s hitting .269 with OPS of .806.

    • adcwonk - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      “For September he’s hitting .269 with OPS of .806.”

      But for Sept, ALR is doing even better: .270 with OPS of .825

      When you’re trying to chase the Reds and running out of games, do you help bring along TyMo if it means sitting down someone who’s getting on base more (ALR had 16 walks, none intentional, and OBP of over .400), and is a great glove?

      If that Nats were out of it, I’d agree that not using TyMo would be dereliction — but in Sept Davey wanted to win games more than develop TyMo.

      All that said, I agree with you about platooning. Next year I’d like to see TyMo get a whole lot more starts against lefties.

      • Sonny G 10 - Sep 24, 2013 at 3:59 PM

        I think TyMo can hit right handers also, so I’d like to see him start some games against right handers.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:36 AM

      Can you go into 2014 hoping and praying the Nats get career average stats from LaRoche?

      Playoff teams shouldn’t do that with a player on a short-term contract if they have an opportunity to upgrade. Much of it depends on the future of Ryan Zimmerman’s position in the infield so it’s complicated.

      Last night was just a microcosm of what cost this team many wins this year, and it was the poor approach in key situations. One out and men on 3rd and 1st with a 2 run deficit. Wainwright is going to work LaRoche low int he zone to try and induce a groundball for a doubleplay. A good batter is still able to get his bat head below the ball to get air under it while a poor batter will top the ball into the ground in that situation. There was no secret to what Wainwright was trying to do and LaRoche obliged and that was the difference in the game.

      Keep in mind the Nats best clutch hitter was on-deck.

  7. Faraz Shaikh - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    sad end to the season, getting eliminated by Cardinals, again.

    anyways, still would like to beat Cards for the next two games.

    • naterialguy - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:10 AM

      heck yeah!

      • natsfan1a - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:36 AM

        Soitenly!

      • Sonny G 10 - Sep 24, 2013 at 4:01 PM

        ditto

  8. Eric - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:04 AM

    Le sigh…

    But, at least September was extremely exciting and showed us that last year may not have been a fluke. We really do have it in us to utterly dominate for a sustained stretch of games. Good to know.

    I also have this totally illogical sense, backed by a lack of baseball fan experience, that teams have trajectories, and I really feel that we picked up this season exactly where we left off last season. Even forgetting the post season, I seem to recall September being a less than inspired month of play last year, and we seemed to struggle through that for much of this season. This year, our trajectory seems to be going the other way. After months of struggling, we finally hit our stride, and we need to bust out of the gate scratching and clawing just like we have of late.

    I think the most positive sign of all is that when *real* pressure came to bear back in August–i.e., the very real possibility that we might miss the post season–we bore down and played a lot of clutch ball. I think last year, when the pressure of the looming post season came to bear, we started our long, slow crumble, from which we’ve only recently recovered.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:13 AM

      It’s the Gambler’s Fallacy that arcs exist before the events happen. They don’t, we create the story after the events. If things had gone differently–and they might have–you would see a different dramatic arc, looking back. But there is no arc going forward. Maybe an infinite number of possible arcs, which amounts to the same thing.

      • Eric - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:23 AM

        Hence, “totally illogical” and “backed by a lack of baseball fan experience”

        I don’t gamble, so let’s say the perception is also backed up by lack of gambling experience. ;)

    • Sonny G 10 - Sep 24, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      I think the biggest reason for the late surge was the health of Ryan Zimmerman. Earlier in the year he hurt us both defensively and offensively. When his shoulder finally quit giving him problems, he was a tremendous boost to the team. I expect him to be healthy and contribute the whole season next year.

  9. Muddy Ruel - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    Okay then, let’s talk 2014 draft position. As of now the Os, Yanks, Royals, Nats, and Rangers probably will draft 16-20 — currently in that order but with the exact order to be determined this week. Even tho’ Davey says he wants to finish with the team’s best foot forward, losing games could result in better draft position and the young guys and “call ups” deserve playing time, so I’d play them the next five games. Some would argue the Nats owe the Pirates and Reds max effort the next two games and I’d be okay with that even tho’ I think it’s every team for itself.

    • adcwonk - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:32 PM

      I’m not sure that draft positions between 15-20 matter much in terms of order. All the “can’t miss guys” are in the top 10. From 11-30 or so, the odds are not bad (and certainly better than 31+), but those are pretty fine distinctions and more-or-less a crap-shoot. The league is full of guys who were drafted at the bottom of the 1st round (2010, Christian Yelich; 2009 Mike Trout (25th), Rex Brothers, 2008 Ike Davis; 2007 Ben Revere; 2006 Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain; 2005 Matt Garza (25th), Colby Rasmus (28th); etc.

  10. naterialguy - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    Wow. It just amazes me how much harder it is being a fan of a good team with possibilities. For 7 years it was all “take me out to the ball game, if they don’t win it’s a shame”……..now, it’s a true feeling of loss. Crazy what happens when you eat drink and sleep with a team for 162 games.
    The care free days of 100 loss seasons seem quaint now like puppy love.
    We have now entered into a mature relationship with deeper highs and lows.
    Growing up is not for the faint of heart.
    go Nats

    • adcwonk - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:16 AM

      Well put!

  11. Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    Whelp – admission – I cried myself to sleep last night… I cried harder this season than I did after Game 5 last year…

    In terms of expectation, this season was a disaster. We didnt win the NL East or make it to the play offs…

    But, it was still a fun season, especially seeing how 500ish they played in April, May June, bad baseball in July and then the torrent in August and September… Wow, what a 162 game season… and we were still in it until the end, really… Meaningful September games is what I love…

    This should humble some folks and fans (possibly)… This should make the players even hungrier… But on to next year…

    • adcwonk - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:56 AM

      This should make the players even hungrier

      I agree. Prior to this season the Nats were on a straight-line upward trajectory. For many of our stars, many of whom are still youngsters, that’s all they’ve ever known (Stras, JZ, Ramos, Ian, Harper, RZ, Storen, etc.)

      Yep — I’ll think they’ll be real hungry, and even ornery. Perhaps this year was “we got this” to next year’s “we’re going to fight and take this”

  12. JamesFan - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    BUST!

    I hope these guys learn a few lessons from this. Winter homework: Top notch manager who demands fundamentals; Strengthen the pen; add depth to the rotation without a high dollar reclaim; improve the bench; figure a way to get more production from the middle of the order even if that means moving ALR.

    • ArVAFan - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:24 AM

      It seems to me that (after the manager–duh) the second order of business for Rizzo is 1st base. Yes, we need a 4th or 5th starter (not both–I suspect that between Detweiler, Roark, and Jordan we’ve got at least one of those covered), and improvements to bench and bullpen. But 1st base plays every day, not every 5th day, and we need more WAR there. With RZim’s shoulder seemingly recovered, maybe we don’t need ALR’s stellar compensation for off-line throws.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:30 AM

        Also need a 6th starter. Nats were relatively lucky in 2012, but this year showed the need for a better-than-replacement-level starter to be available when the inevitable injury occurs (or injuries, more likely).

      • Jw - Sep 24, 2013 at 4:48 PM

        Here’s all you need to know about why Strasburg’s season was disappointing. Too many times when his team needed him to step up big, he didn’t. A disappointment to the fans, a disappointment to his teammates, a disappointment to himself.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:35 AM

      Yes, Bust it was.

      The past is the best predictor for the future and it doesn’t take a genius to see where the weak links are with the team. The good news is that most if the replacement parts are in the system I believe.

      The team we have seen since August 1st is the team you hope to have for 2014 without Haren. I like the bullpen and I like the 6 potential starters the Nats could have with JZim, Stras, Gio, Detwiler, TJord, and Roark.

      The bench has 1 player you keep in Lombo. Not sure about any of the others.

      The biggest issue I see is LaRoche. His slash against lefty pitchers of .192/.248/.308/.556 won’t cut it. Either you platoon him or send him to the bench in the Tracy role.

      • ArVAFan - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:43 AM

        Leaving out Ohlendorf as a potential 6th starter? I would think he’d be a good part of the bullpen with the ability to do spot starts (emphasis on start), and if need be, cover rain delays, meltdowns and other long relief.

        I think Hairston has done his job well enough on the bench as long as he’s not asked to do anything else.

        But one thing we can definitely count on–Rizzo will surprise everyone with something.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:53 AM

        Ohlie is my long man but next year is his last year of team control so he isn’t part of the longterm future.

        Definitely a key of the 2014 pen. Stammen can be more of a setup role.

  13. rmoore446 - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    Listening to Dan Patrick today, he reiterated his often stated theme that shutting down Strasburg last year cost the Nats a great chance at the WS and they may not ever get there again–witness this year and also Strasburg’s disppointing year. Somehow Patrick, who I like, criticises the Redskins for rushing RGIII back and the Nats for being overly careful with Strasburg. Second guessing is, er, second nature to sportswriters. I say this with affection as I spent some of my 20s long ago as a newspaper sportswriter.

    Anyway, listening to him this morning, it occured to me what holy hell the Nationals and Rizzo would have caught this year from sportswriters and commentators if management had decided last September to reverse field and allow Strasburg to continue to pitch. Given the team’s finish this year and Strasburg’s fragile physical condition that limited his production, I have utterly no doubt that condemnation would be raining down on Rizzo for jeopardizing their Ace’s future and costing them the playoffs this year.

    • adcwonk - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:51 AM

      Listening to Dan Patrick today, he reiterated his often stated theme that shutting down Strasburg last year cost the Nats a great chance at the WS and they may not ever get there again–witness this year and also Strasburg’s disppointing year.

      Which proves Dan Patrick is an idiot who doesn’t bother researching.

      Who in the hell calls this a disappointing year:

      - Strasburg is 10th in the league in ERA, and tops on the Nats
      - He’s 6th in the league in WHIP (which I find a better measure), tops on the Nats (and better than anyone on the Cards, btw)
      - He’s 4th in the league in lowest Hits/IP
      - He’s 4th in the league in K’s/IP

      That’s disappointing? Is Patrick really so lame and shallow as to only look at W-L record?

      Not to revisit the whole thing about last year again, but two quick points: (1) Stras has already pitched as many innings as he had in any other season (by far), was only 23, and ended the year by having a combined 6.43 ERA in his last three starts.

      (2) If Stras had pitched in the playoffs, then, who would have been the pitcher that didn’t pitch? At the time, the #5 pitcher was Detwiler. Detwiler pitched once in the playoffs, allowed one unearned run in 6 innings. He’s so sure that Strasburg would have done better?

      What an idiot.

      • Jw - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:04 AM

        Screw the stats and open your eyes. Strasburg had a disappointing year.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:17 AM

        I think the whole team is all disappointed. But Strasburg didn’t have a bad year. Disappointed he didn’t get better support, maybe, but one can’t control what other people feel disappointed by.

      • Hiram Hover - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:25 AM

        Screw the stats and open your eyes.

        That’s sarcasm, right? I hope so, anyway – it’s so hard to tell on the intertubez.

      • adcwonk - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:22 PM

        Screw the stats and open your eyes.

        Wow. Some folks dislike it when others call them out with “don’t let facts get in your way” — but here’s somebody who embraces it!

        If it was a disappointment, it was because Stras, in his _first full season ever_, at age 24, wasn’t the best pitcher in the league. He was “only” in the top 10 or so in the categories that matter.

        Let me try it _this_ way:

        His ERA and WHIP and H/IP were *better* than in 2012. His WHIP was a full 0.100 better. We can only hope his WHIP is that low next year.

        Quite a disappointment, eh?

      • karlkolchak - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:29 PM

        Curse of expectations–when you get hyped as a once in a generation talent, anything other than being a Cy Young finalist will be considered by some (fairly or unfairly) to be a disappointment. Harper will start hearing the same thing if he doesn’t have an MVP-quality season next year.

      • adcwonk - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:00 PM

        Yep — we agree.

        (But Dan Patrick ought to be able to realize that!)

      • Jw - Sep 24, 2013 at 2:48 PM

        Again, the stats are irrelevant. It was the intangibles that turned Strasburg’s season into a disappointment. Just like even the finest of ingredients can be made into a disappointing meal. The whole is less than the sum of its parts.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 24, 2013 at 3:36 PM

        I guess Dan Patrick’s point, and Jw’s, is that disappointment is entirely subjective. They were disappointed, ergo, Strasburg was disappointing, to them. Kinda hard to argue that. You can’t tell people they don’t feel what they feel.

        Wonk, OTOH, if I get this right, is saying that it the subjective standards are no standards at all, for the purposes of this discussion. If you expected Strasburg to win 20 games, and/or have half a dozen complete game shutouts, or strike out 300 guys, well, that’s your right, but that doesn’t make for a convincing argument.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 24, 2013 at 3:48 PM

        Then again, those are all stats, aren’t they? Nevermind the stats, then. His season is a success or disappointment based on “intangibles.”

        Mound presence? Resilience in the face of errors behind him? Body language? Rubbish beards?

  14. Section 222 - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    It will be interesting to see the lineups for the next few games. I don’t think we owe anyone anything at this point, or rather I think we owe our own players and organization more than we owe the Reds and Pirates. So I hope that the September callups and young reserves (mostly Moore) see ample playing time between now and the end of the season. Davey seems to feel differently since he’s already announced that Gio will start our last game, rather than Roark.

    It will also be interesting to see how hard the Pirates and Reds fight for home field advantage in the play-in game versus setting up their rotation and resting guys for the one game that counts.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:37 AM

      TyMo and Brown need to start every game to finish the season. Would like to see more of Kobernus and Walters also.

    • Jw - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:07 AM

      Both the Pitates and Reds are still trying to catch the Cards. They won’t care about the wild card game until the division race is decided.

      • Section 222 - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:31 AM

        That’s right. The Cards magic number against both the Reds and Pirates is 4 with 5 games left. The Reds and Pirates play each other in Cincy the last three games of the season. Obviously, if they both still have a shot at the Central Division title come Friday night, they will go all out. I doubt the same can be said if all that is at stake is homefield advantage in the WC game, but we’ll see.

        By the way, everyone probably knows this already, but if there is a tie atop the division, there will be a one game playoff to decide who is the winner and who is the WC. Homefield advantage is determined by the winner of the season series — STL if it’s CIN vs. STL, PIT if it’s PIT vs. STL.

        I think it’s still theoretically possible for their to be a three team tie atop the division. There would then have to be two tiebreaker games before the WC game. Now that would be cool.

  15. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    I just read the piece in the WP about the nine games that were decisive (or some similar term) and might have made a difference. While I can accept that those nine (and probably a few more) represented games the Nats coulda/shoulda won, the 2013 team hovered around the bottom of NL in runs scored per game for most of the season. Their offensive resurgence after August 9 will hide the fact (in the year-end stats, that is) that for most of the year they were scoring well below league average (hovering around 13th or 14th). They were simultaneously losing multiple games — well beyond those nine — despite decent (somewhat better than league average) run prevention. A team is always going to lose (and win) some games like those cited in the WP article, i.e., heartbreakers, flukes, blown saves, whatever you want to call them. But it was the consistent 3-2, 2-1, and 2-0 losses that kept adding Ls in the loss column and left the Nats with an impossible task in August and September.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:46 AM

      All I know is April 12th was the loss that sent the Nats in a tailspin. They blew that game against the Braves and it was just a different season after that.

      The Braves season went straight up from that point and the Nats straight down. April games do matter.

      • NatsLady - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:11 AM

        The Nats blew a game a LOT later than that against the Braves in 2012 and still won 98 games.

  16. Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    I just read Kilgore and his paragraph #2 nails it. I see he bashes the bench but makes no mention of Chad Tracy by name since he’s still employed.

    You can forget all the games he mentioned except April 12th. Tough losses happen. April 12th was a devastating loss. The visionaries saw right away after the game what that game meant. Davey nosedived after that and didn’t resurface as himself until early August.

    July 20th last season losing a 9 run lead to the Braves could’ve been that fork in the road and a minor league callup and a smart manager didn’t make that game the nail in the Nats coffin.

    April 12th was the nail in the coffin. Nats would’ve been tied for 1st place after that game.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:28 AM

      I think it is possible for the opposition to get into a team’s collective head, or the manager’s head, early in the year. It’s easier to do later, but it’s possible. Even if that’s what happened, it doesn’t guarantee anything–Davey wasn’t doomed to nosedive, without any choice or options–but it was one possible outcome of that loss, especially given that it was the Braves.

      That is not the only possible interpretation, obviously, but I think it is one valid one. Not sure I agree, but it’s not nuts.

  17. NatsLady - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    No loss on April 12 determines a season. Period. That is TOTAL nonsense.

    What dug the hole was June-July-early-August.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      It became a defining game unfortunately. Nats got swept by the Braves in that series. Certainly if the Nats win on April 13th it’s a blip on the radar like July 20 2102.

      The Nats still were in it the first week of July and lost some games they couldn’t afford to lose but April 12th sticks out to me as the fork in the road.

      • adcwonk - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:42 PM

        I think it became a defining game — to some — only in retrospect. I agree with NatsLady. Games in the first half of April don’t determine a season.

        What was the defining game in 2012? Perhaps it was the 14-4 start (which was multiple games, not one), although many of us mark that game against the Braves (after that devesting 9-0 lead went kaput on a Friday night, and then getting _swept_ on the Saturday) to when Lannon came up for that Sunday and pitched the Nats to a 5-2 win, starting a six game win streak. But that was in late July.

        But look at our month-by-month record:

        April 13-14
        May 15-13
        Jun 13-13
        July 11-16
        Aug 16-11
        Sept 16-6

        So, I can’t see how a loss in April comes anywhere near to the July disaster

        No, our season was lost when, in July the Nats, consecutively:

        Lost a series 3-1 against the Phils, then
        Lost a series 2-1 against the Marlins, then
        Lost a series 3-0 against the Dodgers, then
        Lost a series 3-1 against the Pirates

    • Hiram Hover - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:32 AM

      July was the killer for me. Played poorly against bad teams (some of the same bad teams they’ve raked against in last month), and got slaughtered by the really good teams – Dodgers, Pirates, and Tigers. Ended up in a hole they never came out of.

  18. NatsLady - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    And if I HAD to pick a series/game, it would be Ballmer and getting beat by Freddy Garcia. That aggravated me WAY more than the April 12 game.

  19. NatsLady - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    Anyway, I’m going to enjoy the last few games, and take a break, get on a diet/exercise program, tend to all the tasks I neglected…

  20. Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    Speaking of 1st base, I still wonder if the Nats could get Giancarlo Stanton whether Jayson Werth could transition to 1st base.

    Just day dreaming here.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:46 AM

      It’s a good dream. Not too sure about Werth’s hands, but he should be at least as good as Adam Dunn, right?

  21. Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Good teams pick themselves up from adversity. I love how Davey and the Nats finished the season as winners. It certainly gives a great vision into 2014 from finishing strong.

  22. Section 222 - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    Ghost, I think the April 12 game was very significant too. It was also totally avoidable since Zim had all the time in the world to throw to first and instead rushed his throw to second with Heyward was running on the pitch. It was a disaster, no doubt about it. But the real problems this season were two bad stretches — the West Coast road trip/ home an home series vs. the O’s, and the series pre and post ASG against the Phillies, Marlins, Dodgers and Pirates. We went 13-23 in those two 18-game sets. That’s where the season was lost. See my post on Sept. 11 at 10:15 am for the full analysis.

    • Section 222 - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:45 AM

      By the way, five of Kilgore’s nine key games fell within those two 18 game stretches.

  23. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    I don’t think it’s really any one thing, but FWIW, I’d nominate May 14, in L.A., when Harper hit the wall.

    • Section 222 - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:45 AM

      Yup.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:33 PM

      I would go a step before and say when Bryce hit the wall against Atl.

  24. Doc - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    Apropos of Davey’s comments, winning baseball is a lot of little things, and many little things add up.

    There were a lot of little things that the Nats did in ’12 that they didn’t do in ’13.

    I expect that ’14 the Nats will do the little things again. I hate the Cards, but those @##@******s do the little things.

    • natsfan1a - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:02 PM

      I was made a grudging comment to my husband this morning that they were a (cough, spit) good team. On a related note, this morning I’m back to avoiding my Cardinals fan neighbor, as was the case for a time last October. Heh.

      I expect that ’14 the Nats will do the little things again. I hate the Cards, but those @##@******s do the little things.

    • adcwonk - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:52 PM

      And it seems that they almost always do. While fans here remember “the Oriole way” — old time fans from the NL (e.g., me) remember the “Cardinal Way”, even though I’m not sure anybody ever used that term.

      But the Cards have always been good on fundamentals, good scouting, good players, good farm system. The came in 1st three times in the 1960′s (and two WS wins); had a dip in the 1970′s (finishing 2d three times); in the 1980′s they finished 1st 4 times (and a WS win); had a dip in the 1990′s, but finished 1st once; in the 2000′s they finished 1st six times, (1 WS win); and have not finished below 2d since 2008.

      (And they were brave enough to decline the 10-year contract Pujols wanted)

      I think part of the reason the Nats don’t have all those fundamentals is that they are so young (they are still the 4th youngest team in the league), and they improved (in W-L record) so quickly. They sort of got ahead of themselves.

      (Here’s a scary thought: the two youngest teams in the NL now are the Marlins and . . . (wait for it) the Braves)

  25. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    There are always going to be games, even for 100-win teams, where you could say, “If only he hadn’t made that error/left that slider up/swung at ball four …” Good teams have fewer of those, but they still have them. What good teams also have is 5-2 wins that would be 2-1 losses for other teams, and those aren’t so obvious in hindsight. I think that was Deuces’ point–the lack of consistent offense killed them, not the 9 or so defeats snatched from the jaws of victory.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:56 AM

      and those aren’t so obvious in hindsight

      Well, the ones to Freddy Garcia might be.

  26. texnat1 - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    The Nats cannot afford to go into next year just hoping that their line up is good enough. They must improve the offense.

    The easiest way to do that is to move or bench either Span (who has made himself into a nice tradeable asset) or Laroche (who hasn’t).

    There is a limited window here. You don’t just hope for the best. This becomes even more obvious when you consider that Werth is having a statistical outlier year that is unlikely to be repeated.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      There is a limited window here.

      I don’t see why there has to be. They are a good team now, that can get better, with a relatively young roster, mostly under team control for the next few years, and they have more in the pipeline to bring up or trade. If Rizzo does a good job, they can be good for a long time. Will they win? Who knows? That’s why they play the games. The race is not always to the swift.

    • karlkolchak - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:45 PM

      I’d bet you almost any amount that absent injury Span will be the opening day starter in CF next year. True CF’ers don’t grow on trees and the Nats would have to pay through the nose to get a replacement. Besides, with his hot finish it could be argued that he he had an adjustment period to make, and will be much improved next season. And even with his long funk, he will still finish with better stats than Bourne, who will be owed $52 million by then Indians over then next four years versus Span’s 1 year at $6.5 million.

    • adcwonk - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:59 PM

      Disagree on two points:

      1. Batting — Nats finished 6th in batting, mostly due to a super-poor bench. And they are top three in OPS. So, I think improving the bench is a top priority in regards to hitting. Not having Espi to weigh us down will help; Harper should improve; and, as folks here have been deciding (I hope next year’s manager is listening), TyMo needs to play against LHP’s.

      2. Re Span — he’s one of the best CF’s in the league — his range in incredible (and he had zero errors). If he can figure out how to hit lefties again, he’ll be a great lead-off hitter.

      3. Limited Time — this team is young, and its core is young. We have the fundamentals to be a force for at least 2014, 15, and 16.

      • texnat1 - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:19 PM

        When I say limited window, I recognize that they have a good 3-4 year run in them with their current starts under contract. I am just saying you need to maximize that window.

        As for Span, I’m not saying he is a bad player. He is a solid player. But the Nats lineup is not good enough, and he is the easiest person to move so that you can really upgrade. If you can do something crazy like sign Cano and move to Zim to first, fine, keep Span. Same if you can otherwise replace Laroche with a quality bat. But you can’t just trot out this lineup again next year and expect anything other than to struggle to score runs for long periods of time. Remember that September lies. Remember that Werth could easily hit 50 points lower than he did this year.

      • adcwonk - Sep 24, 2013 at 1:56 PM

        I guess that’s where we differ. I think the Nats lineup _is_ good enough (except at 1B). Even with the terrible bench, and ALR’s weak year, the Nats are still 6th in batting and 3rd in SLG. I think it’s the bench and 1B that needs improvement, as far as offense goes.

      • texnat1 - Sep 24, 2013 at 3:31 PM

        Wonk,

        Yes we definitely disagree about the lineup.

        They are sixth after an incredible hot streak that occurred after the season was realistically over, and much of it came in September when you are facing call ups and teams that have quit. They were far worse than that for most of the year.

        They are a very inconsistent hitting team. And the stats show (at least when I checked last) that they have an amazingly good record when they score 4 runs. The obvious answer is to improve the line up. And the obvious places to do that are 1B or CF.

        I am fine with keeping Span (though he is only a solid player, nothing more–check out his OPS even after his epic hot streak, and check out his defensive advanced stats). But that means you better upgrade the offense elsewhere, i.e., either 1B or elsewhere in the infield if you move Zim to 1B.

        This team has a real chance to win a championship in the next few years. Sitting around hoping that the September Nats were the real ones is not a good strategy for seizing that opportunity.

  27. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    From Mark Zuckerman @ZuckermanCSN
    Interesting thoughts from Desmond, though, on pressure #Nats faced entering season: “We created these expectations, nobody else.”

    Pretty somber #Nats clubhouse. Davey held back tears. Harper was still in full uniform 45 minutes after game ended.

    Just phoning it in? Don’t think so.

  28. Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    Yeah the Braves lost in the beginning of the season was key…

    1 of mine is the Dodgers series… Where our manager looked like a tool… I like DJ, contrary to what some may think, but he got way-out-managed more times than often this year…

    The JZ loss to Bmore was heart breaking. Zimm had 3 HRs that game and we didnt win…

    And of course the stretch before the AS break and the stretch right after it…

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 24, 2013 at 12:32 PM

      July killed the Nats… That is when they should have been starting to peak and they didnt…

  29. Candide - Sep 24, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    The 11-2 loss to the Tigers July 31 was the day I became convinced it wasn’t going to happen this year. You could look it up.

    • Section 222 - Sep 24, 2013 at 2:15 PM

      Too bad the new WordPress system doesn’t have links to individual comments.

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