Jul 28, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
There seems to be a sense among many that the Nationals haven’t really taken off as a team this season, that there’s a much higher level of success yet to reach for a talented ballclub that hasn’t achieved its full potential.
And perhaps that’s true. Maybe the Nationals are still capable of going on some kind of record-setting run, the kind that draws the attention of the entire baseball world and solidifies their standing as one of the sport’s elite contenders.
But here’s the thing: The Nats might not need to do that. As they have proven over the last four months, consistent — if not jaw-dropping — performances are good enough to catapult this team to the NL’s best record.
The Nationals left Cincinnati yesterday and headed to Miami for the final leg of their 9-game road trip boasting a 57-45 record. That’s 1 1/2 games better than the Braves in the NL East and percentage points better than anyone else in the NL. And they’ve done this not by going on some monster winning streak but rather by doing what all good ballclubs should strive to do: keep taking two of three from opponents.
The Nationals have now played 34 total series this year. They’ve won 20 of them, lost 10 of them and split the other four. And they’ve only gotten better over time. Since May 29, they’re 13-2-2 in series. Since June 17, they’re 8-1-2. (And the one series loss, to the Orioles, could ultimately turn into a 4-game split once the two clubs play their makeup game at Nationals Park one week from today.)
Here’s another way to look at it: Break up the season into 10-game stretches. Here’s the Nats’ record in those 10-game stretches: 7-3, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 5-5, 7-3, 7-3. If you want to add the last two games over the weekend, they went 1-1.
There isn’t a single dominating run in there. At the same time, there isn’t a single prolonged slump in there.
How does that compare with the NL’s other contenders? Well, the Braves, Cardinals, Pirates and Reds all have struggled through 2-8 stretches at some point this season. The Brewers and Giants each have endured through a 1-9 slump. Only the Dodgers have matched the Nationals is avoiding a 3-7 stretch over the 10-game intervals.
It may come across as a tad boring to some. The Nationals haven’t had a particularly dramatic season to date. They’ve won a few games in dramatic style, and they’ve lost a few in heartbreaking fashion. But for the most part, they’ve simply plugged along, beating opponents twice every three days, winning series.
They’ve done this on an individual level, as well. If the season ended today, the Nationals most likely wouldn’t have one strong MVP or Cy Young Award candidate. Yet they’d have the league’s best record. How often does that happen?
This should be music to everyone’s ears. It’s evidence that this truly is a good baseball team. They may not be getting historic performances from individuals, but they’re getting a whole lot of good, solid showings from a whole lot of people.
Put that all together and you get the team with the NL’s best record nearly two-thirds of the way through the regular season.
Amazing how important it is to stay consistent over the long haul, huh?
NLDS: NATIONALS VS. GIANTS
SAT: Game 2 at Washington, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3 at San Francisco, TBA (MLBN)
TUE: Game 4 at San Francisco, TBA (FS1)*
THU: Game 5 at Washington, TBA (FS1)*
ON THE RADIO
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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