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Concern after 3-game sweep in Philly?

Aug 28, 2014, 10:26 AM EDT

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PHILADELPHIA — The Nationals arrived here late Sunday night, feeling like they could do no wrong after a 9-1 homestand catapulted them to the top of the NL standings and turned them into the talk of baseball.

They left here late Wednesday night, feeling as down in the dumps as they’d been in quite some time after a 3-game sweep at the hands of the last-place Phillies, a development nobody saw coming.

“Philly outplayed us these last three days,” center fielder Denard Span said. “Out-pitched us, out-hit us. That’s why we’ve got to continue to grind.”

If these last three nights are a reminder of anything, it’s this: There are no givens in baseball. Anybody can beat anybody else on any given night. Or even three straight nights.

It’s easy to look at this series and question whether the Nationals truly are on the path toward something special, or whether these losses point to some fundamental flaw about this team. How could any ballclub that got swept by a last-place opponent be considered a true World Series contender?

Well, they can, because pretty much every World Series-winning team of the last two decades has hit a similar bump in the road sometime late in the season.

There have been 19 World Series champions during the so-called “Wild Card Era,” since MLB expanded the playoffs in 1995. And of those 19 champions, 18 experienced a losing streak of at least three games sometime in August or September (many of them to last-place opponents). The lone exception: The 2012 Giants, who managed to avoid three straight losses down the stretch en route to their second title in three years.

Point is, good teams lose three straight games all the time. It’s not necessarily a reflection of the bigger picture.

“We’re still playing good baseball,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “We just happened to lose a couple of games.”

Now, it doesn’t help matters that the Nationals had to board a 6-hour, all-night flight to Seattle after Wednesday’s loss, with the daunting task of a week’s worth of games against the tough Mariners and Dodgers looming.

But this team has been very good all season at following manager Matt Williams’ mantra: Good, bad or indifferent, you can’t dwell on what happened the previous day or look beyond the next day. They didn’t get too high after their recent winning streak. And they didn’t get too low after this sweep.

“In a 162-game season, you have to forget about today or yesterday and go and get the next one,” right-hander Doug Fister said. “We have a nice day off tomorrow in Seattle. We’re going to enjoy that. You have to have amnesia. You have to be able to forget about it and move on.”

  1. Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    I’m more concerned about this front of the bullpen then anything else. That’s how you win the close games in the postseason.

    • rayvil01 - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:58 AM

      Det sure regressed in a hurry.

      Good comment, Ghost

      • micksback1 - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:19 PM

        agree Ghost on front end

        Det is just tioo inconsistent and too damn soft.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 28, 2014 at 1:08 PM

        Soft is how I see it. He has to get Ks and attack.

  2. lawrence - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    The Nats are 12-4 over their last 16 games, but both the wins and losses have come in clumps, which makes it look both better and worse than it really is. But .750 ball is .750 ball. If it had been a series of four 3-game winning streaks separated by single losses, we’d only be talking about how they’re 12-4 over their last 16 games.

    Sweeps happen. The Nats just had a very improbable sweep of the Pirates, who completely owned them in May and are still competing for a wild card spot. They took two of three from the contending Giants without the need for a walkoff or even an 8th inning comeback.

    Two of the losses in Philthy were by one run, meaning they really could have gone either way. Much like the Nats one-run wins against Pittsburgh and Arizona. This is still a very good team.

    I’m not worried.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:48 AM

      Well said, but read my comment at top. This front of the bullpen has been shakey all year. Luckily the Nats got Thornton, but is that enough?

      • masterfishkeeper - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:04 AM

        I think it depends on whether any of the September callups can strengthen the pen. Blevins and Detwiler are both really struggling. I’m hoping Barrett will help. Not much talk about Cedeno, but he’s been outstanding at Syracuse this year, so maybe he could help too.

      • bowdenball - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        GoSM, I’m not sure I understand your argument. Seems to me that the front of the bullpen is by far the LEAST important factor in the postseason. A shorter rotation and extra days off means that rarely even much need to use your weaker bullpen pieces except maybe to get one or two batters because of a favorable matchup.

      • bowdenball - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:30 AM

        Also, the front end of every bullpen is shaky. That’s why they’re at the front end. If they were shutdown guys they’d be at the back end of a bullpen somewhere.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:37 AM

        Look at games 1 and 4 and 5 in how many relievers were used

      • jd - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:36 AM

        bowdenball I agree with you. Once you get to the playoffs there’s a strong possibility that Blevins won’t even be on the roster and an equally strong possibility that Detwiler doesn’t get ant meaningful innings.

        I am a little concerned about the next bump on the road, I have seen teams blow big leads before so really we are not quite there yet though I do like our position.

        My only minor gripe with MW who I think has actually done a very nice job overall is that he uses his worst 2 relievers when the team is down by just 1 run late in games. I know you don’t want to burn the back of the pen out but I think we do need to treat the games now with a bit more urgency.

      • jd - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        bowdenball, I have made the same argument about the bench ad noseum, that if they were better players they wouldn’t be bench players. I haven’t had much success with my argument

      • bowdenball - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:44 AM

        Some of those relievers were starters though, GoSM. And even more of them will be starters this year, when we move one of our five effective starters to the pen.

        Of course they’ll be used- all 25 guys will be used. But I don’t understand why you’d say that you win close games in the postseason with them. The front end of the pen is actually the portion of the roster that is least important in the postseason relative to the regular season. One of them probably won’t even be on the postseason roster, replaced by Gio or Roark, and the others will be used more sparingly because there will be no need to rest Storen, Clippard or Soriano like there is in the regular season. Thornton and maybe Blevins will have to get a lefty out here and there, but none of those guys is gonna take the ball in a one-run game and pitch a full inning unless there’s a 12+ inning game.

    • scbilly - Aug 28, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      As noted, problems at the front of the bullpen can be finessed in the playoffs when the starting rotation shortens up. What’s going to be a lot harder to work around is the kind of performance we’ve seen from Tyler Clippard over the last couple of weeks of he doesn’t tighten up. He’s more than capable of it.

  3. nats2005 - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    These next 6 games are going to be tough.

    The top three guys in Seattle. King Felix, Young and Iwakuma.

    Then Kershaw, and possibly Ryu coming back.

    Really not going to be easy for the Nats the next 6 days.

  4. rabbit433 - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    I am a huge skeptic of the Nationals, even though I love the team and wish they can win it all. But, I think they are going to have to fight, and be very lucky, just to get a wild card spot.

    • natsbro - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      Modern statistical analysis disagrees with you

    • Doc - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:19 AM

      RS/RA: 2nd best in MLB, and a about 100 points ahead of the Braves.

      Maybe you should put that in your rabbit hole?

  5. thomaswell - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:18 AM

    not worried, 3 games out of 162 games. things tend to even out during a season and we won our fair share of 1 run games lately.

  6. Eugene in Oregon - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    Headed down (from British Columbia) to Seattle tomorrow for the series. Had hoped (even expected) a series win in Philly to help offset the two formidable foes the Nats face on this road trip. That said, I’m with llawrence above who notes that sweeps happen. Today: Let’s go Mets! Tomorrow: GYFNG!

  7. natsguy - Aug 28, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    The Nats will have to have their A+ game on for the rest of this trip. Mariners and Dodgers are very tough foes. 3 and 3 would be doing well.

    Doc and Bowdenball stop knocking down people who see things differently than you do. The RCG group has driven a lot of people off of this blog. Seeing things as always positive and not mentioning the negatives is just not facing reality. Telling somebody to go back to their rabbit hole is just rude.

    The Nats are a real good team but not a great one. There are really no dominating teams in baseball any longer. They just need to focus on playing some smart baseball again, like they were playing during the streak. While the onus is on the Braves, that could change very quickly with 2 bad series against the Dodgers and Mariners.

    • therealjohnc - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:04 PM

      RCG group?

    • micksback1 - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:07 PM

      Nats are better than average, a good team is fair to call them. I have an awful feeling that MW will get out coached in most post season games, I really have my doubts on this guy. I hope he proves me wrong.

    • bowdenball - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:09 PM

      Knocking people down? I think my tone was respectful. I’m not allowed to respectfully disagree? Why even have a comments section if we’re not allowed to respectfully discuss disagreements about the team and its future?

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:26 PM

      Aw, come off it. Rabbit is just trolling and you know it. BB was disagreeing, cogently, trenchantly, and reasonably, with Ghost, who was himself offering an interestingly different take on things.

      Don’t make me go get Betty White down here.

      • scmargenau - Aug 29, 2014 at 1:47 AM

        Try not using “trolling” or LOD. What are u 15 and playing Warcraft?

        It’s absurd the things u guys say at times. The so called trolls are just expressing concerns, and rightly so. MW is an issue, front pen is an issue, Stras struggles are a concern. Bryce inability to mature is a concern. Let’s just all chill out and he’s respectfully.

      • scmargenau - Aug 29, 2014 at 1:47 AM

        Try not using “trolling” or LOD. What are u 15 and playing Warcraft?

        It’s absurd the things u guys say at times. The so called trolls are just expressing concerns, and rightly so. MW is an issue, front pen is an issue, Stras struggles are a concern. Bryce inability to mature is a concern. Let’s just all chill out and he’s respectfully.

      • scmargenau - Aug 29, 2014 at 1:50 AM

        * be respectful. iPad auto correct is annoying.

        And no we don’t proof b4 we post. Liquid paper died in the 90s
        #giveuseditplz
        thxbai

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 29, 2014 at 1:04 PM

        BS. Rabbit just talks [stuff] to get a rise out of people. Call it what you like, but in plain English, that’s trolling. He’s not “expressing concerns”, he’s being a [jerk] on purpose because he thinks it’s funny.

        Some people take offense at being disagreed with, and totally over-react. No one is being “beaten up” or otherwise censored (except, again, a troll or two, for whom I have zero sympathy. Mark is way too slow on the trigger there, IMO).

  8. micksback1 - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    If Fister does not have his second in a row crappy game, there is no issue. As far as Fister goes, if he has three in a row, then that is a concern, until then, I will just pass it off that I thought Haren had come back for one game to pitch, lol

    the 3 losses in a row magnify how poor Harper has batted. I know many of you love Bryce, I simply do not see it and his age in my view is irrelavant, in fact, he behaves like he is 12 years old not 22. In fact, his pinch hit attempt (I use the term loosely) on Tuesday was terrible and lacked focus and effort in my view. ALR’s problem is that he is hurt and I wish MW would own up to it. If ALR is not hurt then at least one issue is solved when RZim gets back, play R Zim at first and work ALR back in when and if needed. His DP balls are OLD!!!

    Going into this series, I posted that only winning one game verse Phils wopuld be OK in my view. What I did not like is how much of a blow out the 3rd game was after dropping the first 2 by one run a piece.

    also, the umpiring this series was TERRIBLE. the HP clown last night who called warning should be fined and I am a bit pissed off that MW did not get in his grill to explain to this idiot that why in the hell would Fister hit a batter on a 1-2 count in a one run game , Hello jack ass in blue!! This is where I miss Billy Martin and Earl Weaver and Tony LaRussa, they would have rightfully spanked this crap ass umpire publicly to show that they have their players back. I wonder about MW as a good manager, i really have my doubts

    before anyone calls me LOd (which is garbage) I was the one who when the nats were down 5-0 last sunday posted that i had a feeling nats would come back. so, i do not blast these guys when they are down all the time. Interestingly enough, the ones in here that call me LOd could not even recognize my positive prediction when it came to pass

    there, i said enough

    • jd - Aug 28, 2014 at 1:09 PM

      Mick,

      Bryce Harper is not having a very good year this year but he had an excellent rookie year at age 19 and a very good sophomore year last year which like this year was derailed greatly by injuries. I am not sure where you come off questioning effort, attitude etc since you don’t know these men other than what you see on TV. In any event players of Harper’s caliber (who wont turn 22 for a couple more months) don’t come around very often so the prudent thing for the organization to do is to help him through his struggles until he re finds his game.

      ALR won’t be benched this year so you may as well give this one up. He is having a good year and has had some big key hits. Everyone who hits the ball hard hits into DP’s (Ramos?), that’s not an indictment on his game. Really where his game has gone backwards the most is on defense where he is no longer a front line 1st baseman.

      I think that criticizing umpires is a waste of time. All fans in all sports feel the officials are against their teams. Trust me, I’ve seen this over many years .And finally Mick, I don’t think for a minute that you are a LOD, I think you are a passionate fan who over reacts to day to day results on both sides of the ledger.

      • bowdenball - Aug 28, 2014 at 1:32 PM

        If anything, grounding into double plays is a sign that you’re a good hitter, albeit a slow runner. It means you hit the ball hard towards the middle of the field a lot and you don’t strike out all that often. The 2013 league leader in GIDPs was Matt Holliday. Current leader is Casey McGehee, with Albert Pujols close behind. The 2012 league leader? Miguel Cabrera.

      • scmargenau - Aug 29, 2014 at 1:55 AM

        Who cares about his rookie year? Sandy Kofax pitched a no hitter back in the day, who cares. Bryce simply isn’t progressing but regressing. Grip it, mick is right.

  9. micksback1 - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    in fact, that ump deserved to have dirt kicked on him… man I miss the good old days, lol

  10. philipd763 - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    The losing streak and dearth of offense this week against the Phillies is no surprise to me. Every time this team has a surge in offense, like last Sunday when they scored 14 runs, the offense then goes into a funk for at least a week. Further, the Nats are not a good road team. I suspect they will have a difficult series in Seattle and also in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. If so, this could put the Braves right back in the NL East race.

  11. NatsLady - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    I spent a lot of time writing up a comparison of the 2012 Nats and the 2014 Nats. Have a look>/a>. I’m really interested in your comments. Vote at the top (mouse over up right corner–note sure if this works on mobile devices).

    • NatsLady - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:53 PM

      Sorry, missed the HTML tag, it will go to the correct post, however.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 91 64 --
ATLANTA 76 78 14.5
NEW YORK 75 80 16.0
MIAMI 74 81 17.0
PHILADELPHIA 71 84 20.0
x-Clinched NL East title
Through Sunday's early games

NL PLAYOFFS STANDINGS

W L GB WCGB
x-WASHINGTON (4) 91 64 --
y-LOS ANGELES 88 67 3.0
ST. LOUIS 87 68 4.0
-------------------------
SAN FRANCISCO 84 70 6.5 +0.5
PITTSBURGH 84 71 7.0 --
MILWAUKEE 80 76 11.5 4.5
x-Clinched division title
y-Clinched playoff berth
Through Sunday's early games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
MON: OFF
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
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FRI: Marlins at Nats (DH), 1:05 p.m., 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Marlins at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Marlins at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
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