The Washington Nationals don’t have a lot to play for as they careen through mid-September.
They’ve been eliminated for some time and a 100-loss season is almost a certainty (you convince me they have a 12-4 finishing kick in them).
The team has avoided infamy by posting its 50th win of the year. But the Nats can still grind their way to a fourth-place finish in the NL East.
After Sunday’s loss to Miami, the Nats trail the Marlins by 8 1/2 games with 16 to play. Now before you start doing the math, let me point out that the Sons of South Beach have lost 16 of 21 to keep the door out of the division cellar open, and the two teams play three more times.
Miami also plays its final nine games against teams in contention (Mets, Brewers and Braves). A fourth-place finish isn’t something that you’d hang a banner for, but that’s the carrot for the team that’s been in last place since late-April.
Digesting the Division: The NL East race is the one to watch this month as the New York Mets (93-55) won four straight while Atlanta (91-55) won three in a row. The Mets lead is one game but the two teams are tied in the loss column. New York can clinch a playoff berth as early as Monday night with a win over Milwaukee, while the Braves’ magic number is four. Philadelphia (80-66) is recovering from being swept by the Mets and now lead the Brewers by two games for the final Wild Card. Miami (60-87) has a magic number of eight to avoid last place in the NL East, while the Nationals (51-95) see the dreaded century mark in losses staring them in the face.
O’s Woes: After sweeping the Nats in a midweek interleague miniseries, the Birds flew north and dropped two of three to Toronto. At 78-69, Baltimore trails Seattle by four games for the third Wild Card spot in the American League. The Birds have a series with Detroit and Houston this week, but even if things begin to unravel the Orioles have shown quite a peek at their future, with rookies Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson contributing to the stretch drive.
Last Week’s Heroes: Luke Voit, unbuttoned tight jersey and all, hit .421 with two homers and three RBI while Victor Robles batted .375 with a homer and two RBI. Patrick Corbin allowed one run in six innings of his lone start while Carl Edwards Jr. and Kyle Finnegan tossed three scoreless innings over three outings.
Last Week’s Humbled: Josiah Gray and Erick Fedde had less than ideal starts, with Gray allowing four runs over five innings and Fedde giving up three runs over four frames. Mason Thompson coughed up four runs over 2.1 innings (15.43 ERA for those not ready to do the math). Ildemaro Vargas batted .176 while Alex Call hit .118.
Game to Watch: Monday the Nats begin a series in Atlanta, and the Braves will be pitching Kyle Wright (18-5, 3.18 ERA). Is it wrong form to root for somebody to win 20 games in this era of overreliance on bullpens?
Game to Miss: Friday the Nationals visit Miami to play a bad team in a worse ballpark, although their “City Connection” uniforms can’t possibly be as bad as the Padres. Also, a certain alma mater is trying for its second 4-0 start since 1991.