If the Washington Nationals advance to the post season their biggest obstacle may be facing an opponent from their own division. The Nationals have done well against most of MLB, but struggled with their NL East rivals.
Washington came into the 2012 season expected to finish no higher than third in the East. The Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies were all deemed to be better than the Nationals. Because of their youth, Washington was thought to be a year away from serious contention.
The Nationals have surprised many experts by playing as well or better than any team in baseball. They currently sport a record of 89-56 and are in first place 6 1/2 games up on the Braves. Washington has done what all good teams do. They have won more series than they have lost. And they have beaten the teams that they should.
The NL East is another story. In their own division Washington has a record of 38-27. This record is skewed, because they are 14-4 against the Mets.
The teams that have given Washington the most problems are the Marlins, Braves and Phillies. The Nationals have a record of 9-9 against Miami, 5-7 against Philadelphia and 10-7 against Atlanta. In a three game set at the end of August the Phillies swept Washington at home. The Braves have won three straight from Washington including two this weekend.
Atlanta is currently in fourth place in the NL with a record of 83-63. They are first in the wild card race. Left for dead days ago, the Phillies are now in the wildcard mix with a record of 73-73. Philadelphia trails the Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers by 3 games.
If things continue the way they are, the Nationals will win the East and Atlanta will earn a wildcard spot. If the Braves win a one game playoff they could end up facing Washington in the league or championship series.
The Phillies have work to do, but could end up with the fifth and final playoff spot. This means that they could earn a crack at Washington as well by winning the one game playoff.
The Nationals have done well this season. If they make it the team has a good chance of advancing in the post season. Their regular season record against playoff caliber teams proves they can compete.
However, if they have to face the Braves or Phillies Washington could be in for a real struggle.