After the way the Washington Nationals blew a perfect opportunity against the Atlanta Braves, the Nationals have to at least win the series, by taking two-of-three games, against the Philadelphia Phillies this weekend if they want to keep their already slim playoff hopes alive.
Coming into the week, the Nationals were 12.5 games out of first place and, with a sweep, could have pulled themselves within 10 games of the NL East leading Braves. While that would have still left them a ways out of first, sweeping the Braves would have done wonders for the fans and the players. Instead, they blew it.
Twice in this past series did the Nationals lose by just one run and in game three, which they ended up losing 6-3, they were leading the game heading into the eighth inning 3-2. Like it has been all season long, the bullpen then let down the starter and the Nationals were swept out of their own house.
If the Nationals want to salvage any sort of hope for a season that many are ready to throw away, they have to have a good showing against the Phillies, especially since the series is at home. This weekend, they’ll send Dan Haren, Taylor Jordan and Stephen Strasburg to the mound to take on John Lannan, Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick, in that order.
By series end, the Nationals could potentially find themselves flip-flopped with the Phillies in the NL East standings. Should they get swept, the Phillies could potentially leap frog the New York Mets and into second place, while the Nationals could potentially fall past the Mets to fourth.
While it’s a series between two sub-.500 teams, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. A sweep by the Nationals, or even winning two-of-three, would go a long way in trying to dig out of the huge hole they now find themselves in. Losing the series or, worse, getting swept, would all but dash any glimmer of hope they had at the playoffs.