The norm in 2013 was if the Washington Nationals were behind 6-0 early on in a game, you may as well flip on a movie or go out, because you were not going to miss much as far as a Nationals comeback was concerned.
Well, last night against the Kansas City Royals, that was the case, and if you changed the channel, you probably regret it today; Washington rallied for even runs in the fourth inning, and another three in the seventh for what would become an 11-10 win in Kansas City. What was already an odd road trip simply became that much stranger, and it provided a glimmer of hope for fans wishing for a 2011 Tampa Bay Rays type of playoff rally and run.
So, was last night the key win that will spur Washington forward, and is this the road trip fans look back on as where it all began?
There’s no question that it could be. The Royals starter last night, Bruce Chen, went into the game as one of the Royals’ more solid pitchers, having allowed in 10 earned runs in his last 44 innings pitched. But Chen walked five batters in 3.2 innings, and could not hold a sizable lead for the Royals. Kansas City’s starter tonight is Wade Davis, who sports a 5.43 ERA and has pitched into the seventh inning only twice in his last ten starts, where he has also allowed a combined 31 earned runs.
Combine these factors, and Washington could have an impressive series win against a team that had played itself back into the playoff race, but could be just as easily playing themselves out of it. They could even be eyeing a sweep tomorrow afternoon.
Washington returns home to close out August, where they have six consecutive games against the Miami Marlins and New York Mets, and then go on a road trip where they face the Philadelphia Phillies, a team they have played very well against, and then another seven games against those same Marlins and Mets. This next stretch of games could be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Nationals, who have at time played down to their competition, but also seem to realize the clock is running out on 2013.
Now, there is every reason to look at this next stretch of games and shrug, but the fact is that in about a week there can be a very different outlook on Washington’s season and their playoff hopes. As we have seen recently, it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish.