The Washington Nationals are on fire of late, having won six straight games. They are returning home after a four game sweep of the New York Mets, and now they are preparing to face the Philadelphia Phillies and most likely become even hotter.
Washington is currently in a stretch of all NL East opponents which many believed would propel them back into playoff relevancy, and it has as they are now 5.5 games back of the Cincinnati Reds for the final wild card spot. Unfortunately, with 16 games to go, Washington will need a lot of help to earn that spot. Fortunately, the Reds still have six games against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Washington could take advantage of the two teams beating up on each other by doing what they have been doing: Taking care of their own business.
Chances are Washington’s season will end without a playoff berth. I do not consider the wild card game a playoff berth, so regardless of if they jump the Reds, unless they win that game, they will probably not make the playoffs. One positive fans can hang their collective hat on is that Washington is setting up nicely for 2014. The hot finish is showing the potential this team has and that the first four months of the season were actually an anomaly because of the combination of poor offense and defense, since for the most part the pitching staff has been there all season.
Potential free agents could want to join Washington because of this strong finish, combined with the fact that they have young talent – a la Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan – that GM Mike Rizzo could turn into an acquisition of need, perhaps some more offensive help or something along those lines. Most people will probably say that 2012 was the fluke being that Washington was really good and they took advantage of a down year from a weak division, but the fact of the matter is when a team starts as slowly as Washington did – and there is no doubt they started slow – there is almost no chance of coming back to become a playoff team. Washington can, however, finish above .500 for the second consecutive year and show teams that they will be coming in 2014, so they should be very afraid.