With a doubleheader split Sunday, the Washington Nationals now sit five games behind the Cincinnati Reds with six games remaining on their schedule. If there was ever a desperate need for a sweep of a doubleheader, Washington needed one but didn’t get it.
Washington is going to miss the playoffs this season, and at this point that is a given. The Nationals are now playing for pride, trying to win as many games for their retiring manager, Davey Johnson, who they honored yesterday. Washington needs to try and win as many games as they can to show people they are coming in 2014 and to show that 2012 was not a fluke. Will they win six straight to get to 90 wins? Probably not, but will they finish very close to that number? It seems likely, though the St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks are no slouches.
Washington now needs to start focusing on 2014; there is no reason to put their everyday lineup out there every game. Johnson needs to start resting guys, give the September call-ups some at-bats, and allow Corey Brown and Zach Walters to show whether they are going to be in Washington’s 2014 Major League roster plans. Brown could very well be Washington’s fourth outfielder and Walters could be the starting second baseman if certain moves are made, and they should be given the opportunity to show their wares these last few games.
What Washington also needs to do is turn their focus to the winter. GM Mike Rizzo should be, if not already, starting his gauging of specific free agents and deciding whether to pursue more pitching for their 2014 rotation a la Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren. As I have also previously written, Rizzo should be starting to send out feelers to see how interested Robinson Cano is in leaving the Big Apple and how much it would take to sign his skipper, Joe Girardi, away from the suddenly cost-conscious New York Yankees. They could very well see both of these men go because of their own roster problems and the positives of other situations teams may have, such as Washington’s much younger and more flexible roster.
For Washington, these last six games should be about evaluation and plans for 2014. They are not making the playoffs and obviously do not have any magic left in them.