The Washington Nationals did something today that they did eight times in 2013 — sweep a series. The difference is that this incarnation of the Nationals was able to show a resiliency and a toughness that seemed absent from 2013’s team. The Nationals of 2013 typically squeaked past opponents, clinging to their leads for dear life, hoping they would not blow things, or simply expecting to beat teams they thought they were better than.
This year’s opening series against the New York Mets was quite the opposite, as the Nationals beat the Mets in convincing fashion (outscoring them 22-10), came back from early deficits, took advantage of a subpar Mets bullpen, and Washington pitchers were able to strike out 39 Mets batters over the course of the series. It’s suffice to say, things have started the way the Nationals expected them to, and they did what they needed to do to get to that start.
There is very little question that Washington is better than New York, both on paper and on the field, regardless of what Mets brass expects out of their team. This was a series the Nationals definitely should have won, and a sweep was more of an expectation than a surprise bonus. The Mets have some strong, young pitching, but they are still a year or two away from being a legitimate threat in the NL East, and until then, the Nationals should take advantage of that. This is exactly why the Nationals’ sweep of the Mets means very little, if not nothing.
In a 162 game schedule, it can be very hard to quantify the value of winning games in April, let alone the first week of the season. Slow starts in baseball are very easily overcome by teams all the time, just ask the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers. What is more important is what is seen when the teams are playing, and how everyone is contributing. Being able to get into a rhythm as a team is the key to any successful season, and the Nationals have laid the groundwork in their opening series. Things do not get easier for the Nationals though, as they will face the Atlanta Braves tomorrow, a team that won 13-of-19 games against them in 2013, and proceeded to run away with last year’s division.
The Nationals’ sweep of the Mets was convincing, if not expected, but it should not be read into more than what it actually is — a good to great team beating an inconsistent, mediocre team with a black hole of a bullpen. The real tests begin tomorrow, and it is a series that could really set the tone for the Nationals from here on out.