Barring a baseball miracle, the Washington Nationals will not make the postseason in 2018.
That’s not exactly breaking news to baseball fans who have been paying attention this season. Even general manager Mike Rizzo, who all season has trumpeted his confidence in his team, had to acknowledge as much earlier this week. On Tuesday, he traded Daniel Murphy to the Chicago Cubs and Matt Adams to the St. Louis Cardinals in a pair of trades that symbolized a waving of the white flag.
That leaves only one question left to be answered over the next five weeks: How low will the Nationals season actually go?
Based on Washington’s results over the last 72 hours, the answer is “We’ll let you know when we get there.” That’s because the Nationals are clearly still in the process of sinking after being shut out for the third straight game in Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the New York Mets.
A new ‘offensive’ low since moving to Washington
Washington’s season actually hit a high point on Wednesday. Ryan Zimmerman came through with his 11th career walk-off home run to clinch an 8-7 win against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The joy was fleeting.
Since then, the offense has gone into a nosedive. Cy Young candidate Aaron Nola and the Phillies beat them 2-0 on Thursday. On Friday, Jason Vargas (and his 6.86 ERA) shut them out for six innings in a Mets 3-0 win. Zack Wheeler did them in on Saturday, tossing seven scoreless before giving way to the Mets bullpen.
That’s 27 scoreless innings. The stretch marks the first time the Nationals have been shut out in three straight games since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005.
The Nationals have had some really bad teams during that stretch too, including back-to-back 100-loss seasons in 2008 and 2009. Yet those teams managed to avoid being shut out three straight games. Meanwhile, a lineup still featuring Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Eaton, could not.
According to StatsbyStats, three consecutive shutouts happened three times when the franchise was still the Montreal Expos. The most recent coming between April 13-15, 2004. Of course, that team, and the previous two teams, did not have World Series aspirations like this Nationals team did coming into 2018.
The Mets are gaining ground on Washington
Making matters worse, the Nationals might have to fight off the Mets.
If we were to list the disappointing teams from 2018 in order, the Mets would be right behind Washington. There were hopes for a possible postseason run with improved health and new manager Mickey Callaway in place. Instead, the Mets were the team everyone beat up on (on the field and off) over the first few months of the season.
They stumbled to 19 games under .500 and traded places with the Miami Marlins in the NL East cellar for most of the summer. Now though, they’ve separated a bit from Miami, and they’re actually closer to Washington for third place than Washington is to second place.
It’s all about pride now. We’ll see how much Washington can muster in September.
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