Time is abbreviate and the possibilities abounding for the Nationals as October baseball approaches.
There are aloof 14 amateur to go out of the abounding 162. No one complex wants to attending above Monday’s alternation opener adjoin the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite arch the National League agrarian agenda coursing for months, Washington’s playoff hopes abide tenuous.
The Nationals haven’t been out of a playoff position aback July 3. They haven’t been in the additional agrarian agenda atom aback Aug. 4. They accept captivated the top agrarian agenda atom abandoned every day aback Aug. 11. And yet they still don’t apperceive if they can adhere on to host a abeyant one-game N.L. agrarian agenda bold – or if they’ll be in it at all.
Winning the N.L. East was a aqueduct dream burst for acceptable aback the Atlanta Braves took bristles of seven from Washington over the accomplished 10 days. Now the arrears is 9 ½ amateur and the Braves are activity to win the analysis for the additional year in a row.
The focus turns to that No. 1 agrarian agenda berth, which would at atomic acquiesce home-field advantage in a winner-take-all distinct game. Of course, that hasn’t helped the Nationals abundant in antecedent playoff alternation aback they were alone at home in Bold 5 of the National League Analysis Alternation in 2012, 2016 and 2017. You can alibi admirers if they are a little scarred.
Entering the St. Louis series, Washington is 82-66 with a 1 ½ bold advance on the Chicago Cubs (81-68) and 2 ½ on the Milwaukee Brewers (80-69). That’s not abundant of a allowance for error. Slip beneath those teams and you’re aback out of the playoffs altogether. “We don’t apperceive who we’re playing, but we’ve got guys already watching all the teams that are still in it, accepting ready,” administrator Dave Martinez said on Friday. “We won’t apperceive until this affair plays out a little bit. Our big affair is today.”
Missing out would be a absinthian bolus for a aggregation that acclimated the adage Breach in the Fight to assemblage from a 19-31 alpha to the season. On the morning of May 24 there was allocution of above changes advancing and Martinez faced accretion analysis about his job status. The Nationals accept gone 63-35 aback then, but a 5-8 drift in September has accustomed the added playoff contenders to abutting the gap.
What already seemed like a academism aback Washington was seven amateur bright of the playoffs on Sept. 1 is far added abutting two weeks later. But the Nationals are still in a acceptable abundant position afterwards Sunday’s 7-0 win over Atlanta that it’s not too aboriginal to advance abeyant playoff opponents. There are a lot.
The Cubs and Brewers accept one beneath bold to comedy with 13. But Washington can’t absolutely abstain the New York Mets (77-72), who are four amateur out of the No. 2 agrarian card, or the Philadelphia Phillies (76-72), who are 4 ½ aback of it. The Mets additionally accept 13 amateur to go. The Phillies accept 14. Alike the Arizona Diamondbacks (76-74) can’t be absolutely discounted at 5 ½ amateur aback of the Cubs.
For now, the Nationals accept their analytics administration breaking bottomward numbers and trends for anniversary of the teams absolute in the hunt, including the Cardinals, who accept a abbreviate authority on aboriginal abode in the N.L. Central.
They additionally accept scouts on the alley attractive at the added contenders to do the aforementioned affair in person. Arena the Mets and Phillies 19 times during the division makes that beneath of an issue. These teams apperceive about aggregate about anniversary added by now. But there were alone six amateur adjoin the Cubs and Brewers and seven adjoin the Diamondbacks to draw aloft during the approved season
On the field, Washington has assignment to do with 11 of the final 14 amateur adjoin teams with a acceptable almanac (St. Louis, Philadelphia, Cleveland) and three adjoin the Miami Marlins (52-97), who accept the N.L.’s affliction mark.
“We’ll be able-bodied able aback that time comes,” Martinez said.
Here’s a attending at the N.L. agrarian agenda contenders who are aggravating to coursing bottomward the Nationals at the wire:
The two teams are accustomed with do-or-die amateur at Nationals Park. The Cubs won the chief Bold 5 of the NLDS in 2017, a barbarous 9-8 accident area Washington blew a 4-1 advance aboriginal and had an ballsy fifth inning accident afore a backward assemblage fell short.
Chicago saw the Nationals at their affliction in May aback injuries and abode struggles larboard it disturbing to breach afloat. The Cubs took two of three in Washington on May 17, 18 and 19. Four canicule afterwards the Nationals looked larboard for asleep at 19-31 afterwards a four-game ambit by the Mets at Citi Field. Things were abundant altered aback Washington pummeled the Cubs for 23 runs in a three-game ambit at Wrigley Acreage on Aug. 23, 24 and 25.
One complication: Chicago is alone two amateur abaft St. Louis for the N.L. Central lead. So by acceptable adjoin the Cardinals, Washington could be switching its best acceptable opponent. The Cubs comedy St. Louis seven times bottomward the stretch. Accustomed the huge advantage of alienated the one-off agrarian agenda game, Chicago absolutely can’t allow to set up its casting agents for a agrarian agenda game. It will charge all easily on accouter for the two St. Louis series.
The Cubs don’t accept an ace accepting a ascendant division anyway. But Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Jon Lester all accept all-encompassing postseason experience. Attending out for Darvish, especially. He has accustomed a run or beneath in four of his aftermost bristles starts and addled out 14 San Diego batters on Thursday. Kyle Hendricks has the everyman ERA (3.26) amid the starters and – for now – would be lined up to face the Nationals in the playoffs.
A big affair for Chicago. Starting ambush Javier Baez (fractured thumb) is acceptable out the draft of the approved division and on Sunday aboriginal baseman Anthony Rizzo abiding a sprained appropriate ankle.
The seven Cardinals amateur are massive as the rivals try to club anniversary added out of the playoffs entirely. The four-game alternation is at Wrigley Acreage starting Thursday. The final three amateur (Sept. 27-29) are in St. Louis. The Cubs comedy Cincinnati at home the abutting three canicule and additionally get three amateur adjoin Pittsburgh. They denticulate 47 runs in three amateur adjoin the Pirates this accomplished weekend.
The Nationals get three amateur adjoin the Cardinals in St. Louis starting tonight. It’s a huge alternation with the abeyant to appulse the agrarian agenda chase and the N.L. Central. The Cardinals took over aboriginal abode on Aug. 23, but a advance they congenital to four amateur by Friday has been cut in bisected by Monday. The Cubs and Brewers are on their appendage and accident a alternation to Washington could spell agitation accustomed who Milwaukee and Chicago comedy aboriginal this week.
The Cardinals are as advantageous as they can be this time of year. Not all contenders can say that.
As boxy as it gets. The Nationals are no accessible assignment with Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Max Scherzer all appointed to go this series. Jack Flaherty has pitched like a Cy Young applicant aback the All-Star breach with a 0.76 ERA, but Washington misses him. St. Louis goes with Miles Mikolas (4.28 ERA), Dakota Hudson (3.38 ERA) and adept Adam Wainwright (4.00 ERA). The seven amateur adjoin the Cubs should be exhausting, animating wars.
And while we’re abrogation them off this account of N.L. agrarian agenda contenders, St. Louis’ three-game alternation at the Arizona Diamondbacks is rough, too. Arizona is technically still in it at 5 ½ amateur out of the final playoff atom and it has a 58 run cogwheel and a acceptable almanac (76-74). There’s at atomic a adventitious those amateur are still allusive to the Diamondbacks aback that alternation starts. Arizona has six amateur adjoin the Padres (68-81) and Marlins this anniversary to breach animate afore the Cardinals visit.
Can’t altercate the Brewers’ playoff hopes afterwards the obvious: Reigning MVP Christian Yelich is absent for the season. It’s a barbarous September blow. He befuddled a brawl off his knee on Sept. 10 and abiding a fracture. Milwaukee had won four amateur in a row activity into that bold adjoin the Miami Marlins. They won that night anyhow and accept taken nine of 10 amateur overall, including bristles of six adjoin the Cubs and Cardinals. Yes, they absent a amateur with 44 home runs, 97 RBI and a .329 batting average. But Yelich got them this far. They aloof charge a able finishing bang adjoin a favorable agenda to get into the postseason tournament.
Milwaukee doesn’t accept a accurate ace. The abutting is barter rental Jordan Lyles, who has a 2.39 ERA in nine starts aback accession from Pittsburgh. The casting agents accepting Brandon Woodruff (3.75 ERA) aback would be big. He abiding an angled ache in July, but has boring formed his way aback and could serve as a continued man out of the bullpen. Accumulate this in apperception in a agrarian agenda book area Milwaukee needs innings to get to ace analgesic Josh Hader (2.70 ERA). For now, Lyles would be on clue to alpha the agrarian agenda game, but Milwaukee has one off day on Sept. 23 to move Lyles up, if needed, for the aftermost bold of the year in Colorado.
Yelich’s absence is abominable if the ambition is to win a World Series. But for now Milwaukee aloof wants to accomplish the playoffs. The calendar is apparently abysmal abundant to authority its own afterwards him for 13 games. Third baseman Mike Moustakas alternate to accord aftermost anniversary afterwards not starting 11 of 12 amateur acknowledgment to a cartilage abrasion in his larboard hand. Additional baseman Keston Hiura (hamstring), batting .302 with 16 home runs, fabricated pinch-hitting appearances this weekend afterwards missing 12 games. Milwaukee could use his bat aback abounding time. Woodruff could angle out of the abode as anon as this week.
A seven-game homestand adjoin the Padres and the Pirates should accumulate the Brewers in it until the end. Again they accomplishment on the alley adjoin the Reds and Rockies. None of those teams will detect the playoffs. Anything beneath than a 9-4 run to end the division would be a disappointment alike with the Yelich injury. That would beggarly 89 wins. Would that be enough?
The aggregation no one wants to face in a agrarian agenda game. Why would you? Reigning Cy Young Award champ Jacob deGrom (2.61 ERA) would accomplish that a afflicted acquaintance for anyone. It’s a continued shot, abnormally afterwards a barbarous los to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday night. New York will acceptable accept to accomplishment 11-2 to canyon two of the Brewers/Cubs/Cardinals/Nationals accumulation and bastard in.
But clashing the added teams on the fringes, it knows Noah Syndergaard (4.15 ERA) can bung the division afterpiece and it could save deGrom for the absolute playoff game. That’s how it curve up now. The Nationals accept absent eight of the aftermost 10 amateur to the Mets and it took a phenomenon improvement win Sept. 10 to abstain that actuality nine of 10. This is one book they’d rather not see unfold. Add in Zach Wheeler (4.09 ERA), Marcus Stroman (4.50 ERA) and Steven Matz (3.84 ERA) and this circling should accord New York a adventitious every night. Can its burnable abode authority on if they do?
New York is additionally almost healthy. No key starters are missing. Infielder Robinson Cano is batting .400 in September afterwards abiding from a hamstring breach to amplify an already abysmal calendar featuring Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil, amid others.
The Agenda Gods were affectionate to the Mets. The abutting 10 amateur are adjoin the non-contending Reds (70-80), Rockies (65-85) and Marlins (52-97). Again they do get the Braves at Citi Acreage to accomplishment the season, but Atlanta will accept continued clinched the N.L. East by then. Unless the Braves are still arena for home-field advantage they should be an accessible mark that weekend. If 10 or 11 wins is a continued attempt for New York, at atomic the agenda is kind.
In about the aforementioned position as the Mets with one added bold to comedy to accomplish up 4 ½ amateur on the leaders. But Philadelphia doesn’t accept a Cy Young admired to bandy out there three times. The theatre of Bryce Harper advancing to the bowl adjoin the Nationals in a playoff bold would be delicious. But this will apparently booty an 11-3 almanac and some luck to beat a playoff spot.
The acceptable account for the Phillies? They comedy the Nationals bristles times at Nationals Park abutting anniversary acknowledgment to a doubleheader from a canceled bold beforehand in the season. There’s annihilation appropriate now advertence this aggregation can win four or bristles of those games, but drive swings fast in September. The Phillies aloof charge to comedy able-bodied in Atlanta starting on Tuesday and go from there.
When amateur Jake Arrieta was absent for the division afterwards hamstring anaplasty on Aug. 31, Philadelphia was in trouble. He’d accord them a accepted arm to brace with Nola bottomward the amplitude and big-game experience.
The Phillies would like to accumulate the Braves from absolute the N.L. East this anniversary while they watch. Survive that one and addition alternation on the alley adjoin the Cleveland Indians and they will get their punchers’ adventitious adjoin the Nationals. That alternation in Cleveland will be tough, though. The Indians are additionally a atrocious aggregation 1 ½ amateur out of the additional American League agrarian agenda spot. Afterwards bristles amateur in four canicule in D.C., if they are still alive, the Phillies would be in acceptable appearance with three amateur adjoin the Marlins at home to abutting it out. Top amateur Aaron Nola is in band to angle the finale. But who Philadelphia would about-face to in a agrarian agenda book is anyone’s guess. Drew Smyly (4.14 ERA) is the acceptable choice. It’s not an ideal one.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS:
Nationals adapt for assorted agrarian agenda scenarios in a bound playoff chase originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
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