On May 23 and starting the season on 19-31 the Nationals looked lost and were sputtering trailing the Mets, Phillies and Braves in the division.
Things were so bad that even Barry Svrluga, a sports columnist for The Washington Post wrote that the season was basically over.
“The season is lost now, even before Memorial Day, and no veteran manager or fireballing reliever is going to alter that state,” Svrluga wrote after the Nationals suffered another heartbreaking defeat on May 23.
After blowing a 4-3 lead in the eighth inning against the Mets, an inning Nationals fans have dreaded all season (which is still a problem now), the season looked completely lost and the Nationals were going to look like sellers going into the All-Star break and the trade deadline.
After what seems to be an unbelievable turnaround the Nationals have brought themselves back in the race for the postseason and are currently tied on July 4 for the second wildcard spot. One Hell of A Turnaround.
There are many things that have helped the Nationals turn their season around such as getting healthy again, Max Scherzer’s ungodly run on the mound in June and Juan Soto’s complete turnaround at the plate.
The comeback the Nationals are having this season is nothing like what we’ve seen since the franchise moved down from Montreal in 2005. Every season the Nationals are in contention for the postseason past the trade deadline, the team is usually up by more than six or seven games and has no real competition in the division due to the lack of talent that was in the NL East from 2012 to 2017.
There really isn’t any experience with comebacks in the Nationals clubhouse.
In 2013, 2015 and 2018 when the Nationals were trailing in the division early-to-mid-August they were unable to gain momentum and surpass the teams in front of them in the division falling each time in September to only “punch a locker” (Drew Storen anyone?) and cripple when crunch time came.
This season is a little bit different as the Nationals have showed no signs of quit in them and continue to go out and play baseball as hard as they can every night. Many teams that started their season 19-31 would have likely given up on any hopes to a postseason run. Except the Nationals.
“For me, honestly, it is to focus on the here and now,” Nationals Manager Davey Martinez told Thom Loverro of The Washington Times. “Let’s worry about winning today. We set a standard here. Don’t worry about tomorrow. There’s nothing you can do about tomorrow until it gets there. Win today.”
The Nationals have counted on the continued red-hot performances from Max Scherzer who was 6-0 with a 1.00 ERA in June and Anthony Rendon who’s on pace for a third straight 6-WAR season. Both of their names were circling around trade rumors and would have hauled in some top prospects.
Howie Kendrick would have been another trade chip many teams would have liked. A veteran bat coming off the bench or a do-it-all utility man hitting .323/.376/.562 would have been a decent haul for the Nationals if they chose to lie down and let the season get away from them.
Sean Doolittle who has been the lone bright spot in the bullpen would have brought back a significant prospect after the Nationals gave up top prospect Jesus Lazardo to acquire him in 2017.
Now the Nationals have turned into buyers as they sit six games back behind the Braves entering play on July 4. Now, the Nationals will become the Dodgers top threat from reaching the World Series for the third straight season.
Assuming the Nationals win the Wild Card game and play against the top seeded Dodgers which is extremely likely. The Nationals would be able to run out Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin and even have the chance to throw Corbin and Strasburg twice in a five game series.
The Dodgers offense is certainly one not to be reckoned with but the postseason almost always comes down to pitching and how well teams can execute it.
The Nationals aren’t just back in the playoff race. They’re looking very dangerous and a force to be reckoned with come October.