It’s no secret that the Washington Nationals have never been to a World Series before. But this season, the Nationals are surprising everyone by sneaking into the playoff picture. They’re currently in line to snag a Wild Card spot if they can keep the wheels on through September. While they’ve still got to hope that the Phillies, Brewers, and Diamondbacks don’t make a crazy run, right now the Nationals have a 97.1% chance of making the postseason.
Being in a playoff race is a new thing for this DC-based franchise, and although they’re still seven games away from the division-leading Atlanta Braves, the Nationals aren’t giving up on winning the NL East just yet. Sure, that’s unlikely to happen, especially since the Braves have the shortest schedule remaining (and a relatively easy one at that), but Washington is still playing their best baseball ever. No really, this 80-game stretch (54-26) is the best in franchise history. And there is definitely room for movement within the division because these two teams still have to play each other seven more times!
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The Nationals Had a Fantastic August
After a rocky start to the month with losses to the Braves, Mets, and Diamondbacks, the Nationals have managed to get themselves back in the game – 16 games above .500 to be specific – with two five-game winning streaks. Even better, their hitting has been dynamite, with 13 different games this month resulting in seven or more runs by the Nats. (The Houston Astros are the only team with a better batting average than the Nationals in August, and we all know how good they are.) Washington is also third in the MLB in hits (253) and runs (166). They’re not playing around.
Their 20-year-old outfielder Juan Soto is a big part of the lineup’s success with an on-base percentage of .400 and over 50 career home runs. The Nationals are looking to keep him around for a long time… if he’ll stay. His fellow outfielders Victor Robles and Adam Eaton are also capable of smashing homers. But the Nats lineup is deep all over, with first baseman Matt Adams hitting 19 home runs so far and second baseman Brian Dozier knocking out 20.
One of their unexpected keys to success is 35-year-old catcher Kurt Suzuki who is also hitting crazy well – he’s second among catchers in RBI per appearances at the plate. (Gary Sanchez of the Yankees is first.) In just 254 at-bats, Suzuki has 14 homers and 52 RBI. He’s particularly good when there are runners in scoring position, and he doesn’t strike out a lot either. Just imagine if he played more…
As for pitchers, the Nats had been heavily relying on their ace, Max Scherzer, earlier this season. He’s currently dealing with back and shoulder issues as he returns to the mound from the injured list. Even though he’s still feeling a bit of fatigue and holding back on his intensity, he’s throwing strikes and the team is hopeful he’ll be back to 100% soon – maybe even next week! Meanwhile, they’ve got Aníbal Sánchez, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin to help carry the load. Sánchez, by the way, is unbeaten in 16 starts.
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The Nationals are good – more than good enough for a Wild Card spot. They’ve got the third-most wins in the National League, so it’s just too bad that the Braves, the team with the second-most wins, are in their division. Now, Washington just needs to keep winning as they head toward October and avoid making many mistakes, like their loss to the lowly Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday.
Things that stand in the Nationals’ path to the postseason? September. After playing the not-so-hot Miami Marlins this weekend, they embark on the fourth-toughest schedule in the MLB for the remaining season.
The Nationals are about to begin playing some really important games against division opponents, starting today. First, they welcome the New York Mets to DC for a three-game series, and then on Thursday they travel to Atlanta to take on the Braves in four more critical games. If they want to slip away with the NL East Division, they’ll need to win at least three of those down at Braves Stadium! Either way, there should be plenty of drama.
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