Surprising as it might be, the Washington Nationals are still in the playoff hunt. As of Aug 31., the Nats are in 2nd place in the NL East, 5.5 games behind the first place Atlanta Braves, and in the 1st wild card spot, 2.5 games ahead of the Chicago Cubs who are holding on the second spot.
If they want to keep their playoff dreams alive, the Nats are truly going to have to play like their lives depend on it. Over the next month, the Nats will play 14 games at home and 13 games on the road with just two days off. Eighteen of those games are against other NL East teams, starting with consecutive series against the Miami Marlins, New York Mets, and Atlanta Braves.
Miami Marlins: Sept. 1 (home), Sept. 20-22 (away)
These four games against the Miami Marlins are going to be the easiest ones of the month. The Marlins are the loveable losers of the NL East, and the Nats seem to love playing in the air conditioning at Marlins Park – to the tune of a 10-3 season head-to-head record, with five of those wins coming on the road. With nothing to play for, Miami will probably let many of their September call-ups play the Nats just to get a taste of a MLB game or two.
New York Mets: Sept. 2-4 (home)
The New York Mets are desperately trying to hold on to their over .500 record and keep any chance of a wild card spot alive. They have clinched a winning record against the Nats this season (10-6 going into the series), so are out to play spoiler. Every game the Nats lose is one more game the Mets can gain on them for personal and practical satisfaction. The Nats are going to have to remind the New Yorkers who’s boss in DC over Labor Day.
Atlanta Braves: Sept. 5-8 (away), Sept. 13-15 (home)
Darn you, Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves have lead the NL East for what feels like this whole season. Constant Nat killers Freddy Freeman and Jason Heyward have been up to their usual antics, which makes these two series even more stressful. To have any hope of winning the division, the Nats are going to have to win all six games and hope that the Braves lose to the rest of the division as well. The season series is tied 6-6, so according to the stats, this is anyone’s game or games.
Minnestoa Twins: Sept. 10-12 (away)
For whatever unknown reason, MLB thinks that interleague games are interesting in September. I don’t get it, so here we are. The Nats last saw the Minnesota Twins in April 2016 when the Nats swept the series. Given that the Nats will be between tough series against the Braves, they’re likely going to need need some morale-boosting wins. Having nine hitters instead of eight in the AL stadium can only help here.
St. Louis Cardinals: Sept. 16-18 (away)
The curse against the St. Louis Cardinals continues. In April, the Nats lost three out of four games to the Cards at home. This isn’t a great omen for a Nats team that will have just faced the Braves for a second time this month, but they will have to take relief in getting those games over with and take down the Cards in their own home if they want to climb the NL East and wild card standings.
Philadelphia Phillies: Sept. 23-16 (home; five games in four days)
This is going to be the roughest stretch of the month. Due to a rain-out in June, the Nats are hosting the Philadelphia Phillies for five games over four days, the second day being a day/night double header, right when the playoff race will be at its height. The Nats and Phillies have traded second and third place in the NL East, and as of right now, it seems like whoever comes in second will get a wild card spot. Every head-to-head game this week could be make-or-break. (P.S. you’re going DOWN, Bryce.)
Cleveland Indians: Sept. 27-29 (home)
The end of the season. The Nats opened on the road, so they end the season at home. Hopefully, they will have already clinched their playoff position before this series, but if the Nats are still looking for their spot, they will have to make the most out of putting the Indians in a non-DH park. At this point, any advantage is a good advantage, so facing eight hitters instead of nine could be the difference in this series — especially the way Nats pitchers have been hitting.