In May 2019, the Washington Nationals had their fourth divisional series against the New York Mets. It meant nothing at the time, but the outcome of the series was a realization of another disappointing season. The Mets swept the Nats in four games, and I really lost all hope at that point while regretting the Nats had let go of outfielder Bryce Harper. I didn’t think Dave Martinez could manage a ball club, and I wanted him fired. I was angry at the fact that it seemed like the Nationals could never win.
But something happened in that locker room. A wake-up call perhaps. Beating the Marlins three out of four May 27, sweeping the Atlanta Braves in a two-game series May 29, and winning the series against the Reds two out of three on June 2. Next thing we knew, the Nats had won seven out of their last nine games come June 23 and had not lost a series since the Mets swept them a month earlier. It was clear that something had changed in that locker room, but many critics asked the question on whether the Nats could keep up their hot streak after the All-Star break. The answer, thankfully, was yes.
At one point, the team was 4.5 games behind the Braves and leading the NL East with about a month and a half to go in the season. A team that started so dreadfully early in the year was now chasing the N.L. East crown.
However, the tougher parts of the Nats’ schedule has come upon them, and the team has seemed to cool down. Losing two of three games to the Mets and three of four with the Braves has crushed the Nats’ chances at an N.L. East title. But the team seems like they’re locked in with the first Wild Card spot. However, the Nats have a history of choking in the postseason. To me, though, this year feels different. Here’s why.
The second Wild Card spot is held by the Chicago Cubs — with the Mets, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Milwaukee Brewers trailing closely behind. If the Cubs keep the second wild-card spot, I’m highly confident the Nats can beat them in the one-game showdown. Sweeping the Cubs in Chicago a month ago showed the MLB that the Nats are a real competitor this year. In the saltiest way possible, the one team I really would hate to see in the wild-card game is the Mets. They have had our number all year and the Nats can’t seem to figure out how to get outs against them. But in a winner takes-all game, I see Max Scherzer out-playing Jacob deGrom in a pitching duel, potentially propelling the Nats to the division series.
If the Nats move on to that point, they would face the Los Angeles Dodgers — the best team in the MLB. Now, I don’t think anyone would give the Nats a chance in this series. In the playoffs, however, anything can happen. The Nats have the pitching, they have the lineup, and they have the heart to win this series.
The Nats have four starters who have an ERA under 4.00, and three have 200-plus strikeouts. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has a 4.32 ERA in the playoffs which is high for a three-time Cy Young Award winner. Kershaw has never been a solid postseason pitcher while the Nats lineup can be dangerous anytime.
Anthony Rendon is having an MVP season, Juan Soto mashes baseballs if the opposing pitcher misses his spot, and Trea Turner is performing as the leadoff hitter the team needs. Come the division series, Stephen Strasburg would pitch Game 1, Patrick Corbin would start Game 2, and then Scherzer would pitch Game 3. I personally wouldn’t want to face that rotation come playoff time, especially combined with the Nats lineup in which the team could give the Dodgers a run for their money in the NLDS.
Why not the Nats? They’ve shown the grit and the heart this whole year to prove that they are a true contender in the league. From scoring seven runs in the ninth inning beating the Mets to sweeping the Cubs in Chicago, the Nats prove that they not only can beat the best teams in the National League, they can beat anyone.