The Nationals are a bully now, and over the past week they’ve acted like it. They are 7-1 in eight games over seven days against the Marlins and Astros, teams who have chosen to wave white flags. They handled their business like a first-place team.
“You got to do that,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “All good teams do that. We did it here.”
The Nationals’ surge left them looking down at the rest of the sport. They are 69-43, 26 games above .500 for the first time since baseball returned. They are on pace, with less than one third of the season left, to win 100 games.
They have the rest best record in baseball, and it is not that close. After the Reds lost their fifth straight last night, the Nationals sit three games clear of every team in the majors. They will wake up Sunday morning in Phoenix with the best record in the majors, no matter what.
They have positioned themselves as a near lock for the playoffs. It is not blasphemy to say that, given their record (a .616 winning percentage) and the relevant history.
Since the introduction of the wild card in 1995, only three teams had a winning percentage of at least .610 on the morning of Aug. 10 and failed to make the postseason. All three — the 2011 Red Sox, the 2002 Mariners and the 1995 Angels — would have played a playoff game under the design introduced this season.
In sum: No team from at least the past 16 years with a record as good as the Nationals’ this late in the season would have missed the playoffs under the current format.
They will move on to Arizona with advantages garnered from Houston. Gio Gonzalez’s complete game Wednesday came against the team with the worst record in baseball, but the results will linger into their next two series against quality opponents. The Nationals’ bullpen is fresh, with Tyler Clippard having received two much-needed days off.
The Nationals will have a chance to improve on their astonishing record. Even among people who expected the Nationals to contend, did anyone expect they would be this good at this point?
FROM THE POST
Jordan Zimmermann further cemented his status a Cy Young candidate in a 5-0 win over the Astros.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOUNRAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 6, Pawtucket 3: Zach Walters went 2 for 4 with a double. Jarrett Hoffpauir went 2 for 4 with a double. Jeff Mandel allowed two runs in seven innings on four hits and two walks, striking out four.
Richmond 2, Harrisburg 1: Brian Goodwin went 0 for 5 with a walk. Trevor Holder allowed one run in five innings on four hits and three walks, striking out four. The Senators managed five hits in 13 innings.
Myrtle Beach 11, Potomac 2: Anthony Rendon went 2 for 4 with a triple as the DH. Adrian Sanchez went 2 for 4.
Charleston 4, Hagerstown 3: Billy Burns went 2 for 4. Adrian Nieto went 1 for 4 with a double.
Auburn 5, State College 3: Brandon Miller went 2 for 2 with a triple. Estarlin Martinez went 2 for 4 with a double.