Nationals have firm grasp on National League East

Nationals

(Richard Lipski/AP)

After the dust from the Nationals-Cubs brouhaha has cleared away, the remaining landscape appears awfully rosy for the Nationals. They have won eight of their last nine. They woke up this morning on pace for 100 wins. Today, playoff baseball in Washington is a virtual certainty. That’s the reality. It is safe to let that rattle around your brain.

With 25 games to go and 18 as their magic number to clinch the division, the Nationals lead the Atlanta Braves by 7 ½ games and hold the National League East firmly in their grasp, perhaps even more securely than you realized. The Nationals could only squander their lead with a nearly unfeasible combination: The Nationals would have to play worse than the worst they have played all season, and the Braves would need a miracle September run.

The Nationals’ roughest 25-game stretch all season came back in early May, when they went 12-13. If the Nationals play at their lowest established level from here on out, they would finish with 97 wins. The Braves, in that case, would need to finish 19-5 to match them. Even if the Nationals’ wheels come off and they go 10-15 down the stretch, the Braves would need to finish 17-7 to tie.

Impossible? No. Feasible? Barely.

The Nationals have reached their latest perch not only behind their incredible pitching staff, but also because of a mauling offense. During their last nine games, the Nationals have collectively hit .352/.404/.622 with 24 homers and 70 runs, 7.8 per game.

They just obliterated the Cubs, of course, no one more than Adam LaRoche. He hit five homers in the series and at least one per game. The only players to homer in every game of a four-game series are Babe Ruth, Hank Greenberg, Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench and Mike Schmidt, all of them Hall of Famers.

The Nationals are on a ridiculous roll, having gone 36-18 since the all-star break. Their schedule suggests they can keep it going – Stephen Strasburg will face the Marlins tonight, followed by Ross Detwiler and Edwin Jackson. They may keep rolling, right into the playoffs.

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