For the Nationals to reach the postseason, it’s simple. Washington must win and the Cincinnati Reds must lose.
After beating the Braves 6-5 in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Nationals climbed to 4½ games back from the Reds in the National League wild-card race.
The Nationals, thanks to a resurgent offense, posted a 25-10 record from Aug. 9 to Monday. But that success came against teams near the bottom of the NL standings.
Series against the Phillies, Giants, Cubs, Mets and Marlins helped Washington climb back into postseason contention. With 11 games remaining, the Nationals face a tougher slate of games as they try to complete an improbable comeback.
Following today’s game against the NL East-leading Braves, and after the weekend Marlins series, the Nationals travel to St. Louis and Arizona. Though the task becomes tougher, the Nationals are still holding out hope.
“It’s not over yet,” pitcher Gio Gonzalez said. “No one’s told us this game is done with, or no more playoff chance.”
Back in April, the Cardinals swept the Nationals during the club’s early-season struggles. Washington took two out of three games against Arizona in June.
A suddenly explosive offense, which was missing for the first four months of the season, has been the reason for the Nationals’ recent success. Prior to the Braves series, Washington scored at least four runs in eight of its previous nine games. Before August, the Nationals ranked near the bottom in almost every offensive category. Entering Tuesday, the Nationals were 13th in batting average (.254) and 16th in runs scored (610).
With the surge, the Nationals believe they can sneak into that second wild-card spot.
“Why not? We’ve come this far,” center fielder Denard Span said. “Nobody expected us to be where we are now two weeks ago.”
But at this stage of the season, there’s no room for error.
“We put ourselves in a hole,” shortstop Ian Desmond said, “and now it’s just about playing for pride and seeing how it ends up.”