On Tuesday, they began a span of 26 games in which they play the 101-loss-pace Marlins 10 times. Fish rookie Jose Fernandez, who leads MLB in ERA but has an innings limit, likely will miss all 10. The Nats also have seven games against the decimated Mets, who just lost the great Matt Harvey for the year and have David Wright on the DL. And Tuesday the Mets traded center fielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck for prospects. Oh, and the Nats face the Phillies six times. They just fired their manager.
Meanwhile, the Reds just lost two of the first three games of a brutal 13-game stretch during which they face the Cards (who own them) three more times, as well as the Dodgers (three) and the Rockies in Denver (three).
“We feel like we’re playing good baseball,” said Tyler Clippard of the Nats’ 13-5 record since a sweep by the Braves doomed their N.L. East chances. “We’re taking it one day at a time because that’s all we can do. . . . We don’t think about any of that [standings] stuff. It’s a moot point.
“The only thing on our minds is ‘finish strong.’ ”
I’d have believed him more except he glanced at the Reds game on television three times as he said it.
The Nats are hitting much better and, all in all, playing less badly than they were three weeks ago. But if they think they are playing well enough to make a true playoff push, they are probably wrong.
“For a while we’ve been healthy and at the talent level we expected at the start of the year. We need to win close to 90,” said Johnson, knowing it takes 22-9 to reach 88 wins. “We survived [earlier struggles]. Now every game we need to play well, like we were projected to play.”
As for the notion that teams ahead of them will necessarily “play .500,” Johnson said, “Don’t take anything for granted in this game. That’s a losing attitude. [If] somebody falls down a little bit, it could be interesting.”
In one league or both, somebody almost always falls down — six such teams in just the past two years. So if they do, who out of the endangered O’s, Yanks, Indians, Nats and Diamondbacks will be prepared to take advantage?
For more by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.