“Despite all the injuries, it actually feels like all the pieces are fitting. We have a lot of depth that people didn’t know about,” said reliever Tyler Clippard, who took over at closer when Drew Storen missed the first 90 games while Sean Burnett excelled in his former job as setup man. “A lot of players have gotten to show who they really are.
“Overcoming everything that’s thrown at you, like that game on Friday night — that’s what pro sports is about,” said Clippard. “All of this is a testament to how good we are.”
The Nats now play 21 games in a row against teams that, at least for the moment, have losing records. Plenty are decent but, face it, none is much good. Will the Nats play down to the competition or rise to the opportunity?
“Not a problem,” said Clippard. “We’ve been through a lot. What it teaches you is how important each and every day is.”
Without all those injuries, Clippard, Burnett, Bryce Harper, Tyler Moore, Jesus Flores, Lombardozzi, Craig Stammen, Ryan Mattheus, new backup catcher Sandy Leon and even Detwiler, who only joined the rotation because Chien-Ming Wang kept getting hurt, would not have gotten to show who they are. Now, as the various Storens and Werths return, the Nats hardly know where to put everybody who has proved that they can play.
The Nats may stagger, they may, at some point, even have so much adversity that they collapse. Remember, until lefty John Lannan — another layer of their dazzling depth who’s stashed at AAA — won on Saturday night with seven strong innings, even this series could have ended ugly.
But until they do, the Nats not only have the magnetism of novelty but also of a buoyancy that borders on the preposterous. This is perhaps the last practical opportunity for those in close proximity to the Nats to reconsider becoming baseball fans. Once you’re caught, you’re a goner. Be forewarned.
This weekend’s span of 46 hours shows the roller coaster of almost ridiculous emotional swings that pennant races evoke. When the sun went down on Friday, the Nats had that 9-0 lead. Before midnight, they’d blown it and the Braves had matched the biggest comeback in their history back to 1876.
By sundown Saturday, the Nats had lost an afternoon game, 4-0, then trailed 2-0 in a night game, a span in which they’d been outscored 17-1; suddenly they were in danger of a four-game sweep that would knock them out of first place. Yet before happy hour ever arrived on Sunday, the Nats had rallied to win the Saturday nightcap, 5-2, then added Sunday’s Atlanta stomping to the fun, answering the Braves with a 14-2 blitz of their own.
That’s 9-0, 1-17 and 14-2. Good thing battles between first- and second-place teams don’t have momentum swings.
With Desmond out, another chapter to the Nats ’12 saga is inevitable. Tune out now, before it is too late. Or run the risk of being held prisoner by baseball and the Nationals for months.
For Thomas Boswell’s previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.