Just as bad news always seems to cascade into more repulsive ramifications, good also ripples out and has further benefits. Tyler Moore has the highest batting average on the team during the streak (.365), though in half-time play. This, plus his monster numbers at AAA after being demoted in midseason, means Adam LaRoche’s poor but not awful season is less worrisome. At the least, Moore looks ready to platoon at first base next year.
A remarkable streak requires at least three components. A surprise player hits town and jolts the team. Many core players get hot together. And nobody is awful. Roark fits the bill for No. 1, though emergency starter Ross Ohlendorf (4-1, 3.28), signed in January as a cast-off veteran, has been a prize puddle of perspiration. “I’ve never seen a man sweat so much,” Johnson says. “He goes through three sopping-wet jerseys in five innings.”
As for the second and third necessities, six of the eight everyday regulars have an excellent on-base percentage plus slugging average (OPS) of .838 to .995 in the past 37 games, while LaRoche and Anthony Rendon have hit decently enough and gotten on base a lot. Since the All-Star Game, the Nats lead the NL in every important offensive stat, including runs and, by a wide margin, homers.
What’s gone wrong since Aug. 7? Nothing. Just as it seemed nothing went right before that date. You know your luck is running hot when your erratic closer (Rafael Soriano) gets a pitching tip about his balky slider from his agent (Scott Boras) and immediately reels off nine scoreless games.
For the past month or more, three NL contenders have cooled off — the Pirates (17-21), Cardinals (27-26) and Braves (15-15). Even the Dodgers have had a hiccup, losing nine of 13. Right now, the Nats are playing as well as any team in the National League.
But will they even make the playoffs? Baseball Prospectus makes them 33 to 1. The odds don’t lie. But neither do our memories — of a whole bunch of teams since 2000 that made the last 10 days wonderfully insane.
Will the Nats be one of those? Don’t know, but we’re going to find out real soon. What we do know already is that the stars of this streak have already changed the Nats’ prospects for next season and, in every case, for the better.
For more by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.