That is, perhaps, one of the most pressing questions about this team. Entering Thursday’s game, they sit at 27-26 after 53 games and are 4.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East standings. If they lose to the Orioles in the series finale, it will be the seventh time this season they will have a .500 record. Last year, they had a .500 record only once — on April 9. It’s hard not to overstate how much of an accomplishment it was to win 98 games. That’s difficult to do and the Nationals, as they’ve played now, aren’t on that pace.
But to put their current record in perspective, consider this: The Nationals’ worst 53-game stretch last season was a 27-26 mark from April 26 to June 25. They have already accomplished that this season with a 27-26 mark through the first 53 games. The Nationals’ record didn’t appear worse during that near-.500 stretch last season because they started the season 14-4. So, my colleague Adam Kilgore pointed out after Wednesday’s loss, do the Nationals have a hot three weeks in them? If so, that would correct the disappointing start to the season.
When other teams struggle, like the Angels or Dodgers, they have sub-.500 records. The Nationals’ talent, and some luck, has them above .500. According to their Pythagorean record, which is based on their run differential, their record should actually be 24-29. The Nationals’ high watermark of the season is five games over .500, which they’ve accomplished three times. Their longest winning streak is five games, which they have done only once. Teams hit hot streaks, see the Braves to start the season; it’s just a matter of when.
There is plenty of time — 109 games — for the Nationals to correct their start. In order to win 90 games, the Nationals would need to play .578 baseball (63-46) for the remainder of the season. Their current winning percentage is .509. The winning percentage of their remaining opponents is, as of now, .468. They play the Orioles and a big series in Atlanta against the Braves looms. The coming days will be an interesting, and perhaps telling, stretch.