The Nationals’ 50 days in first place in the National League East came to a halt on Monday night. The Nationals fell to the Diamondbacks, 6-4, while the Mets drubbed the Marlins, 12-1. The Nationals fell one game behind the Mets in the division standings.
There is plenty of time. The Nationals have 58 games left, the majority at home, where the Nationals are 28-20. The winning percentage of the remaining teams on the schedule is a combined .470, lowest in baseball other than the Mets, whose remaining opponents have a .455 winning percentage. Despite the angst and concerns about the Nationals’ underlying issues — a sluggish offense, exasperating pitching mistakes — things could be worse.
Leading the charge is Bryce Harper. While much of the offense sputtered against top-end pitching the past two weeks, Harper thrived. Since the all-star break, he has a .288/.408/.492 slash line. Without his MVP-level contributions, the Nationals would be in a different place. And Harper has never been known for a lack of confidence.
Asked after Monday’s loss if he looked at the scoreboard, Harper offered an answer that has riled some opposing fans.
“You’ve just really try to stay within our team,” he said. “I don’t give a crap what the Mets are doing. Or Dodgers or Giants or Texas or anybody. I know what kind of team we are and our capability going into every single game and having the confidence to win ballgames and playing guys like this team over here that have a losing record. We’ve got to win these ballgames. We’ve got to scratch and fight and claw and try to win these games. Hopefully we can do that the rest of the time we’re here.”
Some may argue that Harper isn’t being humble or gracious. But why should he? He is expressing supreme confidence in his teammates, who have won two of the past three division titles. Harper isn’t stepping on his opponents; he is simply saying he concerns himself only with the Nationals and nothing beyond that.
Harper is also right: The Nationals need to take advantage of the sub-.500 teams they face. Against losing teams, the Nationals are only 30-28, worse than league average. So what comes across as brash is simply a statement of fact. The Nationals need only worry about their own issues in order to pull out of this post-all-star break skid.
IN THE POST
IN THE JOURNAL
NATIONALS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 9, Pawtucket 3: Stephen Strasburg, in his second rehab start, went 5 2/3 innings, allowed two runs on five hits and struck out 11. Matt Grace and Rafael Martin tossed scoreless outings. Matt Skole and Jason Martinson each homered. Trea Turner went 3 for 4 and is hitting .323.
Charleston 4, Hagerstown 3: Robert Orlan allowed two runs over five innings, and Mario Sanchez and Andrew Lee each coughed up one each, Jose Marmolejos-Diaz went 3 for 4.
West Virginia 6, Auburn 3: Taylor Gilbeau gave up 11 hits and six runs, Diomedes Eusebio homered. David Kerlan went 3 for 4,