Nationals players celebrate after clinching a spot in the wild-card game. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

With a 6-4 loss to the New York Mets on May 23, the Washington Nationals fell a season-worst 12 games under .500. According to Baseball-Reference.com’s playoff odds, which are based on 1,000 simulations of the rest of the season using an estimated true talent level for each team, Washington had a 3 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason when it opened a four-game series against Miami the following day.

The 10 Nationals games that produced the largest swings

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May 23 would turn out to be the low point of a roller-coaster regular season that ended with the Nationals clinching a spot in Tuesday’s National League wild-card game. Over the next four months, Washington’s playoff odds fluctuated daily, based both on the Nationals’ results and the performance of the teams in the NL East and wild-card races. During the wildest season in team history, here are the 10 games, most of them not especially memorable, that produced the largest swings, according to ­Baseball-Reference’s ­metric.

April 10: Nationals 15, Phillies 1

Playoff chances increased from 46 to 58 percent.

April 10

15

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1

Playoff chances increased

from 46 to 58 percent.

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April

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Aug.

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April 10

15

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1

Playoff chances increased

from 46 to 58 percent.

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April

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100%

April 10

Playoff chances increased

from 46 to 58 percent.

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April

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100%

April 10

Playoff chances increased

from 46 to 58 percent.

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September

Jeremy Hellickson pitched six scoreless innings, Matt Adams had four RBI, and the Nationals went 10 for 18 with runners in scoring position. Reliever Trevor Rosenthal lowered his ERA from infinity to 72.00 by recording the first three outs of his season in his fifth appearance.

“To come out of the first couple weeks after a bit of a rough stretch and be 6-5 right now, of course we’d like to be 8-3, but we’ve got a long way to go,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said after Washington won its second straight series against an NL East foe.

The win moved the Nationals a game back of the Phillies for the division lead. With a favorable schedule on the horizon, Washington’s playoff chances increased to 58 percent.

April 19: Marlins 3, Nationals 2

Playoff chances decreased from 64 to 53 percent.

April 19

3

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2

Playoff chances decreased

from 64 to 53 percent.

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40

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0

April

May

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July

Aug.

Sept.

April 19

3

-

2

Playoff chances decreased

from 64 to 53 percent.

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0

April

May

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July

Aug.

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100%

April 19

Playoff chances decreased

from 64 to 53 percent.

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2

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More than 50%

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April

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June

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September

100%

April 19

Playoff chances increased

from 64 to 53 percent.

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September

Aníbal Sánchez allowed three runs over five-plus innings and Caleb Smith limited the Nationals to one run in six innings as the Marlins won the first of 19 matchups with Washington.

“We got to put the ball in play and move the runner,” Martinez said after his team fell to 9-9. “It sounds simple, and yet they just have to do it.”

The loss lowered Washington’s playoff chances to 53 percent.

May 1: Cardinals 5, Nationals 1

Playoff chances decreased from 43 to 30 percent.

May 1

5

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1

Playoff chances decreased

from 43 to 30 percent.

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April

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May 1

5

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1

Playoff chances decreased

from 43 to 30 percent.

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April

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100%

May 1

80

Playoff chances decreased

from 43 to 30 percent.

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More than 50%

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100%

80

May 1

Playoff chances decreased

from 43 to 30 percent.

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1

60

More than 50%

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April

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September

Washington fell to 1-6 in games started by Max Scherzer and saw its playoff chances dip to 30 percent after losing for the eighth time in 11 games.

“It’s been frustrating,” Martinez said. “I’m sure it’s frustrating for Max, too.”

It marked the sixth time in Scherzer’s first seven starts that the Nationals scored three or fewer runs.

May 9: Nationals 6, Dodgers 0

Playoff chances increased from 20 to 31 percent.

May 9

6

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0

Playoff chances increased

from 20 to 31 percent.

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April

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May 9

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Playoff chances increased

from 20 to 31 percent.

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April

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100%

80

May 9

Playoff chances increased

from 20 to 31 percent.

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60

More than 50%

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April

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100%

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May 9

Playoff chances increased

from 20 to 31 percent.

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Patrick Corbin pitched seven scoreless innings, and Howie Kendrick hit a three-run homer in the first to help the Nationals end a four-game losing streak. Washington’s playoff chances jumped to 31 percent from a season-low 20 percent.

“I still think we’re a very good ballclub,” Corbin said after the best start of his first season with Washington. “Things are going to turn around for sure. The guys in here are too good for us to keep losing.”

Things would get worse for Washington.

May 17: Cubs 14, Nationals 6

Playoff chances decreased from 21 to 11 percent.

May 17

14

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6

Playoff chances decreased

from 21 to 11 percent.

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April

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May 17

14

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6

Playoff chances decreased

from 21 to 11 percent.

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April

May

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May 17

80

Playoff chances decreased

from 21 to 11 percent.

60

14

6

More than 50%

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April

May

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100%

May 17

80

Playoff chances decreased

from 21 to 11 percent.

14

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The bullpen reared its ugly head again: Washington relievers allowed 11 runs over the final three innings to turn a close game into a blowout loss.

“It’s frustrating. Trust me,” Martinez said. “It’s frustrating [for the bullpen to pitch like this], especially when the game’s within reach.”

The loss ended the Nationals’ modest two-game winning streak and lowered their playoff odds to 11 percent.

July 5: Royals 7, Nationals 4 (11)

Playoff chances decreased from 46 to 35 percent.

July 5

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Playoff chances decreased

from 46 to 35 percent.

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April

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July 5

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Playoff chances decreased

from 46 to 35 percent.

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April

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July 5

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4

80

Playoff chances decreased

from 46 to 35 percent.

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April

May

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100%

July 5

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80

Playoff chances decreased

from 46 to 35 percent.

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The Nationals stranded 19 runners, and reliever Jonny Venters allowed three runs in the 11th after Washington rallied to tie the score with two runs in the ninth.

“Couldn’t get hits in the big moment,” Martinez said.

The Braves and Phillies both won that day, further damaging the Nationals’ playoff odds.

July 28: Nationals 11, Dodgers 4

Playoff chances increased from 52 to 62 percent.

July 28

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Playoff chances increased

from 52 to 62 percent.

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April

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July 28

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Playoff chances increased

from 52 to 62 percent.

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July 28

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4

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from 52 to 62 percent.

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April

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July 28

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80

Playoff chances increased

from 52 to 62 percent.

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Martinez was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the first inning and then watched from the clubhouse as his Nationals ended a three-game losing streak behind Stephen Strasburg’s strong start.

Strasburg allowed one run in seven innings to win his seventh straight start.

“Once we get healthy, once we get everything going, I think we match up really well with them,” Martinez said of the Dodgers, now a potential NLDS foe. “Granted, their record’s better than ours, but if you look, we match up really well.”

Aug. 4: Diamondbacks 7, Nationals 5

Playoff chances decreased from 55 to 45 percent.

August 4

7

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5

Playoff chances decreased

from 55 to 45 percent.

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April

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August 4

7

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Playoff chances decreased

from 55 to 45 percent.

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20

0

April

May

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More than 50%

Playoff chances

Less than 50%

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Aug. 4

20

7

5

Playoff chances decreased

from 55 to 45 percent.

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April

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Aug. 4

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Playoff chances decreased

from 55 to 45 percent.

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One night after an 18-7 loss to the Diamondbacks that ended with second baseman Brian Dozier on the mound, the Nationals suffered another bullpen letdown when Wander Suero allowed two runs in the seventh inning to break a 5-5 tie.

Washington’s playoff chances, which were 64 percent after a win in the opener of the three-game series in Arizona, fell to 45 percent.

“We’ll get it back together,” Martinez said when asked how the Nationals could end a recent slide. “We will.”

Aug. 5: Nationals 4, Giants 0

Playoff chances increased from 45 to 57 percent.

August 5

4

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0

Playoff chances increased

from 45 to 57 percent.

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April

May

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August 5

4

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0

Playoff chances increased

from 45 to 57 percent.

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April

May

June

July

Aug.

Sept.

Aug. 5

100%

0

4

80

Playoff chances increased

from 45 to 57 percent.

60

More than 50%

Playoff chances

Less than 50%

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20

0

April

May

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July

August

September

100%

Aug. 5

0

4

Playoff chances increased

from 45 to 57 percent.

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April

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The Nationals got it back together the following night in San Francisco, where fifth starter Erick Fedde pitched six scoreless innings in a shutout win.

“I needed a bounce-back,” said Fedde, who allowed a career-high nine runs in a start against the Braves the previous week. “Just to mentally be there, and it was really good.”

Washington’s playoff chances wouldn’t dip below 50 percent for the remainder of the season.

Aug. 14: Nationals 17, Reds 7

Playoff chances increased from 69 to 79 percent.

August 14

17

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7

Playoff chances increased

from 69 to 79 percent.

100%

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0

April

May

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Aug.

Sept.

August 14

17

-

7

Playoff chances increased

from 69 to 79 percent.

100%

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20

0

April

May

June

July

Aug.

Sept.

Aug. 14

100%

17

7

Playoff chances increased

from 69 to 79 percent.

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60

More than 50%

Playoff chances

Less than 50%

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20

0

April

May

June

July

August

September

Aug. 14

100%

17

7

Playoff chances increased

from 69 to 79 percent.

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60

More than 50%

Playoff chances

Less than 50%

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April

May

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July

August

September

The Nationals completed a three-game sweep of the Reds and moved a season-high 10 games over .500 thanks to a 10-run fifth inning that started with Strasburg’s RBI single and ended with Kurt Suzuki’s three-run homer.

“Hitting is contagious. They say it all the time,” Suzuki said. “When you get guys to swing the bats, get the ball rolling, get guys on base, you know, things happen. One guy hits, and it seems like everybody keeps hitting.”

The win was the Nationals’ seventh in nine games and improved their playoff chances to 79 percent. They only went up from there.

Read more:

Nationals clinch home-field advantage in NL wild-card game with seventh straight win

Max Scherzer feels as strong as ever for wild-card start

Baseball according to Gerardo Parra

Ryan Zimmerman is at the end of his deal, and it’s hard to imagine the Nats without him

How Asdrúbal Cabrera evolved to become the utility player the Nationals need

Graphics by Adrián Blanco.