It’s hard to believe now, but when the sun rose on the first day of the month, the Nats were three games ahead in first place and looking…well, sort of all right. Werth and Zim were coming back, Strasburg wasn’t far behind and soon all would be right with the world.
Instead, it all went to shit. The Nats lost the final two games of the series to the Mets and then — somehow — went 3-4 in a home series against the forgettable Diamondbacks and the genuinely lowly Rockies. They’re a game and a half out of first, lucky to be there, fighting to stay above .500 and facing a road trip that could make them nearly irrelevant for the rest of the year.
This crapfest came in a week in which Drew Storen began dealing with his demotion for apparently pitching too well, and he responded by blowing two games in epic fashion as the setup guy. The somewhat-but-not-entirely-unfair knock on Storen has been that when you really, really need him, he shrinks. Now, he’s burnished that rep. He cost the Nats two games they should have won against a weak-sister ballclub.
Now comes the pain: Three in LA against the Dodgers (including, arguably, the two best starters in the National League), four in San Francisco against the Giants and three against the suddenly evil Rockies in the comical environment of Denver. Meanwhile, the Mets will play at home, where they have been the ’27 Yankees this year. It’s entirely possible that the Nats will return home four or five games out of first, demoralized, below .500 and in search of answers.
But if they can just hang through this stretch — and the Giants have looked a little human lately and have a pitching-friendly park — the Nats then get nine games at home against the Brewers, Padres and Marlins. And that is the realistic hope: a 6-4 or even 5-5 road trip, followed by a chance to get well. In fact, the Nats play 18 games at home and only 10 on the road in September, and suddenly you can see a sunny path for them that might somehow end with them wining the East again.
But the odds are now against it. Even the Baseball Prospectus thinks so.