Here we go into the abyss. The rest of the year for the Washington Nationals consists of games against teams fighting to get that last spot in the National League playoffs. Meanwhile, the Braves get to play the terrible Marlins, the surrender-monkey Mets and the ice-cold Pirates — and three key games against the Phillies. Only the Phillies, who kicked the Braves out of the playoffs last year on the last day of the season, look like they’re capable of putting up much of a fight.
Meanwhile, we get the Dodgers, the white-hot Brewers, the Phillies in Philadelphia, the Cardinals in St. Louis and — finally — the Phillies again, at home. Why in the world we have such a tough, backloaded schedule is anyone’s guess, but there it is.
Five games stand between the Nats and the Braves after last weekend’s horrid sweep in Atlanta. Back in early August, I predicted the Braves would pass the Nats and win the division. No one really wants to be a wild card team, which puts your entire season on the line in a single-game playoff (a phenomenally dumb idea). But I look at the schedules of the two teams, and at the way the Nats seemed to fold like a chair in Atlanta, and I fear my prediction will come true.
The last time the Nats looked this bad, during a five-game losing streak in late August and early September, they responded by playing their best baseball of the season. That’s what champions do. It’s time to see once again whether this team is truly a champion.