Despite being considered among the most powerful cities in the world, and certainly the most powerful politically, when it comes to sports, DC has long been considered a city filled with lovable losers. Something is certainly shifting, as the Capitals and Wizards have both advanced to the second round of their respective playoffs, and the Redskins are finally showing sense in the front office. Logic would suggest that these positive experiences should be rubbing off on the Nationals, right? Well, not exactly, but for the most part, yes.
Nothing is perfect. At some point in every experience, there is a night of despair and darkness. Although the Nationals are barely a month into the season, one might argue that the point passed already, in the midsts of neon-green walls and fish tanks at Marlins Park. The Nationals, after a disappointing and uncharacteristic start to the season, were already below .500, the mark of decency in any sports team. When the team rolled into Miami, fresh off of two straight losses to St. Louis, they expected at least an easy series win. Instead, Miami, who has been considered a pushover for longer than the Nationals had been winners, served up a three game sweep to put the Nationals at a meager 7-12. They entered Atlanta, and were handed another loss, making it six in a row. To say the least, things looked pretty bleak.
Another blow had been dealt earlier in the week, as Max Scherzer, the million dollar man, had jammed his hand in a previous game, and wasn’t available for his next start. The Nationals called up number 3 prospect A.J. Cole, in hopes that he’d stop the skid. The opposite happened. He made one error, and the wheels came off the car. By the end of the second inning, the Nationals found themselves in an 8 run hole, down 9-1. However, the roaring cry of “It’s still early” finally prevailed in the most unlikely of situations. As color analyst F.P. Santangelo said, “The greatest comeback ever started with a leadoff double in the third.” By the 9th inning, the score was 12-10, Braves. The Nationals proceeded to put two runners on base, and Dan Uggla sent one deep into the night, giving the Nationals a lead, and giving himself vengeance against his former club. An encore performance was put on the next night, where, once again, the Nationals scored 13 runs.
The momentum carried into New York, where the Nationals defeated the Mets and the typically lights-out Jacob DeGrom in an 8-2 showing of dominance. But, the ups and downs of the season presented another challenge, in the name of Matt Harvey, who silenced the Nationals hot bats, shutting them out completely. The bullpen faltered, giving up three runs and Jayson Werth couldn’t figure things out on defense in left field. However, reassurance was provided; the last two games of the series were 1-0 victories for the Nationals. That’s right. In the last three games of the series, the Nationals were held to 2 runs total. Yes, that was sarcasm.
But even with the horrendous batting with runners in scoring position, many positives came out from those two games. The bullpen, including closer Drew Storen finally has the confidence they needed so desperately earlier and the shutdown pitching they were expected to provide. The starting rotation, after a quietly bad start to the season excepting Max Scherzer’s masterful performances, finally got their mojo back. Ian Desmond finally hit, breaking an 0-for-29 streak.
The Nationals finally caught (to an extent) onto the good vibes provided around the city. Did these wins come from subpar pitching in Atlanta and a bad bullpen in New York? Possibly. But could’ve they also come from hot Nats bats and a great pitching staff? Also a possibility. In all likelihood, it was a mixture of the two. But no matter what, they were wins. And they were what the team needed, no matter what. The Nationals finished the ten-game road trip 5-5, a .500 record, the mark of decency. The series got the job done. But it showed some glaring issues. Nats fans can walk away from this series feeling good about their team, but there are still certainly some kinks to work out.