Washington Nationals-003

In a week during which the Washington Nationals ought to have gained ground in the National League East divisional race, it was managerial blunders that again cost the team.
Washington should have swept the St. Louis Cardinals in a pivotal three-game series last week but two consecutive days of poor decision-making by team manager Matt Williams resulted in two losses.  Williams turned to relief pitcher Casey Jansen—usually a set up man—to close out both Games One and Two instead of usual closer Jonathan Papelbon, but Jansen blew both save opportunities. Only a victory in the rubber match snapped the Nationals’ nine-game losing streak in St. Louis. Winning the series would have provided a crucial boost to Washington’s team psyche as the Cards have dominated the Nats since 2012.

Still, the Nationals have won eight of their last 11 games heading into the biggest series of the season, a three-game set in D.C. against the first place New York Mets from Sept. 7 to Sept. 9. Despite the Nationals’ good fortune in the last two weeks, the Mets have played just as well, preventing Washington from making a meaningful dent in the standings. As of Sept. 6, the Nationals sat four games behind the Mets in the NL East and seven games out of a Wild Card berth, making the head-to-head matchup critical for both teams.

Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has been on a torrid pace, batting .467 with 14 RBIs and four homers in his last seven games. On Sept. 3, right fielder Bryce Harper became the youngest player in MLB history to score four runs in a game without an official at-bat, having drawn four walks. The achievement further cements the likelihood of MVP honors for the 24-year-old.

If the Nats are able to sweep the Mets in their upcoming series, all bets are off.  The Mets are a young team and haven’t played meaningful September baseball, but the Nats have.  Will experience be rewarded, or will youthful exuberance make the difference? Starting Monday in Southwest D.C., we will find out.