Every game is critical for the Washington Nationals at this point, but this upcoming seven game homestand feels like it will be the most important one of the year. The Nats head home trailing the New York Mets by 6.5 games in the standings after salvaging the final game of their series in St. Louis. The Nats will face just one team with a winning record the rest of the way, and that happens to be the team that they're chasing six times. The first three of those games will be in Nats Park next week.
Before the Nats worry about making up ground head to head against the Mets, they'll welcome a Braves team that has lost fifteen of their past sixteen games. In those sixteen games, the Braves have been outscored 117-43! Atlanta's lone victory in their past sixteen games was a 5-3 win against the Colorado Rockies on August 24. The Braves have lost eight straight since that game, and suddenly find themselves with the second worst record in baseball (just 1.5 games better than the Phillies) after being swept at home by the Miami Marlins.
While the Nats will host Atlanta, the Mets will head to Miami for a three game set that begins tomorrow. It would be difficult to call the Marlins hot based on their 5-5 record in their past ten games, but they did just sweep the Braves in Atlanta. The Mets winning percentage at home (45-24, .652) is nearly 200 points better than their winning percentage on the road (29-35, .453), though New York did go 8-1 on their most recent road trip through Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Colorado. If the Marlins can take two out of three and the Nats can take care of business..... who knows.
Prior to the Nats most recent series in St. Louis, they'd won four straight series but had still not gained any ground in the division because of how thoroughly the Mets were dominating their weaker opponents. It's always difficult to say that any series should be swept. The beautiful thing about baseball is that even if the 2003 Tigers (43-119) played the 2001 Mariners (116-46) in a four game set, the expected result would be for the Tigers to win one of the four games. However, with the Nats staring a 6.5 game deficit in the face and the Braves being as cold as they've been lately, this is a series where the Nats should really be thinking that a sweep could be on the table.
The next seven days could really set the tone for what we expect from the Nats the rest of the way. If the Nats gain any ground over the weekend and then at least win the three game series against the Mets, the NL East race will be a dogfight. If the Nats don't gain any ground (or lose ground) in the next seven days, it's probably time to start thinking about 2016.
Let's be optimistic about this. The Nats have been ten games better at home (37-26, .587) than they have been on the road (30-39, .435). The Nats have the more favorable matchup of the two as they each play a series leading up to that showdown next week. This is a chance for the Nats to make a dent in the Mets lead and show the NL East leaders that they're coming for them. Go get 'em boys!