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Washington Nationals’ big lead in NL East shouldn’t concern anybody

The Washington Nationals entered play Thursday with a 9.5-game lead in the NL East, yet some seem to think that’s a bad thing.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Despite their up-and-down bullpen, Adam Eaton’s season-ending injury, and the suspension of their brightest star in Bryce Harper, the Washington Nationals sit comfortably atop the National League East — and it’s not even a competition.

The Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins entered play Thursday with records that range from five to 17 games under .500.

Freddie Freeman is out two months, Mr. Met is flipping off fans, the Phillies won just six games the entire month of May and this season is looking like the beginning of a rebuild for Miami.

Sports Illustrated has already handed the division title to the Nats, and ESPN gives them a 98.1 percent chance (INSIDER subscription required) of earning one of the top three NL playoff spots.

Barring an epic collapse or record-breaking turnaround from one of their floundering division rivals, the Nats are going to be playing some October baseball this season.

Recently, some people have taken notice of the Nationals’ sizable division lead and believe it could pose some problems down the road.

“Even when they struggle against other championship contenders, they can play .600 baseball simply by whipping the East and the cellar dwellers from other divisions,” Washington Post columnist Jerry Brewer wrote.

“It creates the worst thing for a team that aims to make a deep postseason run: a false sense of security.”

While there’s no doubt that the Nationals have benefited from an easy schedule thus far, they’re still 8-5 against teams currently .500 or better — including a 7-3 mark against the NL clubs in that group.

Just by taking a look at the personalities that fill up the clubhouse in Washington, it’s difficult to see any of them taking their foot off the gas pedal regardless of how many games up they are in the division.

Harper is one of the most animatedly competitive players in baseball.

Max Scherzer has the ability to stay locked in every time he takes the mound.

Ryan Zimmerman is truly leading the way on a competitive Nationals team for the first time in his career.

Stephen Strasburg is on a mission to prove he can stay healthy for the entirety of a full regular season.

The list goes on.

Washington’s inability to move past the first round of the playoffs will be all the fuel it needs to motivate the clubhouse once postseason baseball rolls around.

Harper and Murphy are only under contract for two more seasons.

Scherzer is nearing the end of his prime, and injuries will always be a factor with Zimmerman and Strasburg.

These stars know the time to capitalize is now, and “complacent” is one of the last words that should ever be used to describe them.