Look, the Nats seem to have done fine for themselves without Bryce Harper, no doubt. But watching what he did last night sure does remind you the electric potential he always had the ability to uncork. Then again, the standings seem to tell another story.
Here’s the news from Nationals Park:
Left for dead: How the Nationals are emulating two long shots with an improbable playoff run (The Athletic)
When the Houston Chronicle pronounced the 2005 Astros—the team that won that year's NL pennant—dead in June, it triggered something of a turnaround. When the Rockies' brass fired Clint Hurdle in the early days of the Rockies' 2009 season, they sprinted to the Wild Card. Those are the only two teams who have made the playoffs after being 12 or more games under. Now, the bigger question: if the Nats can make it to October, will the grit, team chemistry and humility that comes with having reached rock bottom lead them to a playoff series win?
Ryan Zimmerman Q and A (MLB.com)
In yet another frustrating year for Ryan Zimmerman, Bill Ladson sat down with him to talk about his future. He plans to take it year by year, potentially implying he might make next year his last one, but he also knows he's no longer worth the option on his contract — meaning that he'll sit down with Ted Lerner and work it out. This year's team also apparently reminds him quite a lot of the 2012 team, and he respects Davey Martinez for sticking with his guys even when things went south, while knowing there's a slim possibility—though not one he's particularly interested in—that he plays elsewhere next year.
Sean Doolittle’s heavy workload could make him a free agent this offseason (WaPo)
The Nats have a $6.5 million option on Sean Doolittle that they'd be insane not to exercise. But if he hits 100 finished games between 2018 and 2019, then he'll get a vesting option he can decline to go on the open market, which, let's just say, wouldn't be ideal.
Juan Soto is filling Bryce Harper's shoes for the Nationals (Sports Illustrated)
Pitchers have started profiling him before he arrives in their stadium. He's hitting at an incredible clip and is improving his defense steadily. But unlike Bryce Harper, he doesn't necessarily seem stardom-obsessed or too cool for it all: He still gasps when the chef builds the onion volcano at Benihana, apparently, and doesn't drink alcohol. Apparently, if and when the Nats make the playoffs, they'll celebrate with grape juice for Soto's sake?
It's time to enjoy the 2019 Nationals, not complain about them (MASN)
Yes, Scherzer is still injured; yes, they lost two of three to the Mets; yes, Sean Doolittle's arm is about to fall off; yes, Anthony Rendon is destined for free agency. But for all the negativity, for all the despair, the Nats have played .657 ball for almost three months. That's insane — so while fans should acknowledge the problems, they should also realize how incredible what they're watching is.
Nats' depth a key to run for wild card berth (MASN)
From Gerardo Parra to Asdrubal Cabrera to Howie Kendrick and Matt Adams, the Nats' bench has been lethal this year despite being one of the older groups in the league — and the elder statesmen of the team have been given the reigns in the clubhouse in many ways, so the team has gelled quite well.
The Nationals’ best dugout home run dances (WaPo)
Anthony Rendon did the dougie. Kurt Suzuki flossed and surfed. Brian Dozier twerked and rode piggyback on another National. So which celebration ranks on top?
Shaking the WC contenders (Sweetspot — Nationals Baseball)
"We're in unprecedented territory here. Unless the Nats just tank - and I'm talking like a 1-9, 0-10 type swing, we're getting important games throughout September."
From 12 games under to 10 over, Nats lead NL wild-card race (AP/FOX)
For the first time in 14 months, the Nats are ten games over .500. They're leading the NL wild-card standings and can put some distance between themselves and the Brewers this weekend. Does 19-31 feel like it was long ago or what?
These 30 players were underrated as prospects (MLB.com)
"The D-backs acquired [Patrick] Corbin from the Angels in July 2010, a little more than a year after the latter had taken him in the second round. He never ranked higher than No. 8 on Arizona’s preseason Top 30 list during the next two years before joining the team’s big league rotation in early 2012. He ultimately pitched to a 3.91 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 945 2/3 innings during his six years with the D-backs, then signed a six-year, $140 million pact with the Nationals last offseason."
5 feats to watch in NL East down the stretch (MLB.com)
It's the race for Max Scherzer's fourth Cy Young that'll be most compelling as an individual storyline, apparently.