Going into the series finale with the New York Mets on Wednesday, Washington’s Nationals had won five of the previous six games, 10 of the previous 12, 12 of the previous 15, 17 of 21, and 20 of the previous 26 games going back to August 5th, and they’d won 59 of 87 going back to the turning point of the season on May 24th.
Unfortunately for Davey Martinez’s club’s chances in the NL East, the division-leading Braves were every bit as good, with a 58-31 record over that same stretch.
Since the 1st of August, Brian Snitker’s squad was 22-9, with wins in six straight games and 14 of the last 16 games.
“As much as [the Nationals] have been surging,” Snitker told MLB.com writer Mark Bowman this week, “we’ve done a little surge of our own, right at the right time too, because they’re hitting on all cylinders.”
After sweeping the Chicago White Sox in three straight, the Braves beat the Toronto Blue Jays in two games earlier this week before an off-day on Wednesday as the Nationals and New York Mets battled in the series finale in the nation’s capital.
With losses in two of three with the Mets in D.C., Martinez’s club fell to 7.0 games back in second-place in the East, but they still lead the NL Wild Card race (+3.0).
Over the next eleven days, the Nationals and Braves will play seven times, four in SunTrust Park starting tonight, and three in Nats Park next weekend (Sept. 13-15), after a three-game trip to Minnesota for Washington next Tuesday through Thursday.
Martinez talked after the 8-4 loss to the Mets (against whom the Nationals finished 7-12 this season), about heading down to Georgia for four important games with the Braves.
“We’ve got to go out — like I’ve said all along, we’ve got to focus on tomorrow, try to win that first one tomorrow, we’ve got a four-game series, let’s play well, we’ve got [Stephen] Strasburg pitching, and try to win that first one tomorrow,” he said, sticking with his “1-0 every day” approach.
Asked about the frustration of playing as well as they have and being unable to really make up any ground on the Braves, Martinez said that they have an opportunity to do that now.
“We’re playing really well, and they’re playing really well, but at least now we get a chance to go head-to-head, and play them and see what happens. Like I said, tomorrow we’ve got Strasburg pitching and we come out and we keep swinging the bats the way we’ve been swinging and we’ll score more runs than them.”
According to FiveThirtyEight.com’s predictions, the Nationals currently have a better shot at winning the World Series (6%), than the division (5%), with they have a 96% chance of making it back to the postseason, which the Nats’ skipper said was the important thing, since getting there is the first goal.
“Once you get in, anything can happen,” Martinez said. “You’re playing one game at a time, you’re focused on winning one game at a time. Eleven wins gets you that nice trophy, but right now we’re focusing on playing one game at a time, and once we get in, we’ll go from there.”