The defending World Series champs know the reality of the situation they’ve put themselves in with some sloppy play and a lot of losses at the start of this 60-game season. Having won four of their last five, the Washington Nationals are nine games under .500 on the year, and they’re 7.5 games back in the division and there are four teams ahead of them in the race to make the 2020 postseason.
“In this season, you go out and have yourself a really good week or week and a half you’re right back in the thick of it,” GM Mike Rizzo told reporters this past Sunday.
“We’ve got to get a few guys healthy and play better baseball, there’s no question about that, that’s a fact, but we feel like we’ve got the run in us. We’re going to take our chances, man. We’ve got a puncher’s chance. We put ourselves in a position again that we’ve got to do something extraordinary to get in the bubble, but we certainly haven’t given up any kind of hopes that we can do it, because we’ve been hot before, we’ve gone on streaks before, and I think once we get in, I think there’s going to be teams nervous about playing us.”
Coming off back-to-back wins over the American League’s top team, the Tampa Bay Rays, there was some guarded optimism among the Nats who spoke to reporters on Tuesday in the nation’s capital.
Sean Doolittle said there were some hints of 2019 right now, when a reporters asked if the fact that the Nationals dug a big hole for themselves led to them saying, ‘Screw it,’ let’s go out and play and see what happens.
“There’s a familiar feeling that’s starting to come back in the clubhouse, and I wouldn’t say it’s like, ‘Screw it,’ but it’s like, ‘Why not?’ This season has been so weird, so unique already, and I mean, why not?” Doolittle asked rhetorically.
But 41 games into a 60-game season, this is a bit different than the 19-31 start the Nationals did recover from last season, and there just might not be enough time to recover.
“Let’s see what we can do,” Doolittle said. “Let’s put our head down and grind these last like two and a half weeks out and not worry about what other teams are doing.
“We’re well aware of the position that we’re in, but keep coming to the field every day with the same energy that we’ve had for the last week, and we’re getting contributions from a lot of guys, it’s been really fun.”
“This last week has been fun, and like I said, it’s started to feel really, really familiar, and who knows what’s going to happen, but it’s been fun to be a part of it.”
“We’re playing the same baseball,” Juan Soto said when asked what’s changed as the club has won 4 of 5 after dropping 9 of the previous 10.
“We try to be together, we try to fight together, sometimes the things don’t go on your side, you just got to keep pushing,” the 22-year-old outfielder added.
“That’s the thing I see on this team, we never give up, we always keep pushing and I think that’s what has us where we are.”
“We got a pretty solid team,” Aníbal Sánchez said after a solid start in Tuesday’s win over the Rays, when Rizzo’s comment about what a difference a good week might make was noted.
“I know the numbers don’t say that, but the same happened last year, we started like really, really bad and we finished — won the World Series. This year I think we started the same, but I think it takes a little bit to get together to win games. But yeah, right now, I agree with Rizzo we just need a really good week and we’re back to the race.”
“I think that the team plays under pressure, yeah, the thing is we feel really good right now,” the 36-year-old, 15-year veteran said. “It’s not something that happened before, but I think that we don’t have both pieces together with pitchers and hitters, so sometimes like the pitching is good, the hitters didn’t do that well, like right now, and when they’re hitting really good the pitchers they don’t pitch well, but right now I think both pieces are together, and that’s why we started winning games.”