by Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – After being leveled by the Braves and humbled Tuesday night, 8-2, by the Marlins, the Washington Nationals find themselves in an early season fall from grace from preseason expectations. But fear not Nats fans. It’s only April, and they’re still shaking the winter rust off.

Washington was almost unanimously predicted to be the NL East favorite by top media pundits, a sentiment that seemed justified when the Nats surged to a 7-2 start against the Marlins, Reds and White Sox to open the season.

But since then, they’ve faltered with a 1-4 regression to the mean, led by a 3-game drubbing by division rival (and preseason prediction snub) Atlanta.

“The Braves just made an early statement,” Seth Everett told 106.7 The Fan’s Lavar and Dukes on Tuesday. “Now the Nationals have to circle those games and those just became very interesting.”

They’ll want to get their pitching woes behind them before they head to Atlanta at the end of April, though. The Nats currently possess the 20th ranked pitching staff by ERA (4.29), with a bullpen that’s struggled to close out games – blowing three of eight save opportunities.

Comparatively, the Braves are 1st (1.83 ERA), closing all six of six save opportunities.

It’s easy to dismiss all this as ‘it’s only April’ and maybe this discussion will prove meaningless by the end of the season (or even the end of the month), but as it stands right now, the developing storyline is the Braves are playing with a chip on their shoulders, and the Nationals have under-served expectations.

Related: Nats Fall in Miami; Zimmerman Plagued by Errors

“The Braves are in this for the long haul,” Everett said. “This is not going to be a runaway.”

But Everett still favors the Nats over the stretch of the season, despite the bleak early outlook.

“Yes, because the Braves are pitching over their heads and the Nationals haven’t achieved their potential yet,” he admitted. “I think the best that you’re going to see from the Nats is still to come.”

After Wednesday’s game against the Marlins, the Nats will close out the month of April with three games against the middling Mets (7-6), three more against the streaking Cardinals (8-5, 7-3 in the last 10), before getting a 4-game shot at redemption against the Reds (6-7), and then the Braves (12-1).

And as mentioned earlier, there’s A LOT of baseball left to play. This is merely a developing storyline.

Follow 106.7 The Fan and Seth Everett on Twitter.


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