Sports

Nationals Surging Into Home Stretch of 2014 Season

by Chris Lingebach
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Scott Hairston #7 of the Washington Nationals is mobbed by teammates after driving in the game-winning run in the 11th inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park on August 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Scott Hairston #7 of the Washington Nationals is mobbed by teammates after driving in the game-winning run in the 11th inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park on August 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – With their gutty 11th-inning 6-5 walk-off sac fly victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday night, the Washington Nationals secured the best winning percentage (.566) in the National League, for the time being.

What does this mean for the Nationals as they close in on the end of the 2014 regular season?

Here’s a layman’s guide to where they stand.

At 69-53 and 40 games to play, the Nationals are the fourth best team in Major League Baseball — behind the Angels (72-50), Athletics (73-51) and Orioles (70-52) — with a 6-game divisional lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.

Prior to last night’s win, the Nationals already had a 98 percent chance to make the playoffs, as gauged by Baseball Prospectus, and were tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers with 14.8 percent odds of winning the World Series, behind only the LA Angels (15.8%) of the American League.

Should Nats fans put any stock in those odds? Absolutely not. They mean ultimately nothing.

But they do lend perspective on where Washington fits within the playoff picture as it comes into view.

The Nats are 12th in the Majors in runs scored (514), while giving up the third least runs (422), giving them the third best run differential (+92) behind Oakland (+161) and Seattle (+99).

But baseball is a game of streaks. Who could forget when the 2007 Colorado Rockies won 21 of their final 22 games, and swept their way to the National League Championship on the way to the team’s first World Series appearance (which didn’t end well; they were swept by the Red Sox).

Denard Span’s On-Base Streak Ends at 36 Games

And the Nationals are currently enjoying the league’s best streak, at six games, and have the third best August record in baseball (11-5), behind Seattle (11-4) and Kansas City (13-3), while going 8-4 against the NL East (with 3 to go) in the month.

Look. A lot can happen in 40 games — or roughly one quarter of the season — something which absolutely should not be discounted.

So while it’s certainly far too soon to begin determining the Nationals’ magic number (games needed to win the division), the end (of the regular season) is near, and as the Nats look to keep their streak alive with hopes of building upon their NL East lead, fans, in their own homes, can reasonably begin doing their own math, and penciling circles around Sept. 30 on their calendars (tentatively).

[Edit: As @TheRallyMullet has informed, the magic number can very easily be determined to be 34.]

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