WASHINGTON — The Nationals, despite recent injury concerns for Stephen Strasburg, are in the midst of a playoff-caliber season.
They have even, believe it or not, already proven they can win without Strasburg in the rotation. Their lead in the NL East midway through August — when Strasburg first went on the disabled list — was 8.5 games. When he returned on Wednesday, Sept. 7? 8.5 games.
There are those who wonder, though, how good the clubs really is.
When juxtaposing their dominance over their own division (42-19 at present time) against their record versus non-divisional opponents (40-39), one could make an argument the Nationals have benefited from beating up on a weak NL East.
This topic was posed to GM Mike Rizzo as the Burke & Herbert Bank Fan Question of the Week during his weekly segment with The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan.
Does it concern you that the Nats are 41-18 in the division but basically .500 against everyone else? — Diego in Charlottesville
“No, the secret is that you win two-out-of-three at home, you play .500 on the road,” Rizzo said. “Those are the championship recipes for success.”
Washington’s 41-31 (.569) road record is in fact better than .500.
“As I’ve often said, it’s not who you play, it’s when you play ’em,” Rizzo said. “We went into Chicago to play the Cubs; there were nobody beating the Cubs in those four games, they were on fire. They came back to us, we beat ’em two-out-of-three so we felt good about ourselves there.
“Against the better teams, we’ve played solid baseball against them. We match up with each team. We respect everybody that we play, but we don’t fear anybody. When we tee it up every night, I feel confident that we have the better team that night.”