For the Washington Nationals, heading to Philadelphia this past weekend and being swept by the Phillies probably wasn’t something they considered likely. The Nats were facing Kyle Kendrick the first game, and though they had to match up against Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee the next two games, they put out Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann against them. Sometimes, in a 162-game season, the cards don’t stack up in your favor and a four-game losing streak befalls you. Despite the rough couple days, don’t forget how the Nationals got here.
Yes, it’s been a terrible season for the Phillies this year, but it’s not like the Nats got destroyed in any of the three games. It was a product of pitching duels, and even though Halladay was hurt earlier this year and Lee has just three wins on the season (a pitcher’s record is meaningless, after all), their stuff is still among the best in baseball. Halladay and Lee were both on, the Nats’ bats were cold, and that’s just the way it works sometimes.
Even though losing to the Phillies, who Nats fans have united around hating, hurts, and the current four-game losing streak seems brutal, the Nats are still 19-11 in the last 30 games. That’s tied for the second-best record in baseball over that time period, tied with the Atlanta Braves. Over the last 20 games, they’re 13-7, and that’s two games better than the Braves during that period.
Last but certainly not least, at 77-50 (.606), the Nats are still 27 games above the .500 mark and are the only team in baseball with a winning percentage over .600. They’re the only team in the National League to have two pitchers (Strasburg and Gonzalez) in the top four in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and the only team even close to having three in the top 13 (Zimmermann). As a team, they still have the best ERA and most WAR in the majors.
Even with perceived struggles from the offense from time to time, the Nats as a team are top five in the NL in offensive WAR and batting average and top six in slugging with an about-average BABIP. They’re fourth in the NL in home runs. Combine that with the pitching mentioned above, and maybe you can remember why this team is in this position.
Obviously, frustration is part of any sports season, and baseball is unique because there tends to be more extended losing streaks than in other sports because of the season’s length. Combine that with Washington sports fans innate programming to hate everything from Philadelphia, and this weekend was a perfect storm of frustration. Just remember that when you want to believe this season is over because of a bad string of games, this is a special season from a special baseball team. Enjoy the ride, and don’t get caught up in the few bad moments. Focus on the many successes from the best team in baseball.