There was a lot of hype entering the Washington Nationals series against the New York Yankees this weekend. Some even billed it as a potential World Series preview. After a sweep, it is easy to feel dejected about the Nats, and to be sure, no one would blame you if you felt a little deflated after all of the excitement about the series. Before you do, there are a few critical things to remember.
- The Nats are 38-26; that’s 12 games above the .500 mark. On April 5, are you saying you wouldn't be thrilled and surprised by that? Additionally, they’re still in first-place and a solid four games up on the No. 2 team in the National League East, the Atlanta Braves, due to an all-around bad weekend for the division. They’re five games above .500 at home even after the sweep, and seven above .500 on the road.
- After being swept at home, the Nationals still have the fourth-best winning percentage in all of baseball and the second-best in the NL. They have the fourth-best run differential in the NL despite being fifth-worst in runs scored per game. It’s a winning recipe if the pitching staff can keep going, and they’ve shown they can.
- The Nats were swept by three teams this year (Dodgers, Marlins, Yankees), and each of them are above-.500 teams. Two of those three are in first place in their respective divisions (Dodgers and Yankees). Meanwhile, they’ve swept the Marlins (two-game series), Braves, Red Sox, and Blue Jays, with the last three on the road. All of those teams are, again, above-.500.
Instead of looking at the loss, look at how the Nats played. This weekend, for example, the game on Friday was in reach until Brad Lidge blew it open in the seventh inning, allowing three earned runs. The same goes for Saturday when Lidge allowed two earned in the 14th inning. Now, Brad Lidge no longer plays for the Nationals. If you don’t perform, you won’t be a contributor to the team. That wasn't the case in previous years.
The Nationals offense exploded on the last road trip, and they were effectively scoring runs against lackluster pitching. However, they stranded 24 base runners this weekend. That’s a completely unacceptable number if your team is going to win games. Even still, the starting pitching continues to keep the team in every game.
I could go on and on. Winning baseball can be more exhausting than losing baseball, but rather than finding a reason to not believe in this 2012 Nationals team, we should start looking for the reasons to believe, and there are many. Start looking at this team’s total body of work rather than just one over-inflated series. It will make the last two-thirds of the season a lot more fun.