The Washington Nationals arrived home from Chicago for an 11 game home stand that starts Thursday night. The Nats play four games against the Arizona Diamondbacks, four against the Philadelphia Phillies, and three against the Atlanta Braves.
Washington is currently 31-36 and eight games behind the Braves for first in the NL East. With the upcoming home stand against teams all with a winning record, these games will dictate the rest of Washington’s season. Here’s why.
Make or Break
Washington has won 12 of their last 17 to climb back into the NL East race. While their run is impressive, only Atlanta had a winning record out of all the teams they faced over the last 17 games. The upcoming home stand is against far better opponents and will showcase where the Nationals stand. By winning eight of the 11 games, which would mean they won every series, the team would have a record of 39-39. This feat would put the team at .500 again with just over 80 games left in the season. This would give Washington ample time to then trim the lead in the division and allow the team to buy at the trade deadline.
Having a losing record on the upcoming home stand would put the team in an even deeper hole, one that would be far more difficult to climb out of. Atlanta has won six straight and are now first in the NL East. Failing to close ground on them may be to much for Washington to rebound from and could lead to the team selling at the deadline instead of trying to compete.
How Washington can have a successful home stand
Washington can continue their current success due to the emergence of the team’s offense. As a team, Washington is hitting .252 which is good for 14th best in the league. Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Juan Soto and Matt Adams have all returned from the IL and have started to find their strides at the plate.
Since May 24 Washington is averaging 6.35 runs per game which is the best in the league. This corresponds with the offense finally being at full strength again. A key reason to the Nationals latest offensive surge has been Howie Kendrick. Kendrick has provided a boost to the offense even at the age of 35. He is hitting .325 with 11 home runs and an OPS of .961 in 163 at bats. Kendrick has
Washington’s bullpen will have no room for error this time around. The bullpen has been better lately which is partly due to the emergence of rookie Tanner Rainey. In 11 innings pitched, Rainey has an ERA of 1.64 with 17 strikeouts and a blown save. He hasn’t allowed a run to score in his last six appearances. After a rocky start, Rainey found his composure and has started to lock down the seventh inning. If Rainey can remain consistent, it can go a long way to the bullpen turning over a new leaf.
How they can falter
The bullpen is still a question mark to say the least. Despite the emergence of Tanner Rainey, the bullpen has an ERA of 6.33 which is last in the league. Closer Sean Doolittle has not be as dominant as he was in years passed. This year he has an ERA of 3.58 with 35 strikeouts and is 14/17 on save opportunities. To put things in perspective, this is the highest Doolittle’s ERA has been since his 2015 season. With most of the bullpen struggling, Washington cannot afford Doolittle to be inconsistent.
This home stand is crucial Washington and will dictate what happens at the trade deadline.
Feature Image From ClutchPoints.
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