Ten days over the course of a six-month baseball season is not a long time, but in a pennant race it can seem like an eternity. For the Nats, that's how long it took for them to finally gain a game in the NL East on the New York Mets, who lately seem like they just do not lose.
But on Saturday they did lose, their second game in a row as a matter of fact. And now they face a potential sweep at the hands of the last-place Boston Red Sox. Their loss, combined with the Nats' 5-1 over the Miami Marlins, cut the division deficit to 5 1/2 games. The Nats now enter Sunday with a chance to win their fourth consecutive series.
The Nats suffered a bad loss on Friday night, but here they are with another series victory ready for the taking. Winning each series for the rest of the season has been their mantra for the last several weeks, a message the team's veterans have preached on almost a daily basis.
So far, so good.
"It’s the big leagues, you’re not gonna win every single game. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the Marlins or the Cardinals," Ryan Zimmerman said. "It’s not possible to win every single game at this level. We’re gonna lose. Just try and win series and go from there."
"You’re not gonna go perfect in this game. You can’t expect to go out and sweep a team every single time you play them," Clint Robinson said. "There’s gonna be losses and we’re not gonna win out the rest of the year, I’m sure. It would be great if we did but more than likely not gonna happen. We just go out and take care of our business."
Before losing their two most recent games to Boston, the Mets had won seven straight. They have the best offense in baseball since they traded for Yoenis Cespedes and set a franchise record for homers in a month four days before August was over. They have at times looked unstoppable, like a team that could run away with the division and leave the Nats far behind.
That could still very well happen, but this weekend has opened the Nats' window ever so slightly. They keep tabs on how the Mets are doing and were well-aware that New York had lost earlier in the afternoon.
"I don’t know about everybody else but I [check the scores]. That’s who we’re chasing in the playoff race," Robinson said. "If I see that they lost and it’s a chance for us to gain a game, absolutely. I want that just as bad as I do any other win. We saw it and it’s just a good opportunity for us to gain a game and we went out and got it."
"Everybody knows," manager Matt Williams said. "If we win, we have opportunity to do that. If we don't, then we don't. Tomorrow's another opportunity. If we can win that one, then we can have that same chance tomorrow, as well."
The Nats have a good chance to keep it going on Sunday with Stephen Strasburg on the mound. He has been far and away their best starting pitcher since he returned from the disabled list on Aug. 8. Starting for Miami will be Brad Hand, who has a 4.23 ERA and was in the Marlins' bullpen as of a month ago.
Time and time again this season many have pointed to an opportunity ahead of the Nats, a chance to take advantage of a matchup at an advantageous time. Winners of five of their last seven, perhaps the time is now.