The Nationals reached a new low point of their season Thursday, falling to 12-23 on the year after being swept in four games by the Philadelphia Phillies. It marked the first time Washington was 11 games under .500 since May 24, 2019 — the day they began climbing out of their 19-31 start last season.
Overall, Washington has lost six in a row and nine of its last 10 games. Things couldn’t be more different for the team on the other side of the field. The Phillies have won four straight and nine of their last 10 games, something former Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper said Philadelphia needed to do in order to climb back into contention.
“We have minimal games to play this year and we have to be able to get out there and play our game and we have to win,” Harper said to reporters Aug. 23 after the Phillies lost five in a row. “We have to go on a streak and win nine out of 10. It needs to happen. That’s tough, it’s very tough in baseball to do that. But to get where we need to be, it needs to happen.”
When Harper made that comment, seven of the Phillies’ next 11 games were against the Nationals. One was rained out, but Philadelphia still went 6-0 against Washington over that span. It pulled the Phillies up back over .500 for the first time since Sept. 24, 2019 — the day the Nationals swept them in a doubleheader (as part of a five-game sweep) to clinch a spot in the NL Wild Card Game.
Now, it’s the Phillies who are in second place in the NL East and in control of their destiny this season. The Nationals are five games back of the No. 8 seed in the NL and seven games behind the Atlanta Braves for first place in the division. FanGraphs gives them just a 6.6 percent chance to make the playoffs with 25 games remaining on their schedule.
“I think regardless of how the year turns out, [if] we stick together we’re gonna be better for it,” Nationals shortstop Trea Turner said after Washington’s extra-inning loss Thursday. “We’re gonna have a better attitude coming to the field, we’re probably gonna perform better as well so just stick together I think is huge.
“We’ve learned that over the years, learned it last year obviously and just have each other’s backs no matter the situation, no matter how good or bad it’s going. Then when it’s going good, we’ll be better for it and we’ll be in the right spot probably because we had each other’s backs when it wasn’t going well.”
Things don’t get easier for the Nationals from here. Their next 12 games are all against the first-place Braves and AL-leading Tampa Bay Rays. After that, they’ll finish off the year with three series all against divisional opponents: Miami Marlins (five games), Phillies (four) and New York Mets (four). Leaning on FanGraphs once again, that’s the seventh-most difficult remaining schedule in baseball.
After standing pat at the trade deadline, the Nationals have no reinforcements on the way to help pull them back into contention. Even on the injury front, Stephen Strasburg is out for the year and Starlin Castro is unlikely to return before October. If they have any hope of turning things around, the players who are on the roster now need to start going on a tear to give themselves a chance.
Winning nine out of 10 just might do the trick.