Tuesday's doubleheader sweep of the Phillies by the Nationals didn't do much for Washington's postseason chances, but it completely flipped the script for Philadelphia.
By handing the Phillies their third and fourth straight losses, the Nationals pushed their NL East rivals out of the playoff picture with five days left in the regular season. Washington, which isn't mathematically eliminated from playoff contention just yet but would need a miracle, has now won four straight.
Though it would have been ideal for the Nationals to streak in the right direction earlier in the shortened campaign, these late-season wins do come with the benefit of playing spoiler, something general manager Mike Rizzo can always appreciate.
"We’re gonna play hard until the end and see if we can shatter a few dreams and be kind of the 'fly in the ointment' for some teams," Rizzo said on 106.7's The Sports Junkies.
Much like at the end of 2019, Washington is being a major pain for the Phillies, making it a challenge for them to try and sneak into the postseason. With one more contest against Philadelphia followed by four games with the New York Mets, the role of spoiler is one the Nationals can play for the remainder of the regular season.
Beyond having some fun against their rivals, a strong finish to 2020 can act as an encouraging sign of things to come for the 2019 World Series champions.
The strange 60-game race was especially abnormal for Washington, as injuries and inconsistent play derailed their hopes at a title defense. Still, the last few weeks give the team an opportunity to evaluate the talent on the roster. Positive performances will dictate the plan for the offseason.
So while 2020 did not go as planned, the Nationals have made the most of the games left. That has helped them and hurt other teams looking for an easy win.
"We’re going to try and win every game like we always do and keep It rolling," Rizzo said. "We’re starting to play some energetic, better baseball and that’s kind of the blueprint we’ve had all the way.