This September, Nationals Try to Break Bad Habit

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, September 02, 2011 | , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Nationals have lost eight of their last nine games.  That's a tough thing to read for Nats fans, and a tough thing for manager Davey Johnson and the team to go through.  In fact, it's the third time this season the Nats have lost eight times over a nine game period, joining July 19-29 and May 21-30 as periods of almost absolute futility this season.

It's now an established, common refrain around Nats Park, limping home in the latter stages of the season.  Last season, the Nats went 12-17 in September and October, a .413 winning percentage (67-win pace).  That managed to qualify as the Nats third worst month of the season, a year they won 69 games. 

In 2009 over the same period, the record was 11-17, and that was boosted by a season-ending seven-game win streak.  In 2008, the Nats finished 7-17, a .292 win percentage (47-win pace).  We'd have to go all the way back to the final season in R.F.K. to find a winning last month of the season.

Even taking into consideration the Nats latest slide, they're still on a 75-win pace.  That's would be another dramatic leap forward from last season's 69 win team.  They have the benefit of playing 16 of their final 27 games at home, including the 10 game homestand that begins tonight against the New York Mets (66-69), Los Angeles Dodgers (66-70) and the Houston Astros (47-90).  You couldn't script a much better triumvirate of losers to have a late-season homestand with, unless you could get the hapless Orioles back in for a series. 

Yet against three of the worst teams in the N.L., the Nats are a combined 7-10 this season.

The Nats are fortunate to have Stephen Strasburg return next Tuesday (and who hasn't had chills seeing his dominating performances in his last two rehab starts?), and several other players make their Major League debuts as the season winds down, which should bring good energy to the team and the grandstands.  Tom Milone is scheduled to make his debut Saturday.  Brad Peacock will soon follow.  And we should get a look at Steve Lombardozzi before too long as well.

All along, this season was about making progress.  No one expected the Nats to contend. No one seriously thought they'd compete for the .500 mark.  But they have a chance, if they can shake the trend and finish strong, to gain another 6-10 games in the standings over last season, and perhaps finish third in the division.  They're three games behind the Mets heading into tonight's game and a series win will go a long way in that effort.

In the grand scheme of things, finishing third place in the division doesn't really mean anything.  But getting Strasburg healthy and finishing strong would be good for the psyche of everyone in NatsTown.