Before the MLB season opened in April, it finally looked as if the Nationals’ postseason worries could be over. Bryce Harper had finally been living up to the hype, and they signed Max Scherzer to a seven year $210 million contract. The rotation of Scherzer, Zimmermann, Fister, Strasburg, and Gonzalez was supposed to put them over the edge.
After starting off with a 48-39 record and with a two game lead over the New York Mets, it seemed like they were on the path to at least make it into the playoffs. Over the past 30 games of the second half of the season, they have gone to a 58-59 record, with 20 losses and only 10 wins. This has left them 4.5 games behind the Mets, and 9.5 games back for the second wildcard spot. So what went wrong?
For starters, the Mets keep on being the little engine that could and the Cubs have been on fire. With the exception of the weekend sweep at the hands of the Pirates, the Mets have won 11 of 13 games. The Cubs have won 20 of 29 games so far in the second half. But that’s not the Nats’ main problem.
The problem starts with the pitching. Washington has had trouble staying healthy with Strasburg and Zimmermann missing long stretches. Max Scherzer was unstoppable up until the All-Star break. He had a pre All-Star break ERA of 2.11 and had only given up 10 home runs in his 18 starts. Since the break, his ERA is 5.18 in six starts, and he has given up eight home runs. If the Nats have any hope of clawing back into the wildcard discussion, this has to turn around with his next start.
Then there is Bryce Harper. Harper has been the catalyst for the Washington offense. With 26 home runs and a BA of .339 heading into the All-Star break, it looked like he was going to lead this team to the postseason. Since then, his BA has been .291 and he’s only hit four homers.
He also is having trouble staying in games. In the past, it’s been understandable when his age would show and he’d get tossed from the game. If he wants to be taken seriously and lead his team to their first World Series, he needs to think about his team. This means not arguing with the ump and not getting tossed in the middle innings of the game.
If things continue the way that they are going, manager Matt Williams could be looking for a new job in 2016.