MIAMI — The Washington Nationals have lost their last four games and, it seems in a lot of corners, this has become cause for panic that the team’s charmed 2012 season is circling the drain.
And yet when the Nationals open a two-game series with the Marlins Tuesday night in Miami, they’ll do so with a five-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the National League East and still holding onto the best record in baseball.
Guess how many games the Nationals were up when they welcomed Atlanta to Nationals Park last week. Five.
So how have the Nationals managed to lose a few games and lose hardly any ground in the division?
Well, first of all, they’re still 16-9 in the month of August, an extremely strong mark even with the recent losing skid. So they haven’t really lost all that much to begin with.
But accepting that they’ve lost enough times to allow the Braves a chance to open the door a little wider, the Nationals’ losses have seemingly come at opportune times with regard to their divisional rivals.
Of the nine times the Nationals have lost in August, the Braves have lost on the same day on four of those occasions. The losses might’ve hurt the Nationals, but they could’ve hurt a lot more had the Braves won and gained ground.
What’s more, the Braves have played on two days the Nationals were off in the last week, an easy chance to gain at least a half-game with the Nationals unable to immediately counter. They’ve lost on both of those days, including getting shutout by the Padres Monday night, giving the Nationals a half-game instead.
At the end of the season you are what your record says, for the most part, and however many wins or losses you’ve accumulated along the way, it often doesn’t matter when they happened. But when it comes to trying to hold off a divisional opponent, trying to keep them at arm’s length down the stretch, the timing of those wins and losses does matter.
Just like the Braves have failed to take advantage of Nationals losses as often as they could, the Braves have lost 12 times this month and the Nationals have won on six of those occasions.