Look, it is only April, and Bryce Harper has been an absolute monster this season, but with the Washington Nationals losing 5-1 to the Colorado Rockies on Thursday, they are now a game under .500 at 6-7, which is something they last did in 2015.
They also ran into a buzz-saw with the Mets pulling out all the stops to sweep them at home, and their loss yesterday was against a Rockies team who was in the postseason last year.
Bring up all the caveats you want, they still have had six games against the Braves and three against the Reds. With those teams, they had enough to build a real cushion because that’s what good teams do – they beat up on the lesser teams. Instead, they split the two series they have played against the Braves.
That right there is why the Nationals are under .500 and in fourth place in the National League East.
Depending on how this series goes against the Rockies, their set in Flushing, and then a West Coast trip facing off against the Dodgers and Giants before coming home to face the Diamondbacks, this Nationals team MAY be in a little trouble. They COULD be in a lot of trouble.
The Nationals don’t have Dusty Baker as the manager anymore. Yes, Dusty had his faults. However, he knew how to navigate his team through this. Remember, the Nationals fell apart in 2015 under the weak leadership of Matt Williams, and Dusty came in the following year and rescued that team. We don’t know if Dave Martinez has that in him to get the Nationals to turn things around against what is going to be a tough early season schedule.
If the Nationals cannot figure things out, they are going to dig themselves an early season hole, which may be too deep to climb, at least as the NL East is concerned.
Overall, the Nationals are vulnerable right now. Perhaps, they are more vulnerable than anyone could have predicted heading into this season.
Ultimately, this means the Mets have a chance right now to put some real distance between themselves and the Nationals. If they put up enough distance, the Nationals may be fighting for one of the two Wild Cards and not for the division.
As the old adage goes, you cannot win the division in April, but you sure can lose it. If the Mets do their job, they can help ensure the Nationals will lose the division in April.