Let’s rewind to the weekend of August 19th when Nationals park was flooded by a deluge of Phillies red, white, and royal blue. Nationals fans were drowned out by anti-Werth chants and curtain calls for visiting players. Going into that series vs. the most dominant team in baseball could have been a down-point to the Nats season. However, something funny happened that weekend…the Nationals stepped up and provided D.C. fans with two of the most dramatic wins of the season. I for one, saw that weekend as a turning point for this young crop of Nationals. I’m starting to be proven wrong.
Just a few short weeks later, the Nationals have found themselves on the losing end of four (maybe five, pending rain) consecutive series. The Nationals have been inconsistent at best in all facets of the game. The struggles with runners in scoring position continue, the defense has been spotty, and all of a sudden the once stalwart Nationals bullpen looks beatable. Is this the case of a young team hitting an end-of-the-year skid? Has this Nationals team been riding the coat tails of an impressive mid-summer winning streak? It’s hard to say, but in either case the Nationals need to steady their course heading into the off season.
The Nats can do themselves a tremendous favor by playing out the last few weeks of the season strong. Former Yankee, Paul O’Neill had a theory about playoff games: even if you were getting blown out in game 1, putting up some runs in the ninth inning could give a team momentum headed into game 2. The 2011 season has been a blowout for the Nationals. Despite some nice moments here and there, the Nats are far from being team ready to compete for the playoffs. It’s time to for the Nationals players to finish strong and show they can make noise in 2012. The most exciting part of September baseball shouldn’t be the AA call-ups. I for one am hoping that 12 months from now, I am writing a post about how the Nationals can sneak into the playoffs.
So should Nats fans panic over the current tailspin? If you care about shedding the “lovable loser” tag, the answer should be yes. The fastest way to make that happen is to show that the Nationals are a team to be reckoned with in 2012. Does a strong finish necessarily lead to a strong start? Of course not, but it sure couldn’t hurt.