by Tommy Gimler
We see this every year in Major League Baseball. A team is so far out of the postseason picture that nobody is talking about them, even if Tim Tebow is at the game sitting next to Brett Favre who is sitting next to Michael Vick who is sitting next to the Dog Whisperer. But all of a sudden, that team gets hotter than shit, and instead of making plans for orgies in Cancun, they find themselves playing October baseball.
In 2010, the Giants won 20 of their last 30 games to overtake the San Diego Padres and eventually win the whole fucking thing. In 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals were 8 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the Wild Card on September 1st. But they would win 16 of their last 21, the Atlanta Braves would choke like a young starlet’s first encounter with Lexington Steele’s man meat, and the Redbirds would go on to win their 11th World Championship. And last year, the Oakland Athletics were six games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West on August 16th, but they would win 33 of their final 46 and overtake the Rangers on the final day of the season to win the division.
And now, the Washington Nationals are making a serious push toward this year’s postseason. Unless the Atlanta Braves’ team plane hits a mountain, the Nats have no shot at winning the NL East. But the NL Wild Card, which most “experts” had set in stone in early August, is definitely within reach for baseball’s hottest team.
On August 19th, the Nationals suffered a severe 11-1 ass pounding courtesy of the lowly Chicago Cubs, dropping them to four games under .500 and 10 1/2 games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the final NL Wild Card slot. Since then, Washington has won 20 of 26 to cut that lead to 4 1/2.
The reason for the Nats late-season surge is simple: they’re hitting the piss out of the ball. Since September 1st, the Nationals lead the NL in runs, home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and OPS, and they’re second in hits, batting average, and OBP. Denard Span has a 27-game hitting streak and is hitting .377 in the month of September. Catcher Wilson Ramos has six home runs in his last twelve games and 22 RBI in September. Ryan Zimmerman has nine home runs and twelve RBI this month, and he’s slugging just under .800 as well.
The pitching staff has also come around this month, leading the National League with a 2.69 ERA, 11 wins, opponents’ OPS, and home runs allowed. Nats pitchers and catchers have allowed just four stolen bases, also tops in the NL. Rafael Soriano has saved all six games in which he has appeared this month. Dan Haren finally hasn’t been a piece of pig shit in his last two outings, giving up just one run over twelve innings. UW-Stevens Point’s finest Jordan Zimmermann has won his last three decisions. And Stephen Strasburg is set to rejoin the Nats rotation after suffering (like most young men with a high-speed internet connection) forearm discomfort.
As far as remaining schedules go, the Cincinnati Reds have six games remaining against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are still playing for much more than just a postseason berth. And while the Reds head to Pittsburgh for a three-game set this week, the Nats get four against the Marlins at home.
Sure, with just twelve games left, the Nationals making the postseason might seem like a bigger long shot than Pablo Sandoval being voted the country’s sexiest man alive. But if the Nationals can come back from a two-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth against the games best closer in Craig Kimbrel like they did today, then anything is possible…