Despite the 8-5 loss Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds, the Nationals are still off to their best start since arriving in Washington, D.C., for the 2005 season.
Since baseball returned to D.C. seven years ago, the Nationals have never been 7-3 in their first 10 games. Their second best total was a 6-4 record after 10 games in 2005.
The Nationals have also never won their first three series to start a season in D.C. The second best was again in 2005, when they won road series at Florida, Philadelphia and Atlanta to begin the season.
The Nationals have started better the last two seasons, going 5-5 to begin 2010 and 2011. Washington has gone 17-13 combined to begin the last three seasons. That is in stark contrast to brutal starts in 2009 (1-9), 2008 (3-7), 2007 (2-8) and 2006 (2-8).
During three seasons, 2006, 2007 and 2009, the Nationals did not win any series in the first 10 games of the season. Those horrific beginnings set the tone for rough seasons in which the team really never recovered.
That is why the 2012 start is so impressive. For the first time in the Nationals short history, they have won their first three series to begin a campaign, downing the Cubs (2-1), Mets (2-1) and Reds (3-1).
One caveat has been the scheduling of N.L. East games early on each season. Normally, the Nationals begin against Miami (then the Florida Marlins), Atlanta or Philadelphia. April was usually dominated by facing East squads.
This season is in stark contrast with a majority of the first month of games out of division. The Nationals faced the Cubs and Reds in the first two weeks, and welcome the Astros to begin next week. They will end the month against the National League West in California versus San Diego and Los Angeles.
The only intra-division matchups in April are the N.Y. Mets and next weekend’s homestand final series versus the Miami Marlins.
May is not that much different, with series against Arizona, Pittsburgh (twice), the Reds (again), San Diego and Baltimore.
The first weekend in May the Phillies arrive for the only N.L. East matchup. But the month ends with a very difficult nine game road swing all against N.L. East opponents, May 21 through 30, at Philadelphia, Atlanta and Miami.
So, the schedule will heat up as the temperature rises, but that doesn’t mean that all of these games aren’t crucial. You have to beat who is on the schedule, then the games in May become that much more important to what happens in September.