The Nationals’ four-game winning streak is a small glimmer of hope, faint light from a far off place. In “The Dark Knight Rises,” Bane shows Batman the means to escape his prison. It is a one-in-a-million shot. One person out of all the prisoners had done it and it was a mystery as to if that were fact or fiction. It is the nature of hope. Hope cannot exist without despair.
The 2013 Nationals have been full of despair and this small glimmer of hope shouldn’t excite anyone. The Nationals are still two games under .500 and 8 1/2 games back of the second wild card spot. But there is another move about a prison with another line about hope. In “The Shawshank Redemption,” Andy Dufresne exclaims hope as the one thing that is ours, the one thing to hold onto, the last thing that keeps us human in inhuman conditions.
For the Nationals, the 2013 season could have broken them and yet all the interviews have always been the same. They have been about how they believe in their talent and how they will start playing better. Too early turned to too late quickly and the Nationals are in need of a miracle run to make the playoffs. The deficit is daunting. Especially when they are finished playing the Reds, but there is good news, reason to hold onto that slight glimmer of hope.
While the Nationals do not play the Reds anymore, the Reds and Cardinals play each other seven more times, and the Nationals play the Cardinals three times. That would be a fitting end to the 2013 season. The Cardinals fall back to three games up for the second wild card just before their series with the Nationals and end up losing their season to the team whose season they ended the year before.
Since the All-Star break, the Cardinals are 11-14. If they keep playing at that pace, they can be caught. That has been said before about the Braves earlier in the season and two things happened. First, they didn’t keep playing at that pace. Second, the Nationals never played well enough to get close to them. Perhaps this four-game winning streak will turn into a six-, seven- or eight-game winning streak. Perhaps the Nationals will go on that big run everyone has been waiting for with Adam LaRoche, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman all getting hot at the same time. It is all hope, and it is all improbable.
It would take an absurd comeback for the Nationals to make the playoffs. Let’s pretend the Cardinals go 3-4 when they play the Reds. Then the Nationals have to win four games on the days that the Cardinals lose those four games. The Nationals can make up three games on their own, but are in need of a lot of help to get close enough to make their three games against them matter. But if the Cardinals play as they have after the All-Star break until the end of the season, they’ll end up with 87 wins.
Even at that pace, it is a daunting task. In order for the Nationals to win 88 games for the season, they have to go 30-14 in their final 44 games. That is a .682 winning percentage. That is the pace of a 110-win team. The Nationals have the talent for that type of run. They have a top of the rotation led by Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. It is one of the best top three in baseball. Dan Haren hasn’t lost a start since the All-Star break and has looked like the Haren of old. And the Nationals have gotten some luck with Taylor Jordan having pitched well, and when he is shut down, Ross Ohlendorf, who has also pitched well, will take his place.
If all five of the starters pitch their best and the offense continues to look serviceable and the bullpen can finish off games - all while the Cardinals flutter to the finish line - then the Nationals have a chance. It is a small glimmer of hope that will be snuffed out with even the slightest losing streak. Such is the nature of hope. Hope can only exist when there isn’t much else left. Both Batman and Andy Dufresne crawled out of their prisons, but that was in the movies, and as a singer once said, “If life were like the movies, I’d never be blue.”
David Huzzard blogs about the Nationals for Citizens of Natstown, and offers his viewpoints as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.