PHILADELPHIA - Look out, everyone. The Nationals have lost three games in a row.
The best team in baseball is starting to fall apart.
"Three! Ugh. We're ready to quit," Ryan Zimmerman said last night, tongue firmly planted in cheek. "Everything's going to go into shambles."
In all seriousness, from the reaction of many fans on Twitter last night, you'd think the Nationals' season was crumbling to the ground.
They've dropped three straight games, yes, but still hold the best record in baseball and have a 5 1/2-game edge over the Braves in the National League East. They're still in decent shape, folks.
If you think a team will make it through the course of a 162-game season without a few lulls, you haven't been watching baseball long enough. It's a long season, one which has plenty of ups and downs. The Braves and Phillies are paid to compete, too, and the Nats have just happened to fall short the last few days.
"The last two games we just ran into guys who threw the ball just as well as ours and they got one or two big hits and we didn't," Zimmerman said. "People forget that that's a good team over there. I mean I know they've traded some people away but any time you have to come in somewhere and face ... (Kyle) Kendrick's been hot, he's been throwing the ball really good and (facing Roy) Halladay and (Cliff) Lee, it's going to be a tough series. We have our work cut out for us, but as far as a losing streak, I don't think anyone in here is panicking just yet. We'll be OK."
There have been seven stretches this season in which the Nationals have lost at least three games in a row. Within those seven stretches, however, their longest losing streak of the season is just five games.
The Nats have been able to avoid the long losing streaks, something they pin largely on their strong starting rotation, which has the best ERA of any staff in baseball.
"(The starting pitching is) the key. It's been that way all year," Adam LaRoche said. "Firing the guys out there that we do, you're not going to consistently lose with those five guys going out there.
"We've been really good at fighting back after we lose a couple and haven't had that huge skid where everything falls apart. Again, I don't see it happening here."
Jordan Zimmmermann will take the mound for the Nats today, looking to snap this mini-skid. In his only start against the Phillies this season, the righty allowed just one run over six innings in a win on May 22.
Meanwhile, even with back-to-back wins the last two days, the Phillies are still 17 1/2 games back of the Nationals in the NL East. In many ways, these games are what the Phils now have to play for. They find themselves in an unfamiliar role of late - playing spoiler.
It's a role that, against the Nationals, at least, they value.
"They're going to be good for a while. It's important for us to play well against them, not only this year but going forward," Phillies starter Roy Halladay said after last night's win. "They're always going to be up there. Them and the Braves. It's important for us to play well against them even in a season that hasn't gone the way we wanted.
"I don't think any of us are just going to roll over and give them games. We want to make a little bit of a statement. We still want to play. We still want to compete. We're just not going to give anything away."