The Nationals entered their weekend series with the Braves trailing Atlanta by a game in the division and feeling pretty good about themselves following a three-game sweep of the White Sox.
The Nats leave their weekend series against the Braves suddenly trailing their division rivals by four games in the National League East after they were handed a spanking over the last three days.
“I don’t think they took us by surprise at all,” Denard Span said. “We knew they were a good team coming in here. They came in and gave a good, old-fashioned kick in the butt.”
That they did.
The Braves are now off to a ridiculous 11-1 start to the season and have picked up three straight series sweeps. They’re outscoring their opponents 62-23 through the first 12 games of the year.
Such a streak indicates the talent level that the Braves possess. You don’t go 11-1 over a 12-game stretch at any point in the season if you don’t have a loaded roster. That said, Atlanta can’t possibly continue this recent ride for the entire season.
Making this weekend’s sweep a bit easier to stomach for the Nationals is that these two teams will square off 19 times this season. No need to get too caught up in the first three games when 16 more are on the horizon.
“Oh, we’re gonna play them again. And again,” Gio Gonzalez said. “I know we’re going to be playing these guys for a while. The good thing is we got the first series out of the way and now we can just go out and play baseball.”
Twice in the last two days, Danny Espinosa said that he felt the Nationals are a better team than the Braves. It shouldn’t surprise you, then, to hear how he’ll feel entering the remaining battles with Atlanta, even after the way things went down at Nats Park this weekend.
“I’m going to be real confident going into these next 16 games,” Espinosa said.
As they head into a three-game series with the Marlins in Miami starting tonight, the Nats are 7-5.
They’re batting .243 as a team, have a 5.90 bullpen ERA (second-worst in the majors) and have committed 12 errors in 12 games (most in the majors).
It’s clear that, unlike the Braves, this team isn’t playing to its talent level right now. But one thing the Nats players will keep pointing to is that it’s still incredibly early.
There’s no need to overreact, they say, when only 7.4 percent of the season is in the books.
“You can’t judge a team just based on the first 12 games,” Gonzalez said. “That’s impossible. I think you’ve got to give us a chance. ... Our job is to try to stay afloat and keep playing and make sure we try to turn this around and go into Miami with a different attitude.”
Ian Desmond was asked after yesterday’s 9-0 loss whether the Nationals can take anything out of the sweep at the hands of the Braves other than that they lost three games against a tough team. Is there a bigger picture there? Is there anything else that was learned over the last three days?
“We know we’re not playing our best. So I guess we learned that,” Desmond said. “But it’s April. Fortunately for us, there’s a lot of games left.”