This recent strong run by the Nationals, who are 14-5 in their last 19 games, has started to bolster the confidence of the guys in the Nats clubhouse.
That’s not to say that they had ever lost confidence, per se, or that they’d given up on the season. It’s not to say that they’re blind to the 6 1/2-game deficit they face in the race for the final wild card spot in the National League.
But the positive vibes have seemingly returned for the time being, the result of the best stretch this team has put together all season.
“I think overall, this season of expectations and kind of the hangover from last year and all that, really now we’re just kind of shaking it off and playing good baseball,” said Jayson Werth, who went 3-for-4 with another home run tonight in a 9-0 win over the Marlins. “That’s really all it comes down to. We just haven’t played good baseball consistently all year until recently and we need to keep it going. There’s plenty of time. There’s plenty of time to do a crazy thing.”
“I think everybody knows pretty much all year that we can make a run at it,” Bryce Harper said. “We’re a scary team when we’re going good. I think everybody knows that. Our pitching’s coming on strong, our bullpen’s doing well every night. I think we’re just swinging it every day, putting runs up on the board for (Stephen Strasburg) and Gio (Gonzalez) and (Jordan) Zimmermann and (Dan) Haren, a lot of guys who are throwing really well and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun this last month.”
The fact that this “thing,” this run at the playoffs, would be considered crazy is a testament to how mediocre the Nats played for four months. But lately, they’ve started getting back to the form that they showed in 2012, when the offense was potent and the starting pitching was strong throughout the rotation.
“It just seems like we’re getting our groove back,” said Gio Gonzalez, tonight’s winning pitcher. “You could see it. The vibe and the chemistry in here is just getting better and better. It might be the music choice, I don’t know what it is. Our guys are having more fun up there at the plate. We’re getting some leadership roles. Those of us in the rotation, we’re trying to go out there and keep our team in the game. ...
“We started playing more relaxed. You can see we’re playing more relaxed. I think our lineup is having fun up there. You can see it when they’re swinging the bat, base hits and they’re all on the top step cheering them on. Our whole team’s out there watching the game. When you got that kind of excitement, you want to be a part of it. You don’t want to be the one left behind. Especially the way we’re playing, our vibe is going back up. That’s what we need. We got that bounce back, that excitement.”
The Nats still have a long road ahead of them if they’re to overtake the Reds (and Diamondbacks) and actually earn a postseason berth. But they’re alive, and now they’re kicking.
“You sign up to play 162 games,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “Whether you’re out of it, you still have to play. Whether you barely have a chance, you still have to play. Our plan in the offseason is to play out the season. And that’s what we’re going to do.”