The chances of the Nationals making the playoffs are still very, very low.
I’m talking incredibly low.
According to Baseball Prospectus’ playoffs odds report, the Nats have just a 1.9 percent chance of earning a postseason berth.
This is after the Nats’ five-game winning streak, making them 11-4 in their last 15 games. It’s after they got back over .500 for the first time in nearly six weeks.
The postseason odds are so low because despite this recent hot streak, the Nats still trail the Reds by 8 1/2 games for the final wild card spot in the National League. The odds are so low because the Nats still find themselves 12 games behind the Braves in the division.
Those are very large deficits with just 33 games to play.
But here’s the thing: The Nationals are playing pretty good baseball right now. The offense has come alive. The starting pitching, for the most part, has been better. The bullpen is still kind of a mess, but the Nats have been able to overcome that over the last couple weeks.
Here’s the other thing: The Nats’ schedule the rest of the season is pretty darn soft.
After today’s series finale against the Royals, the Nats will play 19 straight games against the Marlins, Mets and Phillies, the bottom three teams in the NL East.
Those three teams are a combined 54 games under .500.
Now, the Nats have gone just 20-14 against those three teams this season, but the opportunity is there to run off some more wins in a hurry.
Outside of that 19-game stretch, the Nats have just nine games remaining against teams that are currently above .500 - three against the Braves, three against the Cardinals and three against the Diamondbacks.
The Reds, meanwhile, have 16 games remaining against above-.500 teams. They have three against the scalding-hot Dodgers and a total of 13 against their division rivals in the Cardinals and Pirates.
Don’t mistake what I’m saying. Cincinnati would have to totally collapse for the Nationals to have a shot at that final wild card. The Nats can play lights-out ball the rest of the season, but if they don’t get some serious help from the Reds, it won’t mean anything.
That’s what happens when you dig yourself such a massive hole and don’t start turning it on until so late in the season.
But the Nats are certainly trending upward right now. The chances of them coming all the way back and earning a playoff berth are incredibly slim, as I said. But weirder things have happened.