Going into Monday night’s game, the Nationals were eight games back of the Reds in the race for the final National League wild card spot.
In just five days’ time, the wild card deficit has been trimmed nearly in half.
Five straight Nats wins combined with three Cincinnati losses in a five-day span has the Nationals 4 1/2 games out (four in the loss column) with 15 games left on Washington’s schedule.
Still, the Nats say they aren’t getting caught up in the excitement of this recent stretch. They know they still have a lot of work ahead of them, and while they’ll need some more help from the Reds in order to sneak into the postseason, they say they aren’t keeping close tabs on Cincinnati’s results on the out-of-town scoreboard just yet.
“We just gotta win,” Bryce Harper said. “We gotta play our game, and if we don’t win, it doesn’t matter. We can’t worry about what they’re doing, we gotta win ballgames.
“We’ve know we’ve had an opportunity all year. A lot of people have doubted us. A lot of people have doubted us here and there and everywhere we’ve gone, on TV and in the papers, whatever. It doesn’t matter what they think, like I said before. Whatever we think in this clubhouse is what we think.”
Don’t take Harper’s comments to mean that the Nats aren’t monitoring the Reds’ results at all. Cincinnati’s game against the Brewers was on the clubhouse TVs at Nationals Park late tonight, and players certainly know where things stand when they come to the park every day. They have Internet and they watch TV, just like the rest of us.
But the important thing is they don’t want to be thrown off their game by constantly wondering what the Reds are doing.
“I think when you start looking at that kind of stuff, that’s when you start thinking about things too much,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “We just gotta keep doing what we’re doing and go out there and try and win that game. We’ve done it well for a week now, but it’s not easy to win seven, eight, nine, 10 games in a row. Just gotta keep grinding.
“We put ourselves in a tough position, but we’ve having fun with it.”
One would imagine that it’s got to be gratifying for the players to see the wins start to rattle off eventually, especially when they knew they were capable of this level of play all along. But Zimmerman seemed to bristle a little bit when asked whether it’s gratifying to start performing the way everyone expected the Nats to perform this season.
“We honestly don’t pay attention to any of that stuff,” Zimmerman said. “Those guys are wrong every time anyway. Are we disappointed with the way we’ve played? Yeah, of course, because we expected to be a good team. The Braves have played great baseball all year and they deserved to be in the position that they’re at.
“We’ve still got a chance. We just have to keep going out there and playing and see what happens. That’s all we can do right now, win each game that we can and somehow sneak in.”