Well, here we go. The final stretch.
The Nationals will kick off a three-game series against the Cardinals in St. Louis tonight, then fly to Phoenix for three more to close out the regular season.
They currently sit five games back of both the Pirates and the Reds with six games to play. If the Nats make up those five games, they'll have a one-game playoff to determine who will earn the final National League wild card spot. In order to pull one of the greatest comebacks ever and earn that wild card spot outright, they'll have to win out, and then also see either the Pirates or Reds lose their final six.
The odds of the Nationals pulling off one of those options and reaching the playoff? CoolStandings.com has them at 0.2 percent.
Davey Johnson might still be optimistic, but the numbers sure aren't.
General manager Mike Rizzo will have a lot of important decisions to make this offseason regarding the future of this team. There, of course, will be the managerial decision, which could pit an internal candidate like bench coach Randy Knorr against an outside candidate like Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams.
But while the Nats will obviously have a new manager after Johnson moves out of the dugout, there are some changes that could be made on the field, as well. There have been some around the game who have mentioned the possibility of trading first baseman Adam LaRoche, opening up that spot to either acquire a corner infielder via a trade or free agency, or move Ryan Zimmerman to first base and slide Anthony Rendon across the diamond to play third.
The Nats could add another veteran starter via free agency to supplement their rotation, something they've done the last two offseasons. They could also use some of their young talent to make a major deal to shake things up.
The Nats' 2013 roster is lined up to look very similar in 2014 based on the contract situations of most players, but that doesn't mean that things will necessarily stay static.
That said, one player largely hopes it does. Dan Haren signed a one-year deal with the Nats this winter, and he realizes that based on how he's performed this season, he's unlikely to return next year. But Haren likes the talent that the Nats have assembled around him this season, and feels that the Nats would be unwise to make major changes this offseason.
"This area has a lot to look forward to," Haren said. "I think last year, in L.A., we won, I think, 89-90 games and they kind of blew up the team. I think they struggled most of the year and have gotten on track lately here. I think that was the wrong thing to do. I know there'll be some subtle changes (here), me probably being one of them. But I think the most important thing is to keep this group together.
"This could be a building block. Last year they had a great year. This year, we showed a lot of fight here these last few months and I think as close as things can stay to the guys in this room, I think, the better. That's top down, manager-wise. I think Randy can step in and do a real good job. I think the guys overall seem to really like him. That just kind of goes into the organization not really needing to do too much. We got off to a slow start but I think we learned a lot of things."
Some might look at the way the Nationals played in the first four months of this season and say that Rizzo needs to make some major changes to the roster over the winter. Others might see the last two months as an indicator that the Nats have the pieces in place that they need to be successful in 2014.
For whatever it's worth, you can toss Haren, an 11-year veteran who has been a part of five different major league organizations during that time, into the latter category.