Last week, when the Nationals capped off an 11-game stretch during which they'd won seven games, the prospect of a 70-win season - not impressive by any means, but a nice improvement over last year's 59-103 - looked possible.
The Nationals were 60-78, with four games left against Houston and three against the Mets, and were right on pace to finish with 70 wins. Now, even that modest goal is slipping away.
Monday's loss to the Braves dropped them to 60-84, which puts them on pace to finish with either 67 or 68 wins. They'd have to finish 10-8 to get to 70 wins, which would require ending their tailspin soon. And right now, they're playing a full five games under their expected win total.
The Pythagorean win expectation, which calculates what a team's record should be based on its run differential, has the Nationals currently at 65-79. Again, these aren't stirring improvements, but they would be something for a team that's just trying to dress up this season as much as it can.
All the Nationals' recent losing is also bumping them up the 2011 draft order. They were tied with the Cubs last week for the seventh-worst record in baseball, but are now three games behind Chicago. The Nationals would still pick seventh if the season ended today, but the Diamondbacks, Indians and Royals are all within three games of them. And the Orioles, who had baseball's worst record until they hired Buck Showalter, are only four games worse than the Nationals. They're 24-15 under Showalter, and could well catch the Nationals, too.
When it's all said and done, it's conceivable the Nationals could be picking in the top five again, possibly as high as third.