With 100 games to go, Nationals starting to build a cushion

There are different ways to break up the baseball season into chunks - 10 separate 16-games stretches, nine separate 18-game stretches, quarters, thirds, halves, etc. - and the Nationals are at one of those junctures right now. They've played 62 games, which means there are exactly 100 to go.

Mathematically, it doesn't really mean much. The season is now 38.2716 percent complete. That's not a nice, round number.

But there's something philosophically about there being exactly 100 games left that gives us reason to pause for a moment and reflect on the big picture. And the big picture looks awfully nice for the Nationals.

They're 38-24 overall, a .613 winning percentage that equates to 99 wins come season's end. They've got baseball's second-best record, trailing only a Cubs club that can't possibly sustain a .700 winning percentage all year, right? They've held first place in the NL East for all but five days in early May when the trailed the Mets by 1/2-game. They're five games up for the final wild card berth in the NL.

Most importantly to manager Dusty Baker, they've been on a mostly steady upward climb since opening day, with only a couple of small dips along the way.


"I always want to get a cushion on games above .500," Baker said. "I think now we're 14. We wrestled with 10 for a while. Then we got to 12. And now pushing on 15, hopefully. Next stop, hopefully, is 20. And who knows where it goes from there?"

The Nationals have reached this point despite a bit of a disadvantageous schedule. They've played only 28 home games compared to 34 road games. And after their upcoming 10-game trip to San Diego, Los Angeles and Milwaukee, that disparity will be even greater: 32 home games vs. 44 road games.

"We're only home like 10 days this month," Baker said. "We're on the road 20 days this month. That's a lot. And we haven't played the West yet at all. You want to get some momentum before you get there. We have one more game (against the Phillies) and then the Cubs coming in and then that West Coast trip.

"You don't want to start looking ahead, because we've got the Cubs coming in. But the West Coast trip has been a nemesis to a lot of teams. There's a lot of distractions out there. Everybody has family out there. You want to get some steam before you go out there, to feel good about yourself. You want to get a bit of a cushion."

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