Daunting September stretch continues in Minnesota

The Nationals had a rough weekend in Atlanta. Their next stop on this road trip could be just as rough.

Though there was plenty of attention - and rightfully so, given the division race - on the Nats’ four-game series against the Braves, this next series against the Twins deserves just as much of the spotlight.

The Twins are one of the best teams in baseball, and have been throughout the season. They took over first place in the American League Central on April 20, and they haven’t given it up since.

Nobody in the majors scores more runs per game (5.8) than Minnesota. Nobody has hit more home runs (275). Nobody has recorded more total bases (2,516).

Kendrick-Gray-Martinez-Dugout-Steps-sidebar.jpgSo the challenge facing the Nationals over the next three nights is real. This is a very tough opponent, one that’s trying to win 100 games for the first time since 1965.

And this is merely one more tough stretch during an exceptionally tough stretch of the schedule for the Nationals. This is the second of four consecutive series against division-leading opponents, with the Braves sandwiching the Twins and the Cardinals looming early next week.

Nor do the Nationals get many breathers during this home stretch to the regular season. They were off Monday. They’ll have only one more day off this season: next Thursday in between series at St. Louis and Miami. And that off-day is off-set by the Sept. 24 doubleheader against the Phillies.

What that means: The Nats close out the regular season with 20 games in 20 days.

They remain in an advantageous position, holding the top wild card position in the National League over the Cubs and 4 1/2 games ahead of the Brewers for a spot in the Oct. 1 winner-take-all game.

But the schedule does them no favors. And if they want to ensure they’re playing in October, especially at home, they best find a way to win their fair share of games against these fellow contenders down the stretch.

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