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August 30, 2013

What You Need to Know

Could Washington Win the Wild Card?

by Daniel Rathman


The Thursday Takeaway
The 2013 Nationals, fresh off a terrific 2012 season that was halted by the Cardinals in the National League Division Series, were supposed to be a juggernaut. The question was not whether Washington would earn a second straight playoff appearance, but whether the Nats could win the pennant or perhaps even a World Series title.

For 104 games, just about everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. Injuries struck Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth. The high-upside gamble on Dan Haren looked foolish in the early going. And hits with runners in scoring position were harder to come by than compromises on Capitol Hill. On August 7, the Nationals were 54-60, 15 ½ games behind the Braves in the East and nine games out in the wild card.

Thinking, at that point, that Davey Johnson’s team could recover and make a run at the National League Central runners-up seemed crazy. But those who dared to foretell four-plus months of misery for the Nationals before Opening Day might have been called crazy, too. Since that low point, Washington has won seven of eight and 14 of 19. And Jayson Werth, one of the driving forces behind their awakening, thinks they have more craziness left in store.

Werth reached base four times in as many plate appearances on July 4, the first game of what would become the Nationals’ first four-game winning streak of the season. Many of his teammates continued to scuffle, and the brief spurt appeared to be nothing more than a tease when Washington fell to six games below .500 a month and two days later. But Werth, who went 3-for-4 and delivered a three-run blast in the sixth inning of yesterday’s 9-0 rout over the Marlins, never looked back.

In between those games, he batted .396/.487/.654 with five doubles, a dozen homers, 29 walks, and only 26 strikeouts. The $126 million man was pulling his weight. All he needed was for his teammates to start carrying theirs.

Finally, they are.

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Overthinking It: Baseb... (08/30)

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