A quick look at the National League East standings finds the Washington Nationals in a heated three-way battle with the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. The Nats, who currently sit in third place with a record of 26-21, are starting to gain back some of the lost momentum from their rough outings against the LA Dodgers with a potential sweep of their own against the Padres. The Nats need to win almost all of these games against weaker opponents, such as San Diego, to ensure that they do no lose too much ground against the surprisingly stout Braves and Phillies.
After the San Diego series wraps up, the Nationals against the dreadful Marlins and inconsistent Orioles, all leading up to their pivotal 4-game series against the Braves in Atlanta. The Nationals need to get themselves ready for this early chance to take over the NL East once again by getting their bats hot, rotation steady, and bullpen ready for a fight against the Braves. The Nationals won’t be able to pitch Scherzer more than once in the Braves series (unfortunately), so they will need to look for key offensive production in the other three games to ensure they take at least three out of the four games played.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 23, 2018
Here are my three keys to the upcoming series against the Braves:
- Rattle the starting rotation early and often
- If the Nats are able to get the Braves reaching deep into their bullpen in these games, the Washington bats are capable of doing enough damage to score enough runs to win these pivotal games. On the other hand, the Braves bullpen was stout against the Phillies, but getting them to rely too much on their “go-to” pitchers would only favor the Nats in the long-run.
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) May 23, 2018
- Stay healthy leading up to this series
- The Nationals have recently seen the injury bug come back and bite them hard as they recently lost Howie Kendrick to a possible Achilles injury on a play in center field. His replacement, however, Juan Soto had himself quite a debut the other evening against the Padres. The Nats, however, can only go so far into their farm system before they run out of talent capable of causing damage.
1st @MLB start ✅
1st at-bat ✅
1st hit ✅
1st HR ✅
Welcome to The Show, Juan Soto! The #Nats No. 2 prospect (No. 15 overall) goes deep for a 3-run 💣 measured at 422 feet 👀 to give the @Nationals the lead. Top 100 Prospects: https://t.co/TuTZgd5PTS pic.twitter.com/Dlu9zOC1xq
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 21, 2018
- Consistent outings from starting pitchers not named Max Scherzer
- Max has been playing unreal all season, but the Nats can’t pitch him every night. They really need the other pieces of the rotation such as Roark, Gonzalez, and even Strasburg to be more consistent. If the Nats can build off some strong outings against Miami and Baltimore leading up to the Braves series, they should be oozing with confidence to overtake the lead in the NL East.
Overall, the Nats were expected to be much further ahead in the division at this point in the season, yet the Phillies and Braves are proving that they will not be going away anytime soon. The Nationals need to be ready for a season-long fight for the NL East crown and realize that every game is pivotal for their chance to return to the postseason and make a run at that elusive championship.
Photo Credit: MASN.com