Entering the 2013 season, the Washington Nationals were a popular selection to compete for the World Series. Now a team with so much promise—following their first playoff appearance in 31 years and the first playoff experience in Washington since 1933—is struggling in all phases of the game as the regular season winds down.
After several months of mediocrity due to injuries, inconsistent pitching, hitting slumps and poor fielding, the Nationals find themselves in a place few expected: on the outside looking in for a playoff spot.
Last season at this time, the Nationals were 64-43. With a 52-55 record, they are now 10 games behind the Atlanta Braves, so their chances of repeating as NL East Champs are all but over. Crazier things have happened though: the 1995 Seattle Mariners were 13 games back of the Angels on August 3 and managed to win the AL West.
The second wild card spot is doubtful but a more realistic goal, since Washington is only 6.5 games behind Cincinnati. With 107 games completed on the schedule, even the most devout Nationals supporters can feel the desperation surrounding this ballclub.
Reality has truly set in for a young team that was hoping (expecting?) to use last year’s breakout performance as a springboard for better things to come. Do the Nationals have enough time—or perhaps more importantly, are they capable of competing for the playoffs this season? Anything is possible in the world of sports, so there is still time and they do have a chance to make a late-season push, as unlikely as that is.
Before we get into how they might turn things around, let’s try and find out why they haven’t been meeting expectations.