Nats ready for 'must win' mindset in August

Brian Tinsman
July 29, 2018 - 10:03 pm
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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

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Repeat after me: there is still a lot of Nationals baseball left to play in 2018.

The only question is if the players will pack to go home at the end of Game 162, or if there will be a third-straight postseason appearance for this squad of great expectations.

Publicly, the players are saying all of the right things about preparing for a stretch run.

"I don't think we'll sell. There's still plenty of confidence in this room," Ryan Zimmerman told the media on Friday night. "We haven't put ourselves in an ideal situation but if we play well over the next couple of weeks, cut that number in half and get it closer, it'll be a fun last month-and-a-half for us."

Zimmerman's outlook may not have changed much since Friday, but by Sunday, the team had bagged another two disappointing losses to the Miami Marlins, who had already been all but eliminated from the postseason. This was supposed to be a season-defining series for the Nationals, and maybe it was--just not in the way they intended.

"Yesterday's game was frustrating," manager Dave Martinez said of the Marlins' walk-off win from Saturday, "today's game was just flat. We came out and had a few runners on base in the first couple of innings and couldn't do anything. Our offense couldn't do anything. 

"This is definitely a pivotal point for us right now. We've got to come out and play every day. I talk about one day at a time, but we have to show up to play that game and play hard every inning of every game, every pitch.

"If we're going to get back in this thing, we've got to come out every single day and act like it's the last game of the season, and play to win."

The non-waiver trade deadline passes at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, and the Nats will not play again before that. Over the next 40 hours, the Nats' brass needs to decide if they are better off selling, buying or holding on for dear life. For what it's worth, players are counting on general manager Mike Rizzo not selling.

"I don't even know if anybody's really thinking about that in here, to be honest with you," Ryan Zimmerman said of the possibility of a sell-off. "There's a lot of baseball left."

Trea Turner had a pragmatic approach to the math at hand.

"People are paid to make those decisions and my job is to play and compete. I think that's how the clubhouse feels," he said. "I don't think anybody thinks six or seven games, whatever it is, is too much by any stretch of the imagination. It's getting late in the season, but 60 or 50 games to make up seven is very doable."

For most members of the team, postseason runs are nothing new--they just normally approach it from the other side of the standings.

"We've been in situations where you have a big lead and I know from being in that situation, you don't feel safe," Zimmerman said. "You don't feel like the season is over in late July; you've got to keep playing. All we can do it take care of ourselves and try to win each game and that's what we're going to try to do."

 

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