Race for a Red October: Nats need to sweep Marlins

Brian Tinsman
August 30, 2019 - 11:52 am
Race for a Red October: Nats hunting for a sweep

Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

** This installment of Race For A Red October is presented by PVI Office Furniture

Over the course of a long MLB season, even the best teams lose one-third of their games, and sometimes to bad teams. That’s the only excuse for losing to the Baltimore Orioles.

The Washington Nationals split this week’s two-game series with the O’s, ending the season series with a 2-2 record. Matchups can create strange outcomes, but Baltimore is destined for a top-three pick in next year’s draft.

The Nats, who are red hot at the right time, can’t lose to subpar teams. After an off-day on Thursday, they get to test that resolve against the Miami Marlins, the worst team in the National League.

After the Marlins, they have five-straight series against teams with winning records. Here’s how the Nationals can help their Race for Red October against Miami:

Playoff chances (via fivethirtyeight.com): 96 percent

Playoff clinching magic number: 30

National to watch: Given that rosters expand on Sunday, the Nationals will probably wait to bring back Ryan Zimmerman and Sean Doolittle from the IL. We speculated at the impact Zimmerman could have in the last installment of Race for Red October, and Doolittle brings his own intrigue. Manager Dave Martinez has been consistent in saying that Doolittle will be the closer when he returns from knee tendinitis, but the injury flared up from overuse. It will be interesting to see how Doolittle’s work is managed to get him to October.

Marlin worth mentioning: Catcher Jorge Alfaro may not be a household name, but he has carried the Marlins’ offense in the last week, batting .545/.545/1.000 with three of his 12 hits going for home runs. He can do some serious damage but tends to be all-or-nothing, also striking out seven times in five games.

By the numbers: For glass-half-full fans, the Nationals have the perfect September schedule to win the division, including seven games against the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves. The Nats are just 5.5 games off of the division lead and control their destiny down the stretch. Even glass-half-empty fans should take confidence in the Nats’ .500 strength of schedule. That includes six games against the Marlins, starting this weekend.

Notable quote: “We’re at the point in the season where there’s no room for error. I cannot get hurt.” Max Scherzer is a renowned tough guy on the mound but is letting the coaching staff guide his usage down the stretch to avoid injury. Look for Martinez to have a quick hook with Scherzer in his next few starts.

Series prediction: After two off days in one week, the Nats have just two days off in the next month. This series against the lowly Marlins looks like a blowout on paper, but the Nats have been there before and stumbled. Sweeping a holiday weekend series at home is exactly what this team needs heading into September.

Brian Tinsman has covered D.C. sports since 2011, both from the team marketing and skeptical fan perspectives. Tweet your criticisms @Brian_Tinsman.