We are in the final stretch of the 2012 baseball season, and the pennant races are getting tight. The Baltimore Orioles took 2 of 3 from the Yankees, putting them only 2 games behind the Bronx Bombers in second place in the AL East (yeay, O’s!). In the AL Central, the White Sox and Tigers are tied for first place, and the Oakland A’s are only 3 games behind the first-place Texas Rangers.
In the National League, the San Francisco Giants are atop the NL West with a 4.5-game lead over the Dodgers. In the NL Central, the red-hot Reds are 9.5 games ahead of the Cardinals, where the fight in that division is for the Wild Card spot between the Cardinals and Pirates. In the meantime, the NL East seems to be pretty quiet, with the Washington Nationals 6.5 games ahead of the second-place Braves. Everyone is talking about how hot the Oakland A’s are, how Verlander and Scherzer are striking out everyone who faces the Tigers, and how the Phillies could still pull off a Wild Card spot (please, no!). But the Nationals continue to win, even though the rest of the baseball world doesn’t seem to be noticing.
This past weekend, the Nationals took 3 of 4 from the world-champion Cardinals, scoring a total of 31 runs in the 4 games. The offense that was asleep during the Phillies series suddenly woke up, and Edwin Jackson, Gio Gonzalez, and Stephen Strasburg had great outings (including a complete-game shutout by Gio last Friday). But other than the controversial announcement from the Nationals that Stephen Strasburg will be shut down for the season after his start on September 12, not many fans around the country seem to be noticing the solid and consistent play of the Nationals. Before last Saturday’s nationally-televised game on FOX, the analysts spent the entire half hour before the game talking about how great the Phillies are and how wonderful the Cardinals still are even without Albert Pujols – there was no mention of Adam LaRoche and his 84 RBIs, no mention of Bryce Harper and his .756 OPS, and no talk of Gio Gonzalez and his 17 wins.
Unless there is a major catastrophe in the next 3 weeks, the Washington Nationals will be in the playoffs (their “magic number” is currently 23). Whether they will make it to the World Series or not is anyone’s guess (I don’t think they will, but I’d like to
be proven wrong), but this is a good team that deserves more national attention. They have remained in first place despite injuries to Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse, Jayson Werth, and Ian Desmond; they have persevered without a dominant presence behind the plate, and they have led the National League in ERA during the entire season. They may not have the batting consistency of the Cardinals and may not have the big names in their lineup like the Yankees, but they are consistent, they play hard, and they have genuine talent (others say “they have heart,” but I don’t like that saying, so I won’t say it).
Pay attention to the Nationals, people! They’re going to the playoffs, and they deserve to be there!
About the Author
Written by Marien Hornyak
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico but have lived in the continental US for 22 years. I have a BS in Athletic Training and a MEd in Sport Management, where I did my thesis on "The History of Baseball Litigation." I am a wife, mother of 2, and self-proclaimed "Baseball Nerd." My favorite baseball players include Roberto Clemente, Kirby Puckett, and Iván Rodriguez.