The Washington Nationals entered Wednesday in an unenviable position. The Nationals had a 19-29 record and were nine games back in the National League East -- a division they had reason to believe they could compete in coming into the spring. What happened next was a microcosm of Washington's season.
Manager Davey Martinez summoned closer Sean Doolittle in the eighth inning of a 1-0 game, hopeful he could record a four-out save against the New York Mets. Instead Doolittle blew the lead, permitting four runs on two hits, a walk, and a hit batsman. By the time Doolittle exited, the Mets had taken a 6-1 lead -- capped by Rajai Davis homering in his first at-bat of the year:
The Nationals had a few batters reach base in the ninth, but they were unable to mount a comeback. As such, they'll enter Thursday's series finale needing a win to avoid the sweep. Moreover, they'll need a win to prevent dropping to 19-31 on the year -- a mark that would put them on pace for a 100-loss season.
Even if the Nationals do win on Thursday, a playoff spot may already be out of reach. As absurd as it seems to count out this roster before Memorial Day, consider that the Nationals will enter Thursday at least nine games back in the division. Additionally, they'll be at least seven games back in the wild card race. Complicating matters is that Washington has to leapfrog the entire league to get back into things: only the Miami Marlins are farther out of the playoff race.
Let's put it another way. The Nationals have 113 games remaining heading into Thursday. In order to finish at .500, they'll have to play at an 89-win pace (over 162 games); to reach 90 wins, they'll need to play at a 102-win pace; to win 95, they'll have to play at a 109-win pace.
In other words, we may as well start the Anthony Rendon trade rumor mill -- because the Nationals goose is just about cooked.