2018 Washington Nationals
2018 Washington Nationals / Franchise: Washington Nationals / BR Team Page
Managed by Dave Martinez
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2018 Washington Nationals were considered a shoo-in to win the National League East division title before the season began, as only the New York mets were considered, on paper, to have the talent to rival them. The other three teams in the division were considered to be still in reconstruction and unlikely to pose a threat for another year or two, while the Nats were at the top of their success cycle, having won two straight division titles and returning with pretty much the same cast - although they had a new manager in David Martinez, beginning his first gig as a major league skipper. The question was whether this was finally the year they would get over the playoff hump, after falling at the Division Series hurdle all four times they had reached the postseason.
The season started as expected, with Washington winning its first four games, but they then lost 8 of the next 10 and on April 13th were just at 6-8 and 6 games behind the red-hit Mets, who had started off by winning 11 of their first 12 games. The Mets would quickly collapse, however, but it took more time for the Nationals to set the ship straight. At the end of April, they were in 4th place with a record of 13-16, with the young Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves both playing much better than expected and ahead of them in the standings. Only ace pitcher Max Scherzer, who had gone 5-1, 1.62 in his first six starts to be named the NL's Pitcher of the Month, was performing at an All-Star level.
Washington won 12 of its first 14 games in May to put itself back in contention. On May 15th, their record had improved to 25-18 and they had moved to within a game of first place. While their pace slowed down somewhat over the rest of the month, they were at 10 games above .500 on May 31st, at 33-23 and had reached a tie for first place. It looked like the natural order of things was assessing itself again. Scherzer continued his domination, going 4-0, 2.21 in May to repeat as Pitcher of the Month. Late in the month, 19-year-old rookie OF Juan Soto was called up after only a few games at AA, injuries forcing the team's hand, and he quickly showed that he was the real deal, winning a permanent spot in the line-up. He would go on to be named the league's Rookie of the Month in June. However, there was some rot visible in the foundation, mostly an underperforming bullpen apart from closer Sean Doolittle, inconsistent production from superstar OF Bryce Harper, and a rash of injuries affecting key players like Adam Eaton, David Murphy, Howie Kendrick and Ryan Zimmerman, all of whom missed significant playing time. The Nats traded for reliever Kelvin Herrera in the middle of June, but the bullpen remained an area of weakness.
The Nats reached 11 games above .500 on June 6th, by which point they had a half-game lead, but then things started to crumble. They lost 7 of 9 and finished June with a terrible record of 9-16, putting them 5 gaves back of the lead, with the Braves and Phillies continuing to play better. They then lost their first three games in July and on July 3d, they were back at .500, with a record of 42-42, and questions were being asked about whether this was just a bad patch, or if the team was really mediocre. They then proceeded to lose their now traditional late-morning Fourth of July game to the Boston Red Sox, 3-0, completing a three-game sweep that put them a game below .500. There were now questions raised about whether the Nats should now consider trading Harper, who was due to become a free agent in the fall, given that a postseason appearance was starting to look unlikely. After a players only meeting, their next game, against the Miami Marlins on July 5th, was an epic one. Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson gave up 9 runs over the first four inning, but the Nats then staged a great comeback, eventually winning 14-12. Trea Turner hit a pair of homers including his first career grand slam and drove in 8 runs while Matt Adams had four hits in his first game back from a stint on the disabled list.
Awards and Honors
- Jamal Collier: "Determined Nationals eye deep postseason run", mlb.com, March 16, 2018.