The team from Washington--wearing their white uniforms with the red trim and a curly "w" upon the chest--was up 2-1 through five innings. Gio Gonzalez had pitched five strong innings, and after allowing a hit to lead off the sixth, was done.
A World Series contending team should have closed this game out. But not the Nationals. Four Diamondbacks runs scored in the sixth, three in the eighth, and three in the ninth. The Nationals 2-1 lead was not only erased, but they were completely blown out. If it wasn't for two bottom-of-the-ninth runs, they would have lost by nine runs.
Every team has those games. They come out of the gate okay and blow a lead down the stretch. And as long as it does not become a habit, they are all right.
The issue with the team from Washington is that is has started to become more common. They blew two leads against the Mets in a series where they were swept. (In the first game of the series, they blew the game in the twelfth, but never led.) They lost their division hold and now are looking up at New York.
This was the team with the phenomenal pitching staff and dynamic offense. This was the team that was supposed to win the World Series. Not the team that was supposed to be looking up at the Mets in August.
They claim it was on injuries. And, yes, the Nationals suffered a lot of injuries throughout the season, losing most of their starting lineup. Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, and Denard Span, otherwise known as 50% of their eight starting position players, spent time on the DL this year.
Those guys are coming back now. They still have to find their timing. But the Nationals still should be better than their 56-51 record suggests. Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, two uninjured, key members of their starting rotation, have had down years. Their bullpen, outside of Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen, is relatively thin.
Imagine how bad this team could be without the MVP-caliber performances from Bryce Harper and the Cy Young-caliber pitching from Max Scherzer. We might not even be talking about a playoff spot now; we might be talking about what's in store for next season.
The Nationals could be teetering towards a September collapse. They're hanging around, but unless they seriously can fix their problems, it will be hard for them to seriously make a run at the postseason. They're standing on one leg; they're hoping that the injured guys can find their timing and produce. They're hoping some things go their way and they can get hot.
For a team that's just a half game out of the NL East division lead, there is a lot of work that still has to be done.
Who are the 2015 Nationals?