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The Nats were swept by the Red Sox and might be in trouble

Thursday’s Say Hey, Baseball looks at the spiraling Nationals.

Boston Red Sox v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Nationals were swept by the Red Sox this week, and outscored 18-7 in the process. The shutout loss on Wednesday was the eighth time since June 1 Washington failed to score any runs, and the team’s record since is 9-20 — the most recent loss, their fifth in a row, pushed them under .500 on the season.

The Nats have had a very up-and-down 2018 to this point, and there’s been more down than up. They kicked off their March and April with a 13-16 record that saw them in fourth place in the NL East, 5.5 games behind the [checks notes] ... Mets? Sure, why not. In May, the Nats looked more like the team everyone expected them to be, outscoring opponents 119-71 to push them to a 20-7 record that left them half-a-game behind the Braves for first in the East at month’s end.

Since then, it’s been all downhill. Washington is, as said, 9-20 since June 1, and have been outscored 138-110 in that stretch. It’s who they’ve lost to that should make Nationals fans nervous, too: the Braves took three of four from them at the start of June, and the Phillies won both series against them during the month, too. The Nats sit seven back of the Braves and 5.5 behind the Phillies, who hold the second NL wild card at the moment. The Cubs, Phillies, Dodgers, Cardinals, Giants, and Rockies all sit ahead of the Nats in the wild card race.

There’s still hope for Washington, of course. It’s July 5, and the Nats have 77 games left on the schedule. The Braves are on pace for 93 wins, the Phillies 91. The Nationals, as of right now, are on pace for 80: they’ll need a significant turnaround to change that, but it’s not impossible with the talent assembled on the roster. It becomes more difficult by the day, however, as they already need to play a .675 pace the rest of the way in order to reach 94 wins.

Needing 94 wins assumes the Braves and Phillies both keep their current pace, obviously, which isn’t a guarantee. Neither is playing at a ridiculous level right now, though, and they’re still capable of easily outpacing Washington, so they’ve also got some wiggle room to fail. The Nats have no such space left: they’ve already used it all up with 77 games to go, and need to turn things around starting right now.