The Good with the Bad: Mostly Bad

The Good With the Bad is a segment in which Citizens of Natstown's Alyssa Wolice and contributor Luigi (Ouij) de Guzman (@ouij) break down the negatives and positives for each series, respectively. You, the reader, can then decide to see the glass half empty - or full - with each series wrap.

The Washington Nationals’ fears were realized Wednesday night as the New York Mets pulled off their second sweep of the Nats—this time at Nationals Park—all but ensuring that Washington’s run for the playoffs is over. Worse yet was the fashion by which the Nats dropped each of the three games—namely, through questionable management and appalling bullpen outings. With the sweep, the Nats are now 71-68: that equates to 7.0 games back in the NL East with just 23 games remaining.

THE GOOD: The end-of-season-series at Citi Field won’t induce cardiac arrest.

Remember how midseason, Nationals fans started to clue in on the idea that the final series at Citi Field—taking place Oct. 2-4—could determine which of the two teams would get the playoff nod? Not to worry! That’s no longer the case, unless the Nats can win out through the remainder of the season. It seemed, at first, that the baseball gods had it all figured out. Even better, was the vision that a season-ending series between two rivals could somehow force a Game 163. But alas, the Nats pulled off their collapse in time to spare fans the anxiety that would arise if Washington’s potential playoff berth depended on the outcome of the season’s final innings.

THE BAD: No one impacted by the Drew Storen saga is winning.

There are two main schools of thought regarding Drew Storen: there is the idea that the Nats squeezed him out of any opportunity to succeed this year by signing Jonathan Papelbon, and the concept that elite pitchers should be able to adapt to change—even when it means being converted from a closer to an eighth-inning set-up man. While the reason hitters are seeing Storen’s slider with more clarity could be anything, his performance this year could be summed up perfectly with a stat referenced by the Washington Post: Storen’s ninth-inning ERA this season is 1.62, while his eighth-inning ERA is 5.79. This past week and then some, countless fans have echoed the idea that “the save doesn’t always come in the ninth inning.” And, that’s certainly true. But, many in baseball would argue that there’s a mindset closers carry that differs from how a pitcher attacks the mid- to late-innings. A closer is someone the team has designated as their go-to in situations in which the outcome of the game is on the line. It’s a position built on trust that the designated pitcher can handle high-pressure situations. For a guy that can’t seem to escape criticism for a three-year-old memory of a playoff game, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the team’s decision to acquire a hot-headed closer to take his place destroyed his sense of self-confidence.

THE GOOD: The pressure is off the young guys.

With the Nationals’ division elimination number down to 17, Washington is fast-approaching the part of failed Major League seasons that closely resembles Spring Training. The pressure to play for a postseason berth will soon wane, and the younger guys—particularly, younger arms—will likely see increased playing time. While Felipe Rivero’s performance this week contributed to the Nats’ demise, the flamethrower’s stuff looks promising and offers hope that the Nats might develop a trustworthy reliever in due time, so long as he can stay healthy. In terms of looking to remedy the Nationals’ offense, fans can hope to see more appearances from Trea Turner, who many expect to develop into a solid infielder for the long-term.

THE BAD: Matt Williams is doing nothing to quiet critics.

Whether it’s been his decisions to leave starters in too long, his eighth- and ninth-inning managerial woes, his tendency to manage for extras before the ninth inning is even wrapped up, or his controversial calls for batters, Matt Williams has had a day… seemingly every day this season. Fans oblivious to his struggles could have gotten the full Spark Notes merely by tuning into this week’s Mets series. And, as Nats fans took to social media to debate whether he was to blame for the bullpen’s blunders in Tuesday night’s historic failure, he himself affirmed why fans are so quick to push him under the proverbial bus when he called for Anthony Rendon to bunt in the ninth. One bunt attempt might have slipped past most fans, but once the count reached 3-1 and Rendon squared to bunt yet again, Nats fans let Williams hear it. It didn’t help matters that the strategy absolutely failed – the Mets successfully opted for a fielder’s choice to nab Jayson Werth at second.

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