The Braves beat the Phillies 2-1 on Sunday to pull within 4 1/2 games of the Nationals in the NL East. With Chien-Ming Wang getting a spot start, the Nationals lost to the Brewers 6-2.
Now, with a five-game lead in the loss column and just 10 left to play, the Nationals are still sitting pretty. However, just look at the remaining schedules for both:
Washington: vs. Mil, 3 @Phi, 3 @StL, 3 vs. Phi
Atlanta: 3 vs. Mia, 3 vs. NYM, 3 @Pit
While the Phillies have dropped from three games to five games back of the Cardinals in the wild card by losing to the Braves the last two days, they’re not giving up yet. Perhaps they will be the time that last series of the season rolls around. But for now, the Nationals have at least seven more tough games ahead of them.
The Braves, on the other hand, got three of baseball’s coldest teams left on the schedule. The Mets have won three in a row, but that’s only because they’ve been facing the Marlins.
Atlanta could well go 8-1 to finish the season. If that happens, the Nationals would need to go 5-5 to win the division outright.
Maybe it won’t materialize. The Braves, for what it’s worth, have already lined up their rotation so that Kris Medlen would start the one-game wild card playoff. They’re not going to go all out and play Chipper Jones nine straight in an attempt to overtake the Nationals. They might drift a bit and lose a couple to inferior teams. If so, the Nationals would have nothing to worry about. Still, until that happens, it’d probably be for the best that we don’t see Wang on the mound again.
We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.
Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”
Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).
Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.