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.
Last week as the Manny Machado trade drama was playing out, I and a lot of other people suspected as early as Monday and into Tuesday morning that the Orioles already had a deal in place for Machado and that they were just keeping it under wraps in order to get through the All-Star break (a) without any awkwardness; and (b) with the Orioles still having an All-Star representative. It would be Wednesday morning before the Orioles would make it official.
Turns out we were wrong. Machado was actually traded before Monday morning. Basically anyway, with the Orioles going so far as to pull him out of last Sunday’s game early because of it. And, of course, they lied about it. From Bob Nightengale of USA Today who spoke with Machado following his debut weekend with the Dodgers:
It was a week ago Sunday when Machado homered for the 24th time this season, the Orioles playing the final game of the first half against the Texas Rangers, when he was removed after the fourth inning after a 26-minute rain delay.
The Orioles told reporters after the game it was simply for precaution, making sure Machado didn’t get hurt playing on a wet field.
They may have fibbed to everyone else, but they told Machado the truth.
“That’s when they had told me I had been traded,’’ Machado said. “They said they pretty much had a deal done. They just wanted to wait until after the break to get all of the medical stuff done.
That didn’t stop all of the usual rumor-mongering reporters from tweeting stuff about this or that team “being in the race” or “taking the lead” or three or four teams in the “debry” or “sweepstakes” as it entered “the home stretch.” A bunch of track announcers calling a race that wasn’t even being run.
In the final analysis this is all benign. Teams lie about stuff all the time and a day or two in either direction made no difference to anyone involved. Still, it says a lot about how the trade rumor business works.