The Washington Nationals allowed an inside the park grand slam this past weekend against the Phillies–the now undisputed worst team in baseball. They also managed to lose their closer for a few games due to a “family” incident. Oh, and they were mathematically eliminated from playoffs contention. Prior to the start of the 2015 season, the Nats were all but given the NL East by every major sports news outlet. They were the on-paper champs once again and would almost certainly be in the World Series despite being largely the same team that failed in 2014. They parlayed these expecations into one of the most spectacular catastrophes in recent memory. Now they come to Atlanta at the end of the year to play three meaningless games against a Braves team that was never supposed to be anything but bad. The Braves have to win at least one game in their next six in order to avoid triple digit losses on the year. They will be playing against the specter of arbitrary record thresholds 1 The Nationals wil be playing because–well, because they are contractually obligated to finish the season.
As one might guess, each of the pitching matchups for this game favor the Nationals. They are great at looking like they should win games. And the Braves with names like Wisler and Pérez and Weber are equally great at looking like they should lose. The difference is that while the Braves typically live up to their expectation, the Nats have become expert at finding new and exciting ways to lose games. They’ve still managed a better than .500 record thanks to a few streaks of competence here and there. But when it comes down to it, the Nats are collectively a bunch of bums despite throwing names like Zimmerman and Strasburg to the mound and having the NL MVP out in right field most nights.
Despite the futility of it all, both teams should show some real pluck and duel this quarrel out to the finish. It promises to be a real bare knuckle brawl between a team that has choked hard this season and a team that will be scrapping to not finish with the worst record in the franchise’s past 30 years. Fans have reason to expect a real emotional scuffle between these two losers. The Fightin’ Nats of Washington are here to exchange blows with the embattled Braves of Atlanta. Let’s just hope the contestants can avoid any ugly altercations.