Nationals Can Finish Season Atop The Second Tier Of The NL, Own The Best September Record In The East

Last night’s loss packed an extra punch with the implication that the Washington Nationals could no longer finish with a .500 record in 2012. That sting still lingers this morning, but Bryan Peterson’s  dramatic walk off home run should not sully what has been an emphatic month by the Nats in September, and a truly promising season overall.

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As you can see above, if the Nationals win tonight they will finish the month of September with the best record in the National League East. That fact speaks volumes when you consider the team has been playing many of their young players to prepare for the future. Veterans like Ivan Rodriguez, and Livan Hernandez have been played sparingly, and Jordan Zimmermann’s season was put to a close due to an innings pitched limit.

The Nats have had 2012 targeted on their calendar since drafting Stephen Strasburg, and it looks like the young guns are getting the winning ways started early to end this season.

Depending what happens tonight the Nationals will finish with either a 80-81 or a 79-82 record overall, which puts them in interesting company around the league. Outside of the team’s currently holding on to, or trying to grab a playoff spot in the National League, only the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants, and the Cincinnati Reds could finish the year with a better record than Washington. That’s impressive when you consider these factors:

-          The Los Angeles Dodgers have arguably the league’s best pitcher in Clayton Kershaw (21-5, 22.28 ERA, 248 K), and the league’s best hitter in Matt Kemp (.324/.399/.584).

-          The San Francisco Giants are the reigning World Champions

-          The Cincinnati Reds are a year removed from a 91-71 season.

The Nationals on the other hand finished 69-93 last season. They suffered through a great deal of the year without team superstar Ryan Zimmerman, and even more of it without staff ace Stephen Strasburg.  The club not only managed to finish comfortably in the league’s second tier despite those factors, but they also did so without their starting first baseman (Adam LaRoche), with their manager quitting half way through the year, and by starting three players everyday who had less than two full seasons of experience.

No, the Nats didn’t finish at or above .500 this year, but what a building point it turned out to be. The Mayan’s may think 2012 is the end of the world, but in Washington it looks like it’s just the beginning.

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