Every year in April, I think about how ridiculous the term “dog days of summer” is. How do people become bored and uninterested when it comes to a baseball team they love and every game matters so much and counts the same as any other? Then August rolls around. I’ll admit it: I was entirely indifferent towards the result of a Harper-less, Turner-less, Werth-less (no pun intended, but fitting) Wednesday night game against the Angels. As I said to my mom as we drove across the country to move my stuff back into school for senior year, “honestly I’m just listening to the game so I know if anyone else gets hurt.” Granted, part of this comes with the benefit of a double-digit division lead with no real competition for the NL East title since May. Still, as an aware baseball fan, the games that matter that don’t include men in a curly W are worth following. To help Nationals fans, I put together the August Awareness Guide (with the understanding that unless you have MLB.tv, many of these games can’t be watched) so you can know what scores to keep an eye on over the next two weeks.
St. Louis @ Pittsburgh, 8/18 – 8/20: The month’s third weekend will center around a marquee matchup between former NL powerhouses fighting to stay afloat in a surprisingly tight Central race. To stay relevant in a division where the Cubs look like they could pull away in August (more on that in a second), these are huge games. If one team is able to sweep, they will situate themselves nicely to be a constant thorn in the defending champion’s side for the final fifty games. The loser of this series faces an even more steep hill to climb, one that may be too difficult to overcome. Sunday’s game is on ESPN for your viewing pleasure.
Milwaukee @ Colorado, 8/18 – 8/20: The biggest attraction in the NL playoff race might be in Pittsburgh this weekend, but there’s a high chance that neither team makes it past 162 games. If you want to watch a team who has been entrenched in a playoff spot all year play a team desperate to keep pace in their own race, this is where you should focus. Saturday’s game is also likely to feature Rockies’ pitcher Chad Bettis, who returned from his battle with cancer to throw seven scoreless innings on August 14th. If he turns out to be more than just a feel-good story he could be a difference maker for a Colorado team with stronger pitching than people realize.
Boston @ Cleveland, 8/21 – 8/24: I know, I know, I feel bad recommending the viewing of American League baseball and the DH, but here there is little mid-week intrigue in the Senior Circuit. Instead, take in a potential rematch of last year’s ALDS. If I know anything about unlikely rivalries between non-division teams in the AL, is that they can heat up, and quick. If nothing else, come home from work and turn on baseball that is almost certainly not going to be affected by your Nationals’ fandom in the slightest.
Chicago (NL) @ Pittsburgh, 8/28 – 8/30: This is pretty much the only Cubs series worth watching over the next month. The likely NL Central champions have an incredibly easy schedule, with no games against .500 or better teams until September 8th when they visit Milwaukee. Still, they are 5-7 against the Pirates this year, so the best chance for the Little Bears to surrender ground is in the Steel City. If you want to watch the Nationals’ most likely NLDS opponent, this is by far the best series to tune in to.
Los Angeles @ Arizona, 8/29 – 8/31: Indulge yourself in what is a likely NLDS scenario while knowing that there is no chance that the Nationals would have to face both Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in the playoffs this season. The combined star power is nearly blinding, led by LA’s Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner and Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb, all of whom will likely receive MVP votes. If you, like me, want to know if the Dodgers could possibly lose a playoff series this year, this is the month’s best chance to get a peek. This battle of pure power should be fun for fans of any team.
Milwaukee @ Washington, 8/31 – 9/3: Turn the calendar over with a return to your regularly scheduled Nationals viewing and check out a series that will have immediate playoff implications. The worse the Nats do against the Brewers, the more likely they are to play the Brewers in the playoffs, and vice versa. One of the most meaningful series of the first weekend of September should return your full interest in the outcomes of Nats games. Also consider that Trea Turner could be making his return around the first week of September, so there is no excuse to not be listening to the elite color commentary of F.P. at 8pm on the last day of August.
Once September rolls around and rosters expand, games will once again have great meaning as playoff rosters start to get formed and division races finalize themselves. Try to enjoy the last couple weeks of not having blood pressure swings on every pitch thrown by a Washington pitcher. I know I certainly will.Tags: Nationals, Nats, Washington Nationals