One overlooked issue that could have a long-term impact on the Phillies’ chances to reach the postseason is the timing of their recent four-game losing streak. With a big weekend in Cincinnati and a win in Boston last night, the Phillies would have almost definitively dealt a deathblow to the Nationals’ playoffs chances just ahead of today’s trade deadline. Instead, the team’s bats have gone radio silent by posting seven runs in four losses since Friday night, and in doing so, have given the Nationals new life.
Sure, there have been reports of turmoil existing in Washington’s clubhouse and a waning belief in manager Dave Martinez. It’s also true that the Nationals, despite clearly being the NL East’s most talented team and the overwhelming preseason favorite, have often appeared utterly apathetic about playing October baseball. Issues remain for a sub-.500 team that has been rumored in recent days to be willing to disassemble what has been a wildly underachieving roster, but that feels unwise. They have to look up and see the promising but imperfect Braves treading water, and the Phillies, the most defective first-place team in recent memory sputtering, and feel like they have ample opportunity in front of them to jump back into the division race.
If you’re looking for value, and you also happen to be a masochist, you might have interest in the current odds to win National League East provided by Bovada:
The Phillies remain favorites to win the division by most projection models. FiveThirtyEight gives them a 47% chance to win the east, followed by the Braves (39%), and the Nationals (14%). FanGraphs also gives the Phillies the best chance, but provides Washington with a more favorable outlook:
I think it might be worth a flyer on the Nationals with a better than 2:1 payout given they are a more talented team that also has a better run-differential (+38) than the Phillies (+21). Can they make up 5.5 games in two months on a team whose options at shortstop are Scott Kingery, owner of a .601 OPS, and Asdrubal Cabrera, who may be the worst defensive infielder in baseball? Yes. Yes, they can.
In terms of the standings, the damage done by the Phillies’ recent four-game skid could have been worse, but their inability to knock out a team that has won the division three of the last four years could have a seismic impact over the season’s final two months.