At the end of the Braves series I had the Nats "Harper-approved magic number" set at 8. Not 8 more Nats wins/ Braves losses, but instead if the Nats got an 8 game lead I'd call the division for the Nats. Since then, I've lowered it to 7 (with fewer games left to play it has to go down) and the Nats almost got there twice. First the Nats blew it to the Cards on Saturday, then Papelbon melted down like a popsicle clutched in a toddler's hand. Oh well, while the Nats can presumably win most, they can't win them all. I bet some people are probably glad that didn't happen, just so I couldn't call it and jinx the team.
What the next week and a half amounts to is this. The Braves have to keep the Nats close enough so if they were able to sweep the Nats in that next series, making up the remaining games is feasible. The first part "Braves keep Nats close enough" is not likely but it could happen. The second part, the "sweep the Nats" part is where we start to drift into fantasy. Atlanta is 5-10 versus the Nats and is far more likely to get swept than sweep. But hey we've all seen teams lose series, so we have to maintain that as a possibility.
Anyway since we didn't do it on Friday
If the Nats went .500 for the rest of the year (which isn't likely) they would finish 96-66. The Braves then, would have to go 21-6 to take the division (since a tie would go to the Nats)
We've already put the Nats in the playoffs over a month ago, but to prove that point even further, in the above scenario with the .500 finish, the Cardinals and Dodgers would have to go 23-4 and 23-3 respectively to force the Nats into a playoff for the wild card.
What else is there to talk about? Strasburg I guess. His last start is now penciled in for September the 12th. That's pretty much what I figured. I thought he'd make it to the last Braves series, and it just works out that he's going to miss it entirely. Whether you are in favor of it or not, the real shame of the shutdown is that whatever happens after that, the whole season will be framed by this decision. Any playoff series loss, outside of four epic 2-1/1-0 losses, will engender a "What if?" scenario. A World Series win will take on an air of overcoming adverstiy/Rizzo can do no wrong. Instead of a good team, playing well getting the accolades it deserves for what will be in any case a successful season, we'll get even more armchair psychology than normal.* Few things bother me more than lazy sportswriting that ignores analysis of the games and instead focuses on hazy concepts and hard to define, impossible to prove feelings as the drivers for results. This shutdown is going to bring on the laziest of lazy.
*Since the Nats have never been in the playoffs before the two story possibilities are as follows. If they win it'll be "They didn't know that they should feel pressure" and if they lose it'll be "They weren't prepared for playoff pressure".