Yesterday, the 2012 Washington Nationals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals by a score of 4 to 3. Stephen Strasburg pitched well, but got a no-decision–the vagaries of the rule-book having awarded the win to Ryan Mattheus. Tyler Clippard recorded a save. Later, the national media would focus on the news that Strasburg’s season would end on September 12.
As the rest of the baseball world considered this, something more amazing happened: The 2012 Nationals won their 81st game. That exceeds the 2011 Nationals’ 80 wins. It ties the 2005 Nationals, whose improbable, roller-coaster, flip-a-coin debut in the Capital was a delirious first love affair for this generation of baseball fans.
There are still 29 games remaining.
That’s right, Nats town. If the Nationals win so much as one out of the next 29 games, they will have completed their best season ever since they arrived in DC.
We knew this was coming, of course. As soon as Gio Gonzalez recorded his 16th win of the season on August 19, beating Livan Hernandez’s 15-win 2005, we knew. But somehow it hasn’t been real until now: the 2012 Nationals have begun to outrun the long shadow of futility. They cannot be compared to the Natinals of years past. They are tied with the Texas Rangers for the highest run differential in all baseball–a feat they achieve with only an average offense, because they allow the fewest runs per game (3.6) in the National League. And, although I complain constantly, the Nats have scored 269 runs in the months of July and August–second only to the Milwaukee Brewers in runs scored during that period.
These Nats are pretty good, you guys. So don’t sweat the Strasburg Shutdown drama. Whatever happens, we Nats fans already have the team we dreamed about since the last out was recorded in 2005: a team that can beat any other team in the league on any given day. In the words of Ryan Zimmerman–a man who knows a thing or two about these things–the Nats have finally given DC baseball fans a team to cheer for.
Today, as you get ready to watch those Nats face the Cubs, remember that. Today, you have a team to cheer for, one that is the equal of any other in baseball–and perhaps better than most.
Today, savor how awesome that is.
Today, root, root, root for the home team.