MLB Power Rankings: Nats’ struggles create whole new NL East dynamic


Washington Nationals' Anthony Rendon (6) reacts to being hit by the ball by Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Urena (62) during the third inning on Saturday, April 20, 2019, in Miami. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

In baseball there are slow starts and debilitatingly slow starts.

The Red Sox had a slow start, going 6-13 through their first three weeks. It looked bleak for a while, but they’ve gone 17-7 since thanks to bounce-back performances from Mookie Betts, Chris Sale and others. They look like a playoff team again, just as we expected.

In Washington, the Nationals’ slow start looks far more likely to derail their season. They’re seven games below .500 now with a -24 run differential. Injuries to Anibal Sanchez and Ryan Zimmerman leave them without key contributors.

There’s some bounce-back potential here, especially if the likes of Juan Soto, Trea Turner and Yan Gomes produce to their potential. Even so, those early losses count. FanGraphs projects an 83-79 record for Washington despite their talented roster.

With that in mind, Joel Sherman of the New York Post recently suggested the possibility that the Nationals sell at the trade deadline. Max Scherzer and Anthony Rendon would undoubtedly bring back huge returns in summer deals, but it’d be a departure from the norm for Washington, which has typically been a deadline buyer in recent years.

The Nationals have since won two games, but they’re still fourth in the NL East and their playoff odds have dropped to 15.8 per cent, according to Baseball Prospectus. By using closer Sean Doolittle to preserve a four-run lead Wednesday, manager Dave Martinez seemed to acknowledge that Nationals can’t afford to lose further ground.

They’re among the biggest losers in this week’s rankings, while the Astros take over top spot and the Twins continue their steady climb…

1 (2) Houston Astros

2 (1) Los Angeles Dodgers

3 (3) New York Yankees

4 (8) Boston Red Sox

5 (4) Tampa Bay Rays

6 (5) Chicago Cubs

7 (10) Milwaukee Brewers

8 (9) Minnesota Twins

9 (7) Philadelphia Phillies

10 (6) St. Louis Cardinals

11 (12) Cleveland Indians

12 (14) Atlanta Braves

13 (11) Washington Nationals

14 (13) New York Mets

15 (15) Arizona Diamondbacks

16 (17) Colorado Rockies

17 (16) San Diego Padres

18 (18) Oakland Athletics

19 (20) Los Angeles Angels

20 (19) Seattle Mariners

21 (21) Pittsburgh Pirates

22 (23) Cincinnati Reds

23 (22) Texas Rangers

24 (26) San Francisco Giants

25 (27) Chicago White Sox

26 (24) Toronto Blue Jays

27 (25) Detroit Tigers

28 (28) Kansas City Royals

29 (29) Baltimore Orioles

30 (30) Miami Marlins

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