Jesus Flores #26 and Brad Lidge #54 of the Washington Nationals celebrate the teams win over the Toronto Blue Jays during interleague MLB game action at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Brad White/Getty Images)
In the process, the Nats also ran their record to 38-23 and opened up a 4½-game lead over the second-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
Which is impressive enough, on its face. And then I saw this:
Last Washington baseball club to start 38-23: 1933 Senators, the last D.C. team to reach the World Series. #Nats— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) June 13, 2012
That was a long time ago, 1933. If I'm a real reporter, I immediately start hunting down a couple of old baseball fans with good memories who attended the World Series in Griffith Stadium that fall. Granted, the Nationals did lose that World Series in just five games to the New York. But a D.C. team hasn't won a World Series since 1924, and it would be exponentially more difficult to find someone who well-remembers that one. Let alone was actually at one of the games.
Now, back to 1933 ... That was the end of an excellent four-year stretch for the Nationals -- who, I should mention, were routinely called the "Senators" by the sporting press -- in which the club averaged 94½ wins per season. It wasn't until 1934 that they fell apart and became the losers who eventually moved to Minnesota after a decades-long postseason drought.
Those '33 Nationals -- leaving aside a 13-13 tie -- outscored their opponents 363-299 on their way to 38-23. That run differential would typically result in 36 wins, just two fewer than their actual.
These '12 Nationals have outscored their opponents 240-198 on their way to 38-23. You'll note the vast difference in both runs scored and runs allowed, between the two squads. But that was just American League baseball in the early 1930s. The current team's run differential would typically result in ... 36 wins.
So yes, while it's hyperbolic to predict a World Series for this team because the season is young, there are other good teams, and the playoffs now last seven rounds, these Nationals do stack up well with those Nationals.
For now, at least. When the '33 Nats reached 38-23, there were in the middle of a brilliant run that saw them win 15 of 16 and 23 of 26. They ultimately cruised home at 99-53, seven games ahead of the second-place Yankees.
But of course today's Nationals don't need to win 99 games to reach the postseason tournament. Something like 92 should be plenty, and they're well on their way. Though that gets a little more difficult if they really do limit their best pitcher to 160 innings. Especially if their best rookie doesn't keep hitting like minor-league statistics are meaningless.