It's not the most attractive impulse in humanity, but when you've been getting your head beaten in all year, it can make you feel a little better to take out some revenge on your tormentors. It's especially satisfying if you can win games that your rivals need.
The Nationals seem to have sunk into a different psychological tendency: Stockholm Syndrome. Because I'll be darned if they aren't trying to help the other guys win. The Nationals are the anti-spoilers of Major League Baseball, the team every contender desperately wants to play. If you're sinking out of the race, Nationals Park is where you go to get well.
Here are the Nationals records against the contenders since they took two of three from the Braves July 4 weekend:
- Atlanta: 0-5
- Philly: 1-5
- Colorado: 0-6
- Los Angeles: 1-2
- St. Louis: 0-4
(I was at both of those wins, by the way. Enough about me being the bad luck charm!)
Why is San Francisco fading? They haven't seen the Nationals since the first week of June! If Colorado gets bounced from the playoffs over the final week while Atlanta plays seven of their last ten against the Scats, Rockies fans will have a reason to gripe.
This weekend I really started to wonder if the fix was in. On Friday, Pete Orr, Willie Harris, Justin Maxwell, and Josh Willingham combined to hand the Braves three runs in the first inning. Saturday, Elijah Dukes and Orr again committed two errors in the first three innings which, combined with two walks by Garrett Mock gifted Atlanta a four-spot. Dukes added another error later for good measure.
But, alas, I don't actually think the Nationals are tanking. They're doing their best. Nothing shows how far the Nationals are from contending than the way they've been abused by the better teams in the NL this year.