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Nationals pulling away from Mets

The Washington Nationals were supposed to be a juggernaut at the beginning of the season, an undefeatable machine with nothing ahead but an 162-game spring training until the playoffs began. Early on, it seemed the New York Mets might get in the way of that narrative. These days it appears we are back to the former storyline.

Washington is only 3.5 games ahead of New York in the National League East, but the divide feels like 1,000 games. The Nationals are riding an incredible offense and one of the greatest pitching performances in modern history by Max Scherzer to get nine games over .500 at 43-34. Scherzer recently threw a one-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers before climbing on the bump and tossing a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates at National Park. In his next start, Scherzer had another no-no going into the sixth inning.

It has been nothing short of Hollywood, and the free-agent picking is proving his worth and then some on the way to an All-Star bid. Offensively, Washington has scored 342, only two less than the Arizona Diamondbacks and three fewer than the Colorado Rockies in the NL. The lineup is deep, but ultimately led by the powerful bat of outfielder Bryce Harper. Harper is having an MVP-worthy season, hitting .340 with 24 home runs and 58 RBI. Not shockingly, Harper is leading the team in all those categories.

Frankly, the Mets are struggling to keep pace with Washington because they don’t have that middle-of-the-order bat. With David Wright on the disabled list with what could be a career-threatening back injury, New York has to rely heavily on Michael Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson to carry the load. Granderson is currently hitting .255 with a robust 13 homers but only 27 RBI. Cuddyer is at .243 with six blasts and 28 RBI, barely qualifying to be a starter let alone a big bat.

However, the main difference between the two teams is the ability to play away from home. The Nationals aren’t world-beaters but they are treading water, amassing a 21-20 record. New York has been amazing at Citi Field with a 29-12 record (the best home mark in the majors) but a brutal 11-26 road record.

Simply put, it is impossible to be a potential postseason team when you are 15 games below .500 on the road. Down the stretch, New York is going to have to win some tough road series if it wants to compete for the division, let alone take down a Wild Card spot.

For now, consider the Nationals the massive, overwhelming favorite to win the East and perhaps represent the National League in the World Series. The Mets are a team with great pitching and plenty of spirit, but the rosters are nothing to compare.

Washington is the best team, and it is not close.

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