The Nationals were pushed off the precipice of playoff elimination Saturday evening when the New York Mets wrapped up their improbable run to a division title by routing Cincinnati 10-2.  Sadly the September slide for the Nats began a few weeks ago when they were swept at home by the Mets;  their postseason hopes were all but extinguished when they were broomed by Baltimore this past Thursday.  Here’s to an offseason of picking up the pieces…and wondering if what was once one huge window is now closing.

Broomed by Baltimore?  Yes, you read correctly.  The team that couldn’t score a run against Boston over the weekend came to DC and took three straight from the hometown team…rallying in the late innings both Tuesday and Wednesday.  Three winnable games where the team had trouble drawing 30,000 fans–and those that showed up wore orange and shouted “O’s!” during the Anthem.  

Last Week’s Hero– Calvin Coolidge was our 30th President.  He spoke little, thus the nickname “Silent Cal”.  Coolidge’s most famous quote, next to “the business of America is business” was “I do not choose to run for President in 1928”.  Somehow the man who chose not to run is running during the 4th inning of every home game.  As this year is Coolidge’s turn in the White House Christmas Tree Ornament rotation (they go in order of chief executive, meaning next year Herbert Hoover gets his due), the man of few words gets a racing mascot who actually looks more like President Harding (it’s okay if the Nats goofed–at least they spelled names right and didn’t shoot sausage sandwiches inside T-shirts).  Coolidge’s bobblehead night was supposed to be Monday–but the rainout meant that they also gave away renditions of the chief executive Thursday.  Technically not a two-termer (he succeeded Harding after his death), Silent Cal made us proud.

Last Week’s Humbled– plenty to choose from as Ian Desmond was the only regular hitting better than .235 and Stephen Strasburg was the lone pitcher with an ERA of under 5.40.  But Jonathan Papelbon takes the prize for being lit up like the dumpster fire this team has apparently become.  His plunking of Manny Machado stole the spotlight during the sweep by the Orioles before his dugout scuffle with Bryce Harper obscured Sunday’s late-inning collapse.  Also culpable: General Manager Mike Rizzo.  HIs trade for Papelbon at the deadline was the rock in the water that had ripple effects far beyond whatever his 9th inning shortcomings may have been with Drew Storen and Casey Janssen never the same in their new roles.  Manager Matt Williams gets his due because after the scuffle Papelbon went back in to pitch the 9th inning!  Granted, he allowed 2 runs over two thirds of an inning…so you could make the case he really didn’t pitch.  But either Williams thought that choking his star player wasn’t a bad thing or wasn’t aware of the situation.  Incompetence, ignorance or apathy?  That’s a fun trio to choose from.

Game to Watch– Jordan Zimmermann pitches Wednesday in Atlanta.  He deserved better here.  I still maintain he should’ve started Game 1 against San Francisco last year– and I won’t even talk about the decision to lift Zim in the 9th inning of Game 2.  He gets one more chance to match last year’s 14 wins…and it’d be nice to see him make his 178th start a better outing than his final one in DC.

Game to Miss– Monday’s matinee with Cincinnati may be sending Max Scherzer to the mound…but he also started Labor Day afternoon and was torched for 5 runs over 6 innings.  After the hot mess that was last week and this past weekend, do we really want to see another game from this team in DC?