Apr 7, 2015, 3:44 PM EST
If the preseason predictions are to be believed, the Washington Nationals are supposed to waltz through the National League East without much resistance. After all, they have what is widely considered to be the best starting rotation in the game to go along with a balanced lineup that, when healthy, should be able to score in bunches.
But after a 3-1 Opening Day loss to the New York Mets, players on both clubs were quick to remind people to pump the breaks on the division championship proclamations; they have to play the games first.
“I’ve said all along our division is really good,” first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “Obviously [the Mets], the Marlins and, people don’t talk about the Braves, but I think they’re going to be pretty good. Even the Phillies when you go in there, they’ve got some good pitching”
For sure, one game in the loss column doesn’t spell doom, and the Nats may ultimately be exactly what many expect them to. But good luck telling that to the rest of the division right now.
“I don’t put much emphasis on [preseason predictions],” said Mets third baseman David Wright. “There’s a lot of experts that choose the World Series [contenders] before you play a game.
“I don’t look into what the predictions are, what the teams are supposed to do on paper, and that includes us. It’s going out there, and that’s why you play the game.”
In 2014, the Nats had their way against their division rivals from the Big Apple, compiling a 15-4 record while outscoring them 95-52. So it’s no secret in the Mets clubhouse what needs to change if New York wants to surprise this season.
“I think all the team felt that way,” said catcher Travis d’Arnaud. “We wanted to get off in the right direction against these guys. These guys had our number last year. They easily had our number. [Monday] we all knew that going into the game and we all wanted to get this season started the right way.”
Monday’s opener showed that starting pitching alone can’t propel the Nats to where they want to go. Shortstop Ian Desmond had two crucial errors that led to the Mets’ only runs of the ballgame, and the Nats lineup that is currently without of a few key bats was unable to muster enough offense to overcome the mistakes in the field. It was just one game, but a division rival showed that being opportunistic will work against anyone, even the prohibitive NL East favorites.
“When something [bad] happens, no matter how good you are, it comes back to hurt you at times,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “[Monday] it hurt them, and we took advantage of it.”
With a slew of early season health issues along with having to go up against perceived “upstart” teams like the Mets and Marlins, a second straight division crown for the Nats probably won’t be a cakewalk — and they know it.
“Everybody in our division is going to be tough this year, the Mets especially,” second baseman Dan Uggla said. “There is nobody in our division that we can take lightly.”
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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