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Wake-up Call: Nationals Aren’t Going Anywhere

Jun 13, 2012, 2:34 PM EDT

Sorry Phils fans, the Nationals aren't looking like a team that will implode any time soon.

It’s probably safe to assume everybody is tired of asking and answering the question, “Are the Phillies out of it?” Technically, no, but their odds of making up this ground (10 games) grow longer by the day — yet if you think this team is done, to paraphrase: you are a terrible person.

There are a number of fair reasons not to call it already. It’s a long season, and reinforcements are on the way. A lot can happen between now and October. All of that is true. Optimistic, but true.

There is a point where optimism becomes hopeless.

Part of the rallying cry is the rest of the NL East will fade. The Braves have been also-rans for years, the Mets are still a work in progress, and the Marlins historically falter down the stretch — except when they don’t and they win the World Series instead.

The Nationals, of course, are the Nationals. We are trained not to take them seriously.

My advice to Phillies fans is to start.

The only thing that can derail Washington now are injuries. In Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, they have two of the best players in baseball. From top to bottom, theirs is the best rotation in the league, with a strong bullpen and defense backing them. All together, there is just enough pop in their lineup to propel the club to 38 wins, the second-highest total in baseball.

What part of this equation do you envision falling apart? The Nationals have dealt with their share of adversity, like losing catcher Wilson Ramos for the year, or Jayson Werth for 60 days to a broken wrist. Still they are on top, their confidence building.

And they are only getting better, I’m afraid.

Strasburg has been dominant, but restrained. The Nats don’t have him pitching huge amounts of innings, though he’s racked up eight wins and All-Star numbers anyway — just wait until he’s unleashed.

Only a blind person could ignore the run Harper is on. Washington is 15-6 over the last 21 games, during which he raised his batting average from .230 to .303, to go along with 19 runs scored, five home runs, and 20 RBI. The kid is for real.

If the Phillies have any chance of catching the Nationals, it’s through improving themselves, not waiting for the other guys to implode. Washington will be there in September. Maybe they don’t take the East, but they look like a playoff team for sure, and a helluva lot better than the Phils right now.

The really scary part is, if they don’t mess this thing up, the Nationals look like they could be better than the Phillies for years to come.