Roger Bernadina's spectacular catch sealed the Nationals' win last night.
Their All-Star shortstop is out until September. Their highest-paid player just returned from a three-month stint on the disabled list and already had to miss a game because his legs were tired. And their staff ace is going to be shut down for the remainder of the season in about a month.
Oh, did we mention the Nationals have baseball's best record and are now on pace to win 99 games in 2012?
If you prevented yourself from checking the standings over the past few weeks, you might very well have come away convinced the Nationals are in trouble. They haven't exactly played like the best team in the majors.
But this might be the true confirmation of Washington's new-found status as a baseball powerhouse. Even when they're not playing their best, they're still winning more regularly than any other club in the sport.
Why? Because they're loaded with superior talent, up and down the roster.
The rotation isn't just Stephen Strasburg and four guys who take up space. Jordan Zimmermann has the NL's second-best ERA. Gio Gonzalez has the fourth-most strikeouts. Edwin Jackson has completed seven or more innings seven times. And Ross Detwiler, with another strong performance last night, now boasts a 2.99 ERA (ninth-best in the NL).
The lineup is as deep with potent bats as just about any other in the NL. Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse, Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth ... what team wouldn't take that quintet, or sextet once Ian Desmond returns from his oblique tear? And even when those stalwarts struggle to produce on a given night, Davey Johnson merely turns to someone else for clutch hits, whether it's Danny Espinosa (who drove in all three runs last night), Chad Tracy or Roger Bernadina.
And there are few slicker-fielding clubs than this one, from Zimmerman's Gold Glove at third base to LaRoche's steadying influence at first base to Bernadina's game-saving ability in center field. (And if you saw his jaw-dropping conclusion to last night's victory in Houston, you know just how important Bernadina has become to this team.)
Point is, the Nationals aren't winning games because of the contributions of one or two big names. They're winning games because night in and night out, they manage to get contributions from just about everybody on the roster.
And through the season's first four months, they continue to get better.
At the one-quarter pole, the Nationals were on pace to win 93 games. At the one-third pole, the pace went up to 96 wins. At the halfway mark, they were holding steady at a 96-win pace. And now that they've just surpassed the two-thirds mark, they've upped the rate to 99 wins.
That's a pretty good sign. While other clubs endure through roller-coaster seasons, riding long winning streaks one week and then falling into the abyss the next, the Nationals have been remarkably consistent.
There have been only three 10-game stretches this season in which the Nationals lost more games than they won: April 19-May 1 (4-6), June 15-25 (3-7) and July 8-21 (4-6). That's it. Those don't even qualify as troublesome losing streaks.
That most recent downturn ended after the first game of the July 21 doubleheader against the Braves. At that moment, the Nationals had seen their lead over Atlanta dwindle to 1 1/2 games. Then John Lannan was called up from Class AAA to make a spot start and pitched a gem, and ever since then the Nats are 14-4.
Are there some things to be concerned about with this team? Sure. They're by no means perfect, and some questions have been raised in recent days.
But there's simply too much talent on that roster to let the little hiccups cascade into major headaches.
This just in: The Nationals are the best team in baseball at this moment. And there's nothing fluky about it.