Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals reacts after a swinging strike two against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at Wrigley Field on August 12, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Cubs won 4-3. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

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Nationals’ Playoff Chances on Brink After Squandering Cy Young-level Start by Max Scherzer

Chicago’s David Bote’s crushing a walk-off grand slam may be the straw that breaks Washington’s back.

After tossing seven shutout innings of three-hit ball and striking out 11, hurler Max Scherzer should have left Chicago with a win under his belt.

Instead, the Washington Nationals ace left the Windy City with an L after Cubs’ pinch hitter David Bote crushed a walk-off grand slam off reliever Ryan Madson with two outs in the ninth to lift Chicago to a 4-3 victory  on Sunday night.

The heartbreaking loss was symbolic of what the Nationals, who have one of the best rosters in all of baseball on paper, have been doing all year: not playing up to expectations when it counts.

It’s an issue that has now reached critical mass because, after dropping two out of three games, Washington no longer has any wriggle room if they want to make the playoffs. They need to start winning – and fast.

Now just two games over .500 at 60-58, the Nationals have a 37 percent chance to make the playoffs per FanGraphs and a 21 percent chance to qualify per FiveThirtyEight’s projections.

To reach 85 wins, the minimum victory total for wild-card teams since 2012, Washington must have a .568 win rate for the rest of the season.

It’s possible, but considering Washing has won just 46 percent of the time over the team’s last 44 games, it’s also unlikely. That’s not because the club doesn’t have the talent to do it. If the Nationals fail to make an epic comeback, then it may also mark the end of an era in which the team failed to win a title despite a roster that included a former NL MVP in Bryce Harper and a two-time Cy Young winner in Scherzer.

Read the full story at The Washington Post