Improved NL East forcing meaningful games early: 'It's awesome'

Improved NL East forcing meaningful games early: 'It's awesome'
Photo credit Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The regular season is a grind, but never before have the Nationals been up against such a war of attrition in the NL East.

The Nationals, Braves, Phillies and Mets all have the roster depth to win a division and they'll be slugging it out with one another all season. "This thing is gonna be a meat grinder the whole way," as Nats GM Mike Rizzo put it.

The first two weeks of Washington's season have far more resembled the intensity of September division games than those of early April. The Nats fared well in those opening series, going 3-3 against the Mets and 3-2 against the Phillies, despite significant bullpen challenges.

Are the players themselves surprised how quickly the season has swung into full gear?

"Maybe a little bit," said Nats closer Sean Doolittle during his weekly 106.7 The Fan appearance, presented by Lindsay Volvo Cars of Alexandria. "We knew this was gonna be the case."

"But right out of the chute we played – what did we play – 11 or 12 games against the Mets and the Phillies," he said. "A lot of those games, they were close games, they were decided late, and they had a very intense feel to them. You don't normally get that. Even with a division opponent, you don't normally get that in the first half of April, but it was awesome.

"It's great feeling like you're getting thrown right into the fire and you're playing really, really meaningful games right out of the chute. A lot of times, you get really amped up for Opening Day and then there's kind of a lull as you settle into the long grind of the season. Playing some of those games in those atmospheres against division teams – when you know every win really, really matters – it's a lot of fun."