Oh my goodness, Nationals fans; what’s happening to our team? Well they’re in first place, that’s what! I know; I shouldn’t get too excited because they’re technically TIED for first place with the Atlanta Braves, and that could change instantly after tonight’s games. But regardless of what the standings show, it’s nice to cheer for a team that is playing well.
The Nationals have won eight of their last ten games (they lost the one I went to at Nationals Park against Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers – that upset me a little). Over those 10 games, the Nationals have outscored their opponents 62-18. Their starting pitchers have delivered 10 straight quality starts, and in their last six games, Nationals starters have struck out 47 and issued no walks, making them the first team to do so since 1914. How cool is that?
Ryan Zimmerman is back from the Disabled List, playing a decent center field and swinging a good bat. Ian Desmond has been on fire, hitting 4 home runs and driving in 13 runs in his last 10 games. Leadoff man Denard Span continues to get on base and has swiped 9 bags, and Adam LaRoche leads the team in batting with a not-too-shabby .306 batting average.
My only offensive concern is at second base, where Danny Espinosa continues his Gold-Glove-winning ways but is batting a lousy .228. He has struck out 70 times in 180 at-bats, and has let the team down in several critical situations. I say put Ryan Zimmerman back at third base (his throwing shoulder seems to be fine) and let Anthony Rendón back at second base. Espinosa can go back to the bench, especially when Bryce Harper returns in early July and the opening day lineup is back together.
On the mound, Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, and Tanner Roark have been remarkable recently. The one question mark is Gio Gonzalez, who is on the DL and has one rehab start in the minors that did not go very well. Before going on the DL, Gio did not show as much control and did not dominate as much as he has in the past 2 years, so hopefully the rest and rehab will do him well and the Nationals’ starting five will continue to overpower hitters for the next 4 months.
What else do the Nationals need to do to remain in first place? Like I said last week, they need to beat the Braves and Marlins. Their next series against the Braves is a four-game series at home from June 19-22 (try to make it down to the Park if you can for those games). That will be a pivotal set of games where the Nationals can tear away from the Braves and hold a solid spot in first place in the NL East. They still have to finish their current series out west against the Giants and have 3 games in St. Louis before coming home for 2 against the Astros, so a lot can happen before the Braves come to town. Let’s hope the Nationals keep playing well and putting a lot more Curly “W”s in the books between now and then.