The past week was a mixed bag for the Nationals. Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg both pitched well against the Marlins, helping the Nats to reclaim the NL East lead against the surprising Marlins. Gonzalez pitched six strong in the opening game shutout while Strasburg pitched 6 2/3, striking out twelve.
If the first and last games of the series were dominated by Nats pitching, the second game of the series carried all of the drama. Falling behind 5-0, the Nats battled back to take, then relinquish the lead, and ultimately they won on a Jayson Werth grand slam in the eighth. In the series sweep, the Nats won 5-0, 10-7, and 7-1 with Ian Desmond adding a grand slam in the series finale to put that game out of reach. At 7-2 on the season, the Nats entered their weekend series against Atlanta feeling confidant.
If strong pitching and timely hitting defined the Marlins series, giving up early runs and a rash of injuries defined Atlanta’s. In the three games, the Nats fell behind 4-0 in game one, 5-1 in game two, and 6-0 in game three. Like the second game against the Marlins, the Nats were able to chip away at the Braves early in lead in game one, but they lost 7-6 in 10 innings. In games two and three, the Braves early leads proved to be too much. Atlanta won game two 6-3 and finished the sweep on Sunday 10-2. The Nats are now 1-5 this season against the Braves and are a woeful 7-22 in their last 29.
The Atlanta series proved painful in more ways than one for the Nats, particularly attempting to outfit a 25-man roster with quality players. Denard Span was placed on the seven-day disabled list Sunday morning with a concussion, a sometimes tricky injury to overcome for some players. In recent memory, both Jason Bay and Justin Morneau struggled getting back on the field or returning to normal once returned. Ryan Zimmerman also went down, fracturing his thumb, and being listed as out for four to six weeks.
The Nats certainly hoped for a week better than 3-3, but there were positives to take from the past seven days. Bryce Harper broke out of his early season slump, hitting .476 for the week with his first home run of the season and four RBIs. Werth drove in seven this week and Desmond drove in six. Anthony Rendon saw his 11 game hitting streak, which dated back to last season, come to an end, but he recorded three multi-hit games.
For the week, the Nats bullpen again pitched admirably. Ross Deitweiler and Craig Stammen were the most heavily used, with Stammen pitching exceptional relieving Jordan Zimmerman in game two against the Marlins. All told, the bullpen finished the week tossing 23 innings with an ERA just south of 2. Outside of Gonzalez and Strasburg’s respective starts against the Marlins, the starting pitching struggled. As a whole, the starters tossed 30 innings with an ERA of 6.6.
After a week of mixed results, the Nationals still continued to impress with beards that would make a lumberjack envious. Werth leads the way and garners all of the attention, but Adam LaRoche’s orange beard is impressive in its own right. Every time the camera zooms in, I can’t help but think how glorious it would be if Hostess invented a Creamsicle flavored Snowball. Unfortunately, Deitweiler’s mustache continues to confuse.
In the week ahead, the Nats travel to Miami and then return home for a four game series with the St. Louis Cardinals.