This week might be more about lost opportunities than about what was gained. Okay. You got me. I’m a pessimist. While the Nationals went 3-2 this week, taking both games against Houston and going 1-2 against Philadelphia, the Braves were 0-6. So, making up 2 ½ games in the standings is a win, but if you consider the Nats would have made up ½ game by staying in D.C. all week, it takes a bit of the luster off.
Let’s be positive, though. It’s the beginning of May and the Nats are above .500 and ½ game back in the East. They’re 17-13, and with a run differential of +14 their Pythagorean W-L record is 17-13 as well. So, they’re not especially lucky one way or the other. Considering that both Doug Fister and Wilson Ramos could be back later this upcoming week, you can make the argument that at this point in the season, with the East a free for all, the Nats are exactly where they want to be.
Eventually Adam LaRoche is going to come face to face with the regression monster, his OPS+ is 165, but it wasn’t this past week. LaRoche produced two game winning hits, batted .384 for the week, and is now sixth in the NL with 19 walks. Jayson Werth hit .350 this past week, and Anthony Rendon returned home to Houston, went 4-for-5 in the second game in that series, and is within the top 10 in the NL in doubles, triples, and RBIs. Will all three regress? Probably. But eventually Denard Span (he of the 63 OPS+ and .221/.279/.305) and Ian Desmond (78 OPS+, .233/.273/.375) will produce to career norms.
Other than Tanner Roark, who allowed seven earned against the Phillies on Saturday, the starters held their own this week. Stephen Strasburg got touched for three first inning runs in Friday’s game against the Phillies, but he stayed to pitch five more, keeping the Nats in the game until they eventually came back and won. Gio Gonzalez pitched twice this week, getting a no decision against the Astros and losing a tough 1-0 pitchers’ duel to the Phils and Roberto Hernandez.
All totaled, the starters tossed 29 2/3 innings with an ERA of 3.33. For the week, the Nats bullpen didn’t allow a single run in 13 1/3 innings pitched, while allowing nine hits with 10 strike outs. For the season, the Nats pitching is fifth in the NL in ERA and first in strike outs. Substitute Taylor Jordan and his 5.61 ERA (64 ERA+) with a competent pitcher and we’re now discussing an elite pitching staff.
Do that Nats have anyone like that ready to step in? Hey, what about Fister? He of the career 115 ERA+.
The return of Ramos will also bolster an offense that is currently tied for third in the NL in both runs scored and OPS and third in batting average, but those numbers would certainly drop without Harper’s bat in the lineup. For the season, Jose Lobaton and Sandy Leon have hit a combined .219 with 9 extra base hits and eight RBIs. So, one fewer batting spot with wasted at bats (Denard Span, ahem) will be a welcome relief.
The upcoming week will be the toughest to date for the Nats as they host the Los Angeles Dodgers for three and then travel to Oakland for three against the AL West leading A’s.