With their pitching, count on Nationals to be competitive


It looked like the Nationals were going to go on a long losing streak after being swept by the Phillies. To their credit, they bounced back by winning the first two games against the Marlins. They could sweep the Marlins this afternoon with a victory.

A sweep would put them at 17-17 if they can accomplish that. Still, to be 16-17 after last night’s 5-2 victory is impressive.

Folks thought the Nationals would be one of the worst teams in baseball, but that hasn’t been the case so far.

That’s a credit to their pitching that they were able to survive this season so far. Good pitching helps them be in games more often than not.  That’s why they will win 70 to 76 games this season.

The Nationals feature Jordan Zimmerman, John Lannan, Tom Gorzelanny and Jason Marquis as their starters, and in the bullpen, they feature Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen to protect leads.

Those guys have been effective, and that’s why the team has been staying afloat despite a lousy offense.

This is a tribute to the job Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has done since taking over full-time in the summer of 2009. He focused on building his team through pitching.

Rizzo knows power arms helps his team work fast and get outs. He also knows pitching is what wins games

Rizzo acquired Gorzelanny from the Cubs in a trade this offseason. Burnett was acquired from the Pirates in the Nyjer Morgan trade.  Zimmerman and Lannan were discovered by him in the draft when he served as Jim Bowden’s assistant. Marquis was signed to a contract last year.

People can talk about Rizzo drafting Stephen Strasburg in the 2009 draft, but let’s also remember he drafted Storen in that same draft that year.

These moves worked out well for the Nationals.  They are getting the job done. If the offense actually did something, maybe they have a winning record.

Finding guys who can hit should be the next project for Rizzo, and that’s going to take awhile for that to happen.

Still, the pitchers embrace the challenge of winning games by themselves. It’s something they take pride in. They like the idea of being the difference-makers.

They might be frustrated with lack of run support, which is human nature. Still, that does not deter them from the challenge of winning games.

It’s the type of attitude they must have whether it’s fair or not. There’s nothing the team can do in getting them help anytime soon, not when it will take several years for guys to develop in the minors and in the major leagues.

The pitchers are better off handling the challenge. It will help them build character, and it will make them better pitchers for it.

Watching the Nationals pitch, it makes the team fun to watch. There’s nothing like watching close games, and it’s great when the game goes quickly.

In the last two nights, the Nationals and Marlins engaged in pitching duels. It made the game interesting and an exciting finish.

The Nationals pitched well enough to put them in a position to win Friday night, and in the end, they won in extra innings. Zimmerman, Clippard, Storen and Burnett did the honors in leading the team to a victory.

Last night, it was the same story. Gorzelanny gave up two hits and two runs in seven innings, and Burnett and Storen did the rest in preserving a 5-2 victory over the Marlins.

There are going to be times when the pitchers pitched good enough to lose. That’s going to happen when the Nationals are overmatched against teams like the Phillies.

Despite all that, the Nationals are doing this right.  In order to learn how to win, they need pitching to help them guide the way. It can help them do well in the next few years with experience. That will help them be equipped for the pennant race.

This is just a first step to being a good team. The promise is certainly there, and that has to be encouraging for an organization that wants to take the next step.

This is a sign of progress from what it used to be. It wasn’t long ago when this team was unwatchable and when the game was over before it started.

Now, this team has some sort of chance to win games, and that starts on the mound.