The Washington Nationals have had a lot of success so far this season. Can they keep it up during their tough upcoming road trip?
Through 21 games this season, the Washington Nationals are a stellar 14-7, are first in the National League with a 2.34 ERA, and have the best fielding percentage in all of baseball. The only caveat on their success thus far is the poor level of competition that they have been pitted against.
So far in the young season, the Nats have faced the Braves, Marlins, Phillies, and Twins. Among those teams, the Phillies currently sport the best record at a meager 12-10. Each of them rank in the bottom seven in the majors in runs scored, and Miami is really the only team with a legitimate chance at making the postseason.
Suddenly, the Nats find themselves preparing for a road trip that will take them into the month of May and ultimately define what kind of team they really are. In the next ten contests, Washington will be facing the likes of the Cardinals, Royals, and Cubs, all of whom made the postseason last year.
Up first will be a trip to St. Louis, where Stephen Strasburg (3-0, 2.17 ERA) will open up the road trip for the Nats against Mike Leake (0-2, 5.64). The Cardinals have won four of their last five and sport the second highest run differential in the majors.
After their three-game set in the Gateway City, the Washington Nationals will travel to Kansas City to take on the defending world champs. The Royals have gotten off to a good start, winning twelve of their first 21 games. The best pitching matchup of the series will most likely be the opener, when Gio Gonzalez (1-1, 1.42) takes the mound to face Edinson Volquez (3-1, 3.64).
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Washington will close out their trip with a stop in the Windy City to face perhaps the stiffest competition of them all: the Chicago Cubs. The Cubbies sport the best record in the bigs and is everyone and their mother’s pick to win the World Series. Jake Arrieta (4-0, 1.00) is currently slotted to face the Nats in the final game of the series, setting the stage for a low-scoring affair.
While Nats pitchers have been light-out to start the season, they will really be put to the test against lineups featuring superstars like Matt Carpenter, Lorenzo Cain, and Kris Bryant. While Giancarlo Stanton and Freddie Freeman are no pushovers, the rest of their lineups are not much to boast about.
If the Washington Nationals want to come out of this daunting road trip unscathed, they are going to have to try and find a rhythm offensively. Three different starters are hitting below .200, while neither the number two or cleanup hitter has an OPS+ above 75.
A rough road trip could set the team back in the standings, as the Mets have heated up and are only a game back in the division. It would not cripple them for the rest of the year, but nonetheless would be a setback that would be difficult to overcome.
Overall, the Nats have the look of a playoff-caliber team, but if they want to be considered one of the big boys, they’ll have to figure out how to hang with them.