Led by another strong start from Joe Ross and a resurgence from the offense, the Washington Nationals secured a series victory yesterday in St. Louis.
The Washington Nationals entered their 10-game road trip with more questions than answers: Could the team rebound from a disappointing sweep at the hands of the Phillies? Could the offense find a way to actually start, you know, scoring runs? Could this 2016 Nationals team compete with the likes of the Cardinals, Royals and Cubs?
Some of those answers remain to be seen, but there’s reason to be optimistic about the Nationals after their first two games of the road trip. The Nationals won them both — the first a 5-4 victory on Friday, and then a 6-1 win yesterday afternoon.
Last night’s win was particularly encouraging, since it showed once again that Joe Ross has the ability to be elite, and that the offense — when everyone is clicking — can be productive against a good pitching staff.
Ross was stellar yesterday, throwing six great innings while allowing just one run on six hits and striking out four. The young right-hander has now made four starts this season (one was shortened by an injury), and in none of those starts has he allowed more than one run. His ERA on the season is now a minuscule 0.79, and he appears to be on his way to a breakout season.
The Nationals’ pitching staff continued to dominate the Cardinals’ lineup even after Ross left the game. Sammy Solis, Felipe Rivero and Shawn Kelley each turned in scoreless frames, sealing the 6-1 victory for the Nationals.
Of course, as we learned in the series against the Phillies, stellar pitching isn’t enough when the offense isn’t producing. Fortunately for the Nationals, the offense was producing just fine yesterday.
Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy and Jayson Werth each notched two hits in the game. Werth gave the Nationals three of their runs on one swing with a three-run blast in the top of the first inning, his fourth homer of the year.
Michael Taylor‘s lack of production from the leadoff spot continues to be a major concern after he went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in yesterday’s game. But the offense is showing signs of improvement, and some players — most notably Werth — appear to be putting their April slumps behind them.
So far, the Nationals have shown that they have what it takes be contenders this season. The first two games of the road trip proved as much, but the Nationals need to finish off the entire road trip on a high note to keep their April momentum going into the summer months.
They’ll try to start that this afternoon, when they go for their first ever sweep in St. Louis.