Washington Nationals: No Panic Despite Cubs Sweep
Even with a 4-1 start to a road trip that ended at 5-5, the Washington Nationals showed they will be competitive against the most talented rosters in the major leagues.
Yikes. The biggest series of the year so far ends in a four-game sweep? Not good. The Washington Nationals are a team of extremes. The lineup combines great and awful performances on a nightly basis. A sweep at the hands of the Philidelphia Phillies is followed by a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals. At least Nats’ baseball is exciting; you’ll never know what you’re going to get on any given night.
I could see a sweep coming before the series began. Why? Daniel Murphy is really the only batter getting hits with any consistency while Bryce Harper is in the midst of one of his ugliest slumps. The starting pitching is shaky. Not to mention the team that was playing at home has the best top-to-bottom roster in the major leagues. They knew how to exploit an unbalanced Washington Nationals lineup. That plan was to exercise caution around Harper and Murphy and come at everyone else.
But as with any four-game sweep, it’s no use to pull out and scrutinize all of the negatives. It’s best to look at the good elements of each day. For one, every game was competitive as four games were decided by three runs or fewer. Plus, the Harper threat is real, even in the midst of his aforementioned slump.
In yesterday’s loss, Harper became the first player in 100 years to reach base at least six times without a hit. In the months to come, the front office should focus on acquiring more protection around him in the coming months to turn those walks into runs instead of being 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position.
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The starting pitching wasn’t bad by any means. There were a lot of good moments, mostly involving an escape out of runners in scoring position. Plus, in yesterday’s loss, Tanner Roark was able to hold his own, if not pitch better than last year’s NL Cy Young award winner, Jake Arrieta. The Cubs are going to absolutely dominate on the offensive end this year, so the Nats’ starters did a good job when you consider Chicago has a +102 run differential and a 24-6 record through their first 30 games.
With that being said, I still think the Phillies series was more concerning than this, in retrospect. The season is still fresh. Obviously, the Washington Nationals will play Philadelphia more times than they will the Cubs. It’s more important to worry about how the Nats will do against the New York Mets than the Cubs.
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It’s easy to look ahead to October already because of the matchups we saw this weekend. But it’s hard to know where these rosters will stand come that time or even in June when the Cubs pay a visit to Nats Park. That being said, I think Mike Rizzo, who is faced with some serious decisions to make in the next two offseasons, will not hesitate to make moves between now and the August 1 trade deadline, with the intention to challenge teams like the Cubs.
On to the next one!