Washington Nationals: Why They Are On Fire
By Ron Juckett
The Washington Nationals are on an eight-game winning streak. How did they get so hot? A bit of everything, that’s how.
Maybe it is time to acknowledge the Washington Nationals are good.
Riding an eight-game winning streak, coming out of the blue, the Nats have the best record in baseball at 13-5. They hold a three-game bulge over the Miami Marlins in the NL East and a whopping 5.5-game lead over the vanquished New York Mets.
In a series where every game went live around the country, the Nationals easily swept the injury-plagued Mets. Saturday, Gio Gonzalez and company held the Amazin’s to a pair of hits. Koda Glover earned his second consecutive save Sunday.
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As most of the focus this year has been on the bullpen and their unsettled roles, the Nats have dropped one series all year out of six. Impressive stuff. When they started this road trip, the Nats were tied with the Marlins. As they play the Colorado Rockies, they now have the chance to earn some distance.
Over the first six games of the road trip, Nats pitchers allowed 10 runs. Last Wednesday, the offense produced 14 on their own. Add up the run totals and 34 Nats crossed home plate. Not since April 12 has Washington allowed over five runs.
This is the team we expected coming out of Florida. Bryce Harper is crushing the ball. Anything in the strike zone is hammered. A healthy Ryan Zimmerman reminds fans of days gone bad. Trea Turner beat out a comebacker to the pitcher Saturday. A comebacker!
Part of the recent success stems from the correct decision to use Shawn Kelley and Glover as closer. The pair slammed the door five times last week. Washington’s starting pitchers have won five of their last six decisions. As bleak as things looked against the Philadelphia Phillies, the tide has turned.
Against a Mets team facing enough injuries to keep a MASH unit busy, the Nats bullpen did not surrender a single run, including Friday night’s extra-inning win. The starters handed them leads, and the Mets failed to score.
How good has the pitching been? New York had one at-bat Sunday night with runners in scoring position. That is dominance.
Washington’s offense went 5-for-14 this weekend in RISP situations. They worked six walks off Jacob deGrom Saturday. Daniel Murphy slugged a grand slam off Zack Wheeler Sunday.
For more on Sunday night’s win, here is Ricky Keeler’s take with Rising Apple’s co-editor J. T. Teran:
If you are worried how far this team can go, do not. The Nationals are beating the teams they need to. The Nats control the tempo and feature an offense that is stacked.
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They are a first-place team.