Washington Nationals: Pitching continues to dominate

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PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 12: Ryan Madson #44 and Pedro Severino #29 of the Washington Nationals celebrate a 2-1 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on May 12, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 12: Ryan Madson #44 and Pedro Severino #29 of the Washington Nationals celebrate a 2-1 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on May 12, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
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On Saturday, the Washington Nationals clinched a series win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Once again, the theme was the lights-out pitching in this game.

The Washington Nationals have made quite the statement in Phoenix this weekend against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona had yet to lose a series all season, but that changed on Saturday as the Nationals sealed the series with a game to spare.

The pitching staff has been the strength of this Nats team all season long, and that once again held true. Despite a rough first inning, Stephen Strasburg knuckled down and restricted the Diamondbacks to one run on five hits and a walk.

He’s lowered his season ERA to 3.28 and is starting to look a lot more like the Strasburg of old. The strikeouts are returning, as in his last four games he has 42 strikeouts in just 32 innings. He still needs prevent innings from snowballing on him, but getting out of that jam in the first inning was a big first step.

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The Nationals rotation as a whole has been a huge strength for this team. They currently lead the entire National League in starters ERA with 2.93 and strikeouts with 284. Right now, they have the best rotation in the NL, and long may it continue.

Offensive miscues make it close

Despite the crucial win, the gap could’ve been a whole lot wider in this one. Even though the Diamondbacks issued a total of seven walks, none of those free base-runners scored.

They had 11 at bats with runners in scoring position, and didn’t score a run a run on any of them. And on the season the picture isn’t exactly a whole lot rosier.

They have the second most ABs with runners in scoring position, yet rank 18th in batting average in such situations. They’ll need to improve at this down the road.

Not only did they fail with RISP, they also had some poor base-running decisions that cost them chances at runs. Most notably in the in the sixth inning. After singles from Trea Turner and Bryce Harper, the Nationals had runners at the corners.

However, Harper was picked off trying to steal and then Turner was thrown out attempting to score on a slow ground ball. This led to no runs scoring from an extremely promising situation. It’s not just been this game, as they are third in the NL for outs on the bases, which means they are not capitalizing on their numerous base-runners.

These are worrying trends, but hopefully Davey Martinez can rectify them before they cost the team in crucial games. Namely those in October where mistakes like these are magnified.

Bryce Harper getting locked in

Coming into this series, Nats star outfielder Bryce Harper was on an 0 for 19 skid. But now he has a hit in each of the three games in this series. But to go along with this, he’s been hitting the ball hard in almost every AB.

According to Fangraphs, 6 of his 13 balls in play this series have been hit hard. Given the circumstances with the humidor in Arizona, in another location he may have been even more productive.

But also something to note for Harper, is that he has yet to strikeout in this series. Since the April 24th, he had struck out 13 times in just 14 games, including some fairly ugly ones where he tried too hard to make something happen.

Hopefully this is a sign he’s turned the corner, after he sat out the series finale in San Diego in order to clear his head a bit. Harper won’t hit .237 forever, it’s just a matter of time till the results return.

Next: Severino's chance to shine

The Washington Nationals will be looking for their second four game sweep in just a matter of weeks on Sunday. Jeremy Hellickson will square off against Zack Godley on Sunday Night Baseball.

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