As the Washington Nationals have gone through a bit of a rough start to the 2019 season, their veteran leaders will be key to their success along the road.
The two longest-tenured Washington Nationals made sure Easter Sunday 2019 would not be a day remembered by DC baseball fans as one ending with a series sweep of the Nats at the hands of the Miami Marlins.
Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman led the way to a much-needed Nats’ win, with Strasburg shutting down the Marlins lineup over eight scoreless innings pitched and Zimmerman hitting two home runs to lead the Nats’ offense in a 5-0 win.
Strasburg’s gem earned him an 87 Pitching Game Score, the fourth highest his career. Mixing his fastball, change-up and devastating curve, the Nats’ righty carved through a Marlins’ lineup that had been surprisingly feisty over the first two games of the series.
He fanned 11 Marlins on the day, all of them swinging. Against the Fish in his career, Strasburg has pitched to a Cy Young Award-type level. In 32 starts against Miami, he is 18-7 with a 2.88 ERA and 193 strikeouts in 181 innings pitched.
Veteran first baseman Zimmerman is a notoriously streaky hitter and until Sunday, he was struggling with the bat. His two-homer game was the 26th of his career and his third against the Marlins.
Zimmerman’s two RBI on the day gave him 999 in his career, putting him one shy of becoming Major League Baseball’s 288th player all-time with at least 1,000 RBI. There is a decent chance that the good times will continue to roll for Zimmerman as the Nats head to Coors Field to take on the Colorado Rockies. In his career at Coors, Zimmerman .361 with 10 homers, 44 RBI and a 1.113 OPS in 144 at-bats.
The contributions of two of the cornerstones of the franchise will likely be telling of how the Nationals fare in the 2019 campaign. Strasburg’s start to the season has been uneven, but he’s had flashes of brilliance that show he is capable of being among the Majors best and most dominant hurlers every time he takes the mound.
If he can get on the type of roll he’s been on many times in his career, including his seven-game stretch to end 2018 where he went 4-0 and did not allow more than two earned runs in any game, Strasburg can make the Nats’ starting rotation one of baseball’s best.
With Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto ahead of him in the Nats’ lineup and with Trea Turner’s return hopefully coming within the month, Zim will almost certainly have many opportunities to be the run producer the Nats need to be at the top when the dust settles in the competitive National League East.