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Despite turmoil, a successful April for Nats

May 1, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

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Well, the season’s first month is now complete, and what a tumultuous month it was for the Nationals.

Wilson Ramos broke his hand on Opening Day. Ryan Zimmerman couldn’t throw the ball across the diamond, then broke his thumb on a pickoff play at second base. Doug Fister hurt himself on the final day of spring training.

Ian Desmond leads the majors in errors and owns a paltry .646 OPS while striking out a staggering 36 times. Leadoff man Denard Span has a .295 on-base percentage. Big offseason acquisition Nate McLouth is hitting .108.

Stephen Strasburg hasn’t pitched like an ace. Taylor Jordan was a bust before getting demoted to Class AAA. Tyler Clippard couldn’t be trusted to hold a late lead.

And then there’s Bryce Harper, who admitted he was “lost” at the plate, was benched for not running out a groundball and now is out 6-to-8 weeks following thumb surgery.

What a disaster of an April for the Nationals, who now head to Philadelphia with tails between their legs, hoping to somehow right their ship and improve their … 16-12 record?

Wait, what? Isn’t this team in disarray right now? Wasn’t this a wholly disappointing first month of the season, a mere continuation of their underachieving performance in 2013?

Not exactly. Say what you want about the path they took here — and there’s plenty that can be said — but the fact remains that the Nationals are in much better shape than you might have thought. With their two-game sweep in Houston, they’re four games over .500 and — get this — on pace to win 92.5 games this season.

That’s right. The Nationals are playing at a 92.5-win pace. Does that mean they’re going to win 92-93 games this season? No, but if they merely recreated April five more times, that’s where they’d end up, most likely in the playoffs.

How have they managed to do this, despite all the negative developments outlined above? Well, it turns out this is an incredibly talented ballclub, across the board.

They’re scoring 4.25 runs per game, second-most in the NL. Their 3.27 ERA as a pitching staff ranks sixth in the NL. Their defense, while a legitimate problem early, has improved: They’ve only committed three errors in their last seven games, better than any MLB club but the Braves.

On an individual level, the Nationals have received some fantastic performances to date. Adam LaRoche looks like his 2012 Silver Slugger self. Anthony Rendon ranks in the top-10 in the NL in runs, hits, doubles, triples and RBI. Danny Espinosa is a new man. Tanner Roark is baseball’s best-kept secret. Rafael Soriano and Drew Storen collectively have given up one run in 19 2/3 innings.

Point is, this is a good ballclub. Is it a perfect ballclub? Not even close. But given everything that has transpired through the first month of this season, the fact the Nationals stand where they do today should give everyone plenty of reason to believe they’ll be just fine over the next five months.

  1. Theophilus T.S. - May 1, 2014 at 9:08 AM

    I thought the “reveal” on Espinosa came last night when he got a HR and a single in the same game. I.e., he can hit the ball where it’s pitched and hit for power at the same time.

    • Eric - May 1, 2014 at 9:46 AM

      +1

      Good observation

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 1, 2014 at 10:16 AM

        His compact swing has allowed him to get the bat head out a split second quicker to turn a 380 foot centerfield can of corn into 2 pull HRs this season. That’s a side benefit to his RH swing.

        I like what I am seeing and the improved infield defense over RZim has made up for the slight drop in OPS from Ryan’s absence.

        The pitchers no longer have to worry about jamming a RH batter or pitching outside to a lefty for fear of the lack of defensive proficiency of Ryan’s 3B defense and Desi’s miscues.

  2. Hiram Hover - May 1, 2014 at 9:13 AM

    Thanks, Mark. This is upbeat but realistic, not pollyannaish.

  3. natsjackinfl - May 1, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    In his sit down chat with FP yesterday, Matt Williams said he’d break out his Babe Ruth impersonation if the Nats win 10 in a row.

    Man, I want to see that impersonation bad!

    • flnatsfan - May 1, 2014 at 9:17 AM

      +1

    • Hiram Hover - May 1, 2014 at 9:19 AM

      Does it require duct tape and a cushion from the clubhouse sofa, to reproduce the Babe’s physique?

      • natsjackinfl - May 1, 2014 at 9:27 AM

        It truly has to be seen to be appreciated. I saw it about 20 years ago and it is hilarious.

    • stoatva - May 1, 2014 at 9:26 AM

      Williams vs Dempsey cage match! Two Bambinos go in, only one emerges!

  4. RPrecupjr - May 1, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    The Nats are going to have quite a dliemma in a few weeks.

    Where do you put Ryan Zimmerman?

    The thought was, if he was still having throwing issues, you stash him at first, at least in a platoon with LaRoche. Sorry, but I think I like having Adam’s bat in the lineup.

    Ok, so he goes back to third and Rendon moves back to second and Espi to the bench. I’m not sure I dig that idea, either. Rendon is fielding (and more importantly, THROWING) like we all wish Zim would, and he’s hitting like no one else. Espi seems to have rediscovered how to hit and is much more natural at second, with a greater range and that bazooka on his shoulder. (Although watching Rendon last night, on that diving stop….man, he’s got quite a cannon, too….and laser sight accurate)

    This leads me, sadly, to suggest this:

    Maybe Desi needs to sit. Realize this is my thought now, we’ll see where we are in a few weeks when Zim actually returns, but right now Desi is hitting (or not) like Espi had been. True, he has four HRs and 16 RBIs…..but he has 36 Ks and only 6(!) walks in 119 plate appearances. Extrapolate over the season – that’s 198 Ks….and this is all without mentioning his fielding so far. Don’t get me wrong, I have always been a Desi supporter, even back when everyone was saying trade him, bench him, he’s terrible, whatever. I’m not sure what his issues are this season, but he has become the weak link in the infield offensively, and it’s not being compensated by brilliant defense.

    So that would put Zim at third, Espi at short, Rendon at second and LaRoche at first. Offensively, that looks great…but if Zim hasn’t fixed anything in his throwing while rehabvbing the thumb, maybe he’s the one who sits. Or maybe he spends a LONG time rehabbing in the minors until he fixes it.

    Ok, Insiders, fire away :)

    • NatsLady - May 1, 2014 at 9:40 AM

      Actually, I was thinking the same. Desi may be hiding a small injury. He’s tough, and knows the team can’t afford to have him out of the lineup right now even if he’s sub-par, but when Zim returns he might be actually relieved to have a break.

      • Theophilus T.S. - May 1, 2014 at 9:59 AM

        If Desmond is having a medical issue it’s either (A) he needs LASIK so he can see the strike zone or (B) there’s some structural anomaly in his neck that causes his head to rotate when he swings.

        A couple of weeks ago I opined that Harper was on the cusp of a breakthrough, just before his mini-breakout that was cut short by injury. I’m inclined to say the same about Desmond — he’s having a lot of 1-for-4, 1-5, 2-5 nights that make me think he’s on the verge of putting everything together.

        By my calculation Z’man isn’t due back for at least another four weeks so speculating about who plays and who sits when he returns isn’t helpful. My thought is that six-eight weeks on the sidelines will do wonders for his shoulder. If everybody’s still healthy, Desmond is hitting and Espinosa hasn’t fallen back to earth, Z’man’s return will at least open the possibility of giving Desmond a few rest days — he’s played in all 28 games and deserves a break. In fact he deserves a break before a whole month more passes; hopefully Williams will have an opportunity to give Walters a couple of starts at third, or Souza can play a couple of games in the OF so Fransden can play third.

        I think Desmond will be just fine, sooner rather than later. Rather than contemplating shaking up the lineup, the team and the Brain Trust need to focus on defense and good pitching until everyone is healthy.

      • Eric - May 1, 2014 at 10:03 AM

        4 more weeks for Zim? He’s already been out almost 3…what was his timetable?

        I agree that Desi seems to be slowly emerging from the funk, but I don’t think it’s a big deal to speculate where he’ll be when Zim comes back and what effect Zim’s return will have on the infield.

      • duckyjimpond - May 1, 2014 at 6:11 PM

        Has anybody noticed what LOMBO is doing in Balt? He’s batting over 300. Never got a good chance in Wash. just needed to play every day. what a shame he was’ant givin a chance . Might be Rendon Espenosa Lombo and Laroache. Until Desmond gets his eye back he should sit. And if La roche cools off Zimmerman can play first when he comes back?—Why not

      • Nats Amore - May 1, 2014 at 8:33 PM

        Regarding the comment on Lombo, the O’s actually optioned him to Norfolk today to make room for Machado. Apparently the .292 average wasn’t enough to save him. I believe I read he had 0 walks in 72 AB, not sure if that was a factor.

    • Hiram Hover - May 1, 2014 at 9:43 AM

      No need to decide this now. Let’s see where Desi and Espi are in a few weeks. My guess is that both regress towards their averages and this problem looks like less of one.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 1, 2014 at 10:19 AM

        I hope Desi doesn’t regress rather progresses to his norm.

      • Hiram Hover - May 1, 2014 at 10:31 AM

        Ghost – yes. In this case, regress is progress.

      • therealjohnc - May 1, 2014 at 12:45 PM

        Technically, regression to the mean is still “regression” whether it is positive or negative.

    • Eric - May 1, 2014 at 9:49 AM

      I’ve had and even posted the same thought re: Desi if he’s still scuffling when Zim returns. He does seem to be waking up a bit, though.

      If he joins the fire brigade before Zim returns, it will be a good problem to have.

      • jd - May 1, 2014 at 10:02 AM

        There is really no need to worry about this. As we have seen circumstances are normally such that there are enough at bats to go around. An entire team is not normally all healthy at the same time. You need more than a 25 man roster to get through a year.

    • cvillegoodtimes - May 1, 2014 at 9:57 AM

      its a good problem to have! I think that IF Espi keeps hitting the way he is, that he really should be used in a super-utility role when Zim comes back.

      Zim is FOF and has a game altering bat (and good defense when throwing issues aren’t around). Rendon is obviously a very good defender and is hitting beachballs so far this season. But, lets not forget his injury history and give him a couple days off here and there. LaRoche is playing really well, but he is a notoriously streaky hitter and can be set down when he inevitably goes into one of his funks. Last but not least, Desi. He is struggling with the bat and with glove. But, he is a the leader of the infield and has a track record that says he will turn this around. And, how will him getting benched without injury affect contract negotiations???

      Basically, everyone can sit down here and there and give Espi a chance to play two or three games a week or so? And his playing time would ramp up when injuries occur. And the injuries will occur with the Nats track record and the track record of the medical staff…

    • duckyjimpond - May 1, 2014 at 6:00 PM

      Desmond has regressed. Every swing is from the heels trying to hit a home run on every atbat. The hitting coach needs to get with him and get him to swing for singles–the homers will come when he gets his eye on the ball. If not sit him and play espensoa at short Zimmerman at third and Rendon at second

  5. masterfishkeeper - May 1, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    Anthony Rendon is beginning to be noticed. Wonder if his walk rate is about to go up?

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/it-might-be-time-to-adjust-to-anthony-rendon/

    • Eric - May 1, 2014 at 10:05 AM

      Great read, thanks for sharing.

    • Theophilus T.S. - May 1, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      I like the article. I think (A) the Nats have faced a lot of not-so-experienced pitchers for whom throwing strike is everything and are not able to paint corners; (B) when he’s hitting second, he’s batting in front of hitters (Werth, LaRoche, Harper) who were either hot, or streaking hot, and had a lot of power.

      I accept the idea that teams are not pitching Rendon as a power hitter. A week or so I mentioned that the Brain Trust originally saw Rendon as a possible 30-HR guy, and some of you were skeptical. We should note that, after last night, Rendon is on track for 24-25 taters this season.

      • adcwonk - May 1, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        I think he smashes too many line drives for 30+ HR’s to be probable (but certainly possible). I think he’s going to get a boat-load of doubles, however.

        (OTOH, in a normal park, might he have had 3 HR’s last night?)

        OTOOH, he’s still only 23 and ought to still gain in strength for a few more years (most batters have their peak years ages 26-31, IIRC).

    • Hiram Hover - May 1, 2014 at 10:23 AM

      What? National media attention to a Nat whose name doesn’t rhyme with Rice Tarper?!

  6. unterp - May 1, 2014 at 9:58 AM

    Unless Ian is injured, he won’t be sitting except occasionally; let’s get that straight right now. Espi will be the one to sit. Also, as poorly as Desmond has been at the plate regardless of whether he may or may not regress to normal, he has 16RBIs, third on the team. Espi has 6…

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 1, 2014 at 10:22 AM

      Some good points to ponder. The only knock on Espi is his success is mostly in Low Lev situations. You still take it when he’s moving the line but he needs to step up in RISP.

    • dgourds - May 1, 2014 at 11:43 AM

      I agree Desmond won’t sit. I believe he’ll come around. But I truly believe unless Zim shows he can make a routine throw across the diamond 97/100 times, the team is better with Rendon at 3rd and Espinosa at 2nd with Zim on the bench. Rendon has been playing MVP baseball. Espinosa is a stud at 2nd and has been good at the plate. I just don’t see Zim playing over Desmond at this point. They’re both about equivalent at the plate and as bad as Desmond has been at short, I’ll take his defense over Zim’s.

  7. chaz11963 - May 1, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Also, the Braves have to face the Cardinals, Giants, and Brewers in 16 of their next 19 games!

  8. jd - May 1, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    For starters RBI’s are a function of who is on base when you are hitting. Since Desi has hit behind Werth, LaRoch and Harper and before that Zimmerman he has had opportunities to knock in runs. Since Espinosa has hit mostly behind Desi he has had fewer opportunities. This is why RBI’s are flawed stats.

    As far as hitting in the clutch. I think there is very little evidence to suggest that players perform better or worse in different situations even though fans universally believe in this concept.

    • unterp - May 1, 2014 at 11:02 AM

      jesus, oh a flawed stat. are u kidding? get out of here with that bunk…Yeah, I looked it up in the flawed stat books bunk….Regardless, Ian will play, Espi will sit…

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 1, 2014 at 11:17 AM

        jd is right that IF you aren’t getting the opps with RISP then the RBI stat can be flawed. Analyze how many RISP opps he’s had. Easy to do and compare.

      • Eric - May 1, 2014 at 12:02 PM

        Espi:
        PA with less than 2 out, runner on third: 5
        PA with less than 2 out, runner on third scores: 2
        Rate: 40%

        PA with no out, runner on second: 7
        PA with no out runner on second advances: 3
        Rate: 43%

        Desi:
        PA with less than 2 out, runner on third: 9
        PA with less than 2 out, runner on third scores: 7
        Rate: 78%

        PA with no out, runner on second: 4
        PA with no out runner on second advances: 2
        Rate: 50%

        Obviously not the whole picture, but interesting nonetheless. I wonder why B-R.com doesn’t have RISP or data for 2 out, runner on 3rd nor for 1 – 2 outs, runner on 2nd.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 1, 2014 at 12:33 PM

        Simplicity might be easier to say Espi is batting a horrific .077 with RISP and that’s over 200 points below his BA which is a problem. Low Lev vs other Lev.

        That’s why Espi ranks low in RBIs Eric. Thanks for the analysis. I already knew the answer but didn’t have the numbers in front of me.

        Based on his BA and failure rate with RISP he should have at least 8 more RBIs based on total runners LOB in RISP and that’s being kind to his stats.

  9. MicheleS - May 1, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    Does anyone know when Desi’s wife is due? He should get some time off then.

    And in case you missed this (for those not on Twitter). Desi is raising money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. It is to support Ethan Brown, the young man that has NF. Kilgore wrote about it when he did a profile on Desi at the beginning of the season.

    http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/was/community/endnf.jsp

    • NatsNut - May 1, 2014 at 10:44 AM

      I didn’t know she was pregnant again, but this is great news. If I recall, Desi plays MVP baseball when he’s a new daddy.

      • MicheleS - May 1, 2014 at 10:48 AM

        Chelsea tweeted out a picture of the sonogram last week. didn’t say how far along she was.

  10. jd - May 1, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    BTW,

    If every one is healthy I still feel that Desi plays regularly other than a few breather days here and there, the same goes for Zim, Rendon and LaRoche but obviously there are enough rest days available to give Espi plenty of at bats throughout the year.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 1, 2014 at 11:22 AM

      I agree with that. Have to find a way for Espi to play 3 games a week as a starter. A shame he can’t play some outfield as he could fill in for Bryce after RZim returns.

      • RPrecupjr - May 1, 2014 at 1:39 PM

        Who’s to say he can’t? Lombo played plenty of outfield….Espi has speed, a great glove, and the aforementioned bazooka on his right shoulder. If he’s still hitting well, I say put him out there in left until Harper gets back. Not only that, but he’s a switch hitter as well and seems to be doing well from both sides of the plate this year.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 1, 2014 at 1:45 PM

        I’m not saying he can’t just making it a discussion point as that gives him starts until the All Star break when Harper returns.

        Laddie and I discussed it and thought it had merit if he came in early for fungo and could handle it. Not everyone can get get reads and good routes on balls and that comes with time.

      • knoxvillenat - May 1, 2014 at 3:11 PM

        Good grief Ghost you are going to get Seamhead’s blood pressure rising if you talk about infielders playing the outfield!! :)

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 1, 2014 at 3:13 PM

        We have 2 catchers playing the outfield. That worked out fairly good.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 1, 2014 at 3:21 PM

        I don’t know who gets cemented or casted into 1 role unless you are a pitcher and even Ankiel showed he could play outfield. John Smoltz always wanted to play outfield on days he didn’t pitch. He was amazing when he would shag balls.

        Very few non-pitchers ever get drafted and stay at that position. Machado was the #1 shortstop prospect in this decade and they moved him to 3B when SS was taken. He’s Gold Glove. Alex Gordon was a 3B turned into a Gold Glove LF. Miggy Cabrera was an outfielder turned into a corner infielder.

        Way too much drama over position switches. I didn’t see the Baltimore Sun blow up when Markakis was put in at 1B last week.

        This position drama especially with Ryan Zimmerman is out of hand and getting ridiculous. You don’t become Gold Glove overnight in any new position but professionals do their job where needed.

        I will step off my soapbox now.

      • nats128 - May 1, 2014 at 4:33 PM

        Of course you are right and as you would say the Media needs something to discuss however RZ has added to the drama with his own comments about a position switch.

      • Joe Seamhead - May 1, 2014 at 5:29 PM

        Give me a break. I actually think Espinosa could play the OF. I can’t stand it when they put crappy infielders in the OF.”Oh, he sucks in the IF but he can hit so let’s stick him in the outfield.” How would you like to be a pitcher and have an outfield of crappy infielders? I’ve watched games be lost from high school to the pros with that mentality.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 1, 2014 at 5:30 PM

        Only one that was a fail was Lombo and that weak arm. I didn’t mind TyMo in the outfield

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 1, 2014 at 5:35 PM

        Jeez Joe sounds like your pitcher mentality was what many thought about RZim at 3rd behind Strasburg. How do you feel about that? How do you think Strasburg fort when he changed his game plan and wouldn’t pitch as much inside so that balls wouldn’t be hit leftside or throwing outside to lefties. Take a look at all the inside pitches JZim threw last night. Whether subconscious or conscious pitchers change their game planning based on defense behind them.

  11. NatsNut - May 1, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    This is so great to read. This kind of post is why I cherish the beat writers so much, especially Mark. Absorbed and mired that I am in each individual game, with occasional glances at the overall record, I don’t think I’d ever be able to aggregate the data in these ways for a different perspective the way the writers do. It truly makes baseball itself more enjoyable. Thanks Mark!

    • natsfan1a - May 1, 2014 at 6:39 PM

      What she said.

  12. nats2005 - May 1, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    They just need to face Fernandez and Eovaldi the next 16 games and we’d be set!

    Just a comment, the Nats in April of 2013, were 13 – 14 and the Barves were the same as this year, 17 – 9. Last year, at this point, we were 4 1/2 games back already. This year, at 16 – 12, the Nats are only 2 games back.

    The Nats just need to stay close until they get the rest of their pieces back. The Barves pitching will come back to earth. Last year, the Barves ran away with the division and the Nats didn’t get anything going until September. Here are their games +/- .500 at the end of each month in 2013.

    Nats Barves

    April -1 +8
    May +1 +9
    June +1 +13
    July -4 +17
    August +1 +31
    Sept +10 +30

    The Nats were out of it in July last year. If they can just maintain this +4 pace through the next 2 months while they get their horses back, it will be a fun summer.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 1, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      As I recall, the division was packed fairly tightly in early July; the Braves didn’t pull away until later, when the Nats took no advantage of a so-called “soft” part of their schedule in the summer.

  13. 6ID20 - May 1, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    Speaking of hot Aprils, Mikey Morse is back. .302/6 HR/20 RBI, Giants 1.5 games up on the vaunted Dodgers. A ha!

    • Hiram Hover - May 1, 2014 at 11:43 AM

      Happy for him!

    • natsfan1a - May 1, 2014 at 6:40 PM

      Let’s go, Giants! (What?)

  14. Eric - May 1, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    Yeah, so tonight my favorite pitcher in baseball is Henderson Alvarez and my favorite team is the Miami Marlins. Go Fish!

    • NatsLady - May 1, 2014 at 11:54 AM

      I don’t mind rooting for the Fish. I just hope it doesn’t fall into the “be careful what you wish for” category in two months.

      The Marlins don’t look like they have the horses for a sustained run, but they could be one of the season’s suprises.

      • Eric - May 1, 2014 at 12:03 PM

        I like to take things one problem at a time ;).

  15. NatsLady - May 1, 2014 at 11:58 AM

    Looks like we are getting Kershaw on Monday and Greinke on Tuesday. That could be rough going!

    • masterfishkeeper - May 1, 2014 at 12:02 PM

      But that also means Dan Haren on Wednesday, I think.

      • NatsLady - May 1, 2014 at 12:44 PM

        Yeah, well, Dan Haren in 2014 isn’t the Dan Haren of 2013. He’s 3-0 in five starts with a 2.03 ERA.

    • Eric - May 1, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      Oy!

      So, we’re currently staring down:

      Lee
      Burnett
      Hamels
      Kershaw
      Greinke

      That’s…brutal.

      • bowdenball - May 1, 2014 at 12:28 PM

        I would happily take 2 wins in these five games.

      • Eric - May 1, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        Here’s looking at Burnett and Hamels.

        I think the brightest spot here is that Kershaw may be on a bit of a pitches limit…although I’m not at all familiar with the quality of the Dodgers’ bullpen.

        Also, I’ll be there Monday and I admit I’m excited to see Kershaw in action…even better that he’s facing Zinn!

  16. Eugene in Oregon - May 1, 2014 at 12:42 PM

    Good initial post and good follow-on. Nice to read comments that recognize that baseball is a game with a long season, lots of ups and downs, and require patience (as a fan and as a player). Baseball is not a game in which you can draw grand conclusions from a sample of one or two games (or 10-20 ABs). Today’s posts (and posters) are the reason I frequent this site.

  17. #4 - May 1, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    This is the guy Rendon has always reminded me of as a hitter.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/martied01.shtml

    Not a perennial 30 HR guy, but a helluva a hitter with lots of extra base hit power. The nice thing is that AR can actually field too.

  18. Theophilus T.S. - May 1, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    As I understand it, the matchups are Strasburg, Roark and “Box of Chocolates” Gonzalez against Lee, Burnett and Hamel, Zimmermann, Who’s Pitching and Fister against Kershaw, Greinke and Haren. Against the Phils I’d say advantage Nats for Game 1 and toss-ups for Games 2 and 3. Against Dodgers the betting line will be advantage LA for the first two but I like Fister (new to the NL) for five plus All Hands on Deck for the last four innings in Game 3. I see the Nats coming out with 3-3, which is pretty satisfactory.

    • David Proctor - May 1, 2014 at 1:53 PM

      After that stretch, we go to Oakland and play possibly the best team in the AL. Tough stretch coming up.

    • RPrecupjr - May 1, 2014 at 2:19 PM

      Nice one, Theo Gump ;) That moniker for Gio fits not just start to start, but, as seen on Tuesday night, inning to inning.

      I think your prognostication is pretty good, as Lee has had a rough start to his year (though much better lately). Burnett has been very good lately (though one game was against Arizona and my sister could probably beat them) and we have to see how Roark does following that gem. The real question mark is the third game, with Gio (will it be 10 pitches an inning or 23?) against Hamels, who got blasted by the Mets the last time out for six runs in 4.2 IP on eight hits and FIVE walks. I lean towards Gio in that one.

      The Dodger series is much more difficult to call. Kershaw may be on a pitch count, may be tentative, may be lights out. Happy that Zimm is matching up with him. The second game is the one that bothers me. Not so much because of Geinke, who has been brilliant so far, but because we have no idea who’s pitching. If the bullpen gets worked the night before, that means Treinen will have to come up and hope we can get 6 or 7 innings out of him. The third game is also tough because Fister may be in the same boat as Kershaw coming off the DL. And Haren can be like Gio, you never know. So far this year, he’s been good…..but maybe being in Nats Park will bring back some of the shell shock from last year and he’ll crumble.

      I can live with 3-3. I would prefer 4-2 and I don’t see 5-1 or 6-0. Going 2-4 or worse is unacceptable.

      • RPrecupjr - May 1, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        Oh, and if there’s a silver lining, it’s that for the same six days, the Barves play the Giants and the Cardinals, though all in Atlanta. We ought to be able to pick up at least one game.

      • therealjohnc - May 1, 2014 at 2:42 PM

        Going 2-4 or worse is unacceptable

        If that’s your view of baseball, well, to quote The Man in Black: “get used to disappointment.” It wouldn’t be great, obviously. But 2-4 against a buzz saw like that would hardly be a disaster.

      • bowdenball - May 1, 2014 at 2:50 PM

        + 1 the realjohnc.

        2-4 over maybe the toughest six-game stretch of opposing pitchers any team will see all year, without Zimmerman, Harper and Ramos? Not ideal, but hardly a season killer. I’d be over the moon if they managed 3-3. I’d open a bottle of champagne for 4-2.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 1, 2014 at 6:20 PM

        That’s something I’ve long wondered about. If it’s “unacceptable” to go 2-4 in a given road trip (in early May, mind you, but that’s a different point), what does “not accepting that” look like? Do we get a do-over? Can we sit in Rizzo’s office and present a list of demands? Do we sacrifice a rookie to the baseball gods?

        We don’ t have to like it, but I don’t think they give us much choice about accepting it. The team with the most runs, wins. It’s a rule.

  19. tim - May 1, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    I haven’t seen many comments about Ramos yet.I think leon and loboton are holding their own behind the plate but im anxious to see how well we hit when our buffalo is back

    • nats128 - May 1, 2014 at 4:35 PM

      Should be ready in the next week to go on assignment based on the original timetable.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 1, 2014 at 6:27 PM

      I’m guessing Leon will be glad for the time up here, with the attendant windfall in salary, and a chance to make his case for an MLB job somewhere, someday. Based on his Buffalo sign back to the dugout when he’s doubled, I think The Lobaton and Ramos get on well, and he is fine with seeing Wilson back in the lineup. Buffalo will be crushing it again, and instead of Leon (who did acquit himself honorably, but still), they have Lobaton coming off the bench. Immediate impact.

  20. ehay2k - May 1, 2014 at 7:56 PM

    Thanks Mark Z. for a great post. Lots of things to fret about except the team!

    This is a very good team in that they do not depend on one or two stars to make things go. In 2012, the Nats suffered a ton of early injuries, stayed the course, and won 98. There were a TON of doom and gloomers early on. But the bench players benefitted from the time in the game, and carried the team just long enough for the starters to get back. And later in the year, the bench players had the confidence to come in and make an impact.

    This year, I am having deja vu, without the second time (yet!)

    .

  21. acsportsfn - May 1, 2014 at 9:43 PM

    Guys you can see MW do the Babe thing on You Tube….It’s spot on and hilarius!

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 91 64 --
ATLANTA 76 79 15.0
NEW YORK 76 80 15.5
MIAMI 74 81 17.0
PHILADELPHIA 71 85 20.5
x-Clinched NL East title
Through Sunday's games

NL PLAYOFFS STANDINGS

W L GB WCGB
x-WASHINGTON (4) 91 64 --
y-LOS ANGELES 89 67 2.5
y-ST. LOUIS 87 69 4.5
-------------------------
SAN FRANCISCO 84 71 7.0 --
PITTSBURGH 84 71 7.0 --
MILWAUKEE 80 76 11.5 4.5
x-Clinched division title
y-Clinched playoff berth
Through Sunday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
MON: OFF
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Marlins at Nats (DH), 1:05 p.m., 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Marlins at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Marlins at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

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