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Nats complete sweep before big ‘test’

Jun 5, 2014, 8:49 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

When it comes to this juncture of the 2014 season, the Nationals sure have good timing.

Just days before they embark on a 10-game road trip mostly on the West Coast, they’ve put together their best stretch of baseball so far this year. Five wins in six games, all five as convincing as victories come. Not only have they beaten the likes of the Texas Rangers and the Philadelphia Phillies – the latter in a three-game sweep – they demolished them.

Even with their 2-0 loss to Yu Darvish and the Rangers on Sunday, the Nationals have outscored their opponents 38-12 over the last week. They are finally healthy, finally scoring runs, and finally seeing their starting rotation live up to the expectations that earned World Series predictions in spring training.

Everything has appeared to come together right when they fly out to face three tough teams. First is San Diego, who split a four-game series at Nationals Park back in late April. Second is San Francisco, current owners of the best record in baseball with a stingy rotation and deep lineup. And third is St. Louis who is 9-2 against the Nats dating back to Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS.

The Nationals sense a big test looming, which holds them back from all the ‘turning a corner’ talk.

“We have a really hard road trip coming up against some really good teams,” manager Matt Williams said. “So without going too far, we’re happy with where we’re at right now and with the way it’s gone, but we have to continue to push. Guys know that, they’ll do that. They’ll be prepared. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves.”

Team veterans Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche went so far as to directly say it: the Nationals will find out a lot about themselves over the next 10 days.

“It is the second week of June, you can’t put a whole lot into it,” Werth said. “But San Fran is probably playing the best ball of anybody. St. Louis is always tough, so it will give us a little test to see where we’re at.”

“This is a good way to finish this up,” LaRoche added. “But we’ve got a long road trip here against some good ballclubs, so it will be a good test.”

The Nationals recorded eight hits and five walks in their 4-2 win over the Phillies. The only member of their starting lineup who didn’t reach base was pitcher Doug Fister.

The Nationals also saw eight starters reach base in Wednesday night’s win, and seven in Tuesday’s victory. Up and down their lineup, guys are heating up. Across their last six games, the Nationals have hit .303 collectively as a team.

Getting Ryan Zimmerman back on Monday after a seven-week absence has surely helped. With hits in each of his three games since returning from a right thumb fracture, Zimmerman is now hitting .364 on the year through 13 appearances.

“It helps when we get Zim back in our lineup,” Werth said. “He adds a lot of balance. When you get somebody like that in your lineup, all of a sudden you’re looking around. Our lineup has depth and many different weapons and ways that we can beat a team. He’s a dynamic player so I think he helps a lot.”

Gio Gonzalez and Bryce Harper are the only two players currently missing from the Nationals’ 2014 Opening Day roster. Gonzalez is set to make a rehab start Friday as part of his recovery from left shoulder inflammation. After that, he should be able to return sometime during the Nats’ four-game series in San Francisco.

The Nationals are nearing full-strength and seeing it pay off on the field. The next 10 days certainly won’t make or break their season, but it could be an important barometer for what this team will be moving forward.

“This was big,” LaRoche said. “We have to start somewhere. We can build off this.”

  1. Whynat - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:02 PM

    A little more Soriano props are in order. An update to MLB closer standings for the year:

    In save conversion percent he is 3rd out of 30 (92%)
    ERA he is 7 out of 30 (0.78)
    WHIP he is 10 out of 30 (0.96)

    So it is fair to say he is a top tier closer this year.

  2. David Proctor - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:20 PM

    Erick Fedde was a teammate of Bryce Harper’s in high school. They played together. Small world.

    I was hoping that we’d take Bradley Zimmer, just so we could have Zimmerman, Zimmermann and Zimmer. It’d be a broadcaster’s nightmare!

    • texnat1 - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:23 PM

      Yes, I think the Nats applied the three Zims is too many rule there.

  3. ArVAFan - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:22 PM

    Well, Fister did actually “reach” first base today. Didn’t you see him doing a split at first trying for the out?

  4. texnat1 - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:24 PM

    Can someone provide a breakdown on Fedde? Coming of TJ surgery right? Power arm? Finesse guy? ETA to majors?

    • Eric - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:28 PM

      He was described as a flamethrower in a WaPo draft preview, but they weren’t too specific beyond that.

      • texnat1 - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:40 PM

        Thanks. Sounds like a good pick.

    • David Proctor - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:31 PM

      College arm, expected to be pretty quick to majors, but had Tommy John last month. 2016-ish ETA. Mid-90s fastball, best pitch is the slider (Harper tweeted that it’s the best slider he’s ever seen), average changeup. Projected to be a middle of the rotation starter.

      • David Proctor - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:34 PM

        Obviously the caveat to giving an ETA is that he has to develop at a normal rate and rehab on schedule. Those things don’t always pan out.

      • texnat1 - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:45 PM

        Yeah, and the Nats TJ protocol might push that back to 2017 even if he was to progress such that he would ready for a late 2016 call up because he might be shut down at that point.

  5. unkyd59 - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    Why is Mark ignoring Fedde? It’s been, like 1/2 hour…..

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:45 PM

      We demand a lot of our host!

      I think Mark is off and/or traveling right now. This post was by Chase as were the earlier ones today.

  6. David Proctor - Jun 5, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    From Wagner in the Post:

    “Fedde, 21, listed at 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, has strong ties to the Nationals through Bryce Harper. The two were teammates at the Las Vegas High. Harper has called Fedde’s slider “the best slider I’ve ever seen.”

    Fedde’s fastball sits between 91 and 93 mph, but has reached as high as 95 mph. He also throws a change-up.
    Fedde, named a second-team All-American this season, posted an 8-2 record and 1.76 ERA and struck out 82 in 11 starts in his junior season, cut short by his elbow injury. He was named the Mountain West pitcher of the year and was considered a top-10 prospect until he was injured.”

    • unkyd59 - Jun 5, 2014 at 10:03 PM

      Thanks, DP… Oh! Here’s Mark, now!

  7. Faraz Shaikh - Jun 5, 2014 at 11:51 PM

    This is it boys. I know whole season has games left and stuff but we gotta peform well in this trip to show that we belong among contenders. Let’s do it Nat’s!!!!

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