Jun 10, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
When Ian Desmond launched a 3-run homer off Texas’ Colby Lewis in the bottom of the fourth back on May 30, it was immediately wondered whether that sorely needed blast would serve as the catapult that finally got the Nationals going on a prolonged hot streak.
But even the most optimistic of Nationals faithful couldn’t have foreseen a streak as hot as this.
How dominant has this team been? Well, after last night’s 9-2 trouncing of the previously red-hot Giants, the Nats have now won 8-of-10 games since that Desmond homer against the Rangers. They’ve outscored opponents in those 10 games 62-18. Their only two losses during this stretch? A 2-0 shutout at the hands of Yu Darvish and a 4-3 loss in San Diego in which Rafael Soriano served up a game-tying homer with two outs in the ninth.
In other words: Their wins are all blowouts and their losses have been by the slimmest of margins.
All of which makes this the most-dominant 10-game stretch in Nationals history. Seriously.
Since arriving in D.C. in 2005, the Nats have never outscored opponents by 44 runs in 10 games. Actually, since the Expos franchise was born in 1969, only one other club has enjoyed a +44 run differential over a 10-game stretch: the 1996 Montreal team featuring Pedro Martinez, Henry Rodriguez (the outfielder, not the command-challenged reliever) and some guy named F.P. Santangelo.
Sure, there was that 10-game winning streak in June 2005, the one that launched the inaugural Nationals into first place in the NL East and made them the talk of baseball. But that streak was notable for its come-from-behind victories and late dramatics. The Nats won those 10 games by a total of 25 runs, hardly the kind of night-in, night-out dominance we’re seeing right now.
This stretch has seen the Nationals excel in every possible way. They’re scoring runs by the bushel, getting contributions from up and down the lineup. Twelve different players have driven in at least two runs in these 10 games. Seven different lineup regulars (everyone but Ryan Zimmerman) sport at least a .342 on-base percentage. Denard Span is slugging .565 during this run. That’s 2 points higher than Ryan Braun’s career slugging percentage.
And we haven’t even discussed the starting rotation yet.
You know, the rotation that over the last six games has now allowed seven earned runs and 25 hits in 43 innings, striking out 47 while issuing zero walks. Yes, you read that correctly. Forty-seven strikeouts and zero walks in six games. Records for these sort of things only go back to 1914, but according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Nationals rotation is the first ever to strike out 47 batters without walking any.
The skeptics pointed to the Nationals’ weak opposition over the last week — the injury-plagued Rangers, the foundering Phillies, the offensively impotent Padres — and cautioned not to make too big a deal out of this. The Nats needed to play somebody decent before they could be taken seriously.
Well, they just marched into AT&T Park last night and completely throttled the best team in baseball.
Yes, it’s only one game, there are three more to go in the series, and momentum can change in a hurry. But it’s becoming near-impossible to discount what the Nationals are doing right now. They’re not just winning games, they’re annihilating everything that steps in their way. They’re not just scoring runs, they’re scoring tons of runs, with everybody in the lineup contributing in some way. And they’re not just getting good pitching performances, they’re getting historically dominant pitching performances.
The Nationals are playing better baseball than anybody in the game right now. They’ve got the sport’s third-best run differential (behind only the A’s and Giants). They’re playing with confidence.
And there’s no reason to believe they can’t continue doing this.
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