We take a look at the Nationals’ past week, at a glance:
Team slash: .229/.304/.358
Team ERA: 3.43
Runs per game: 4.83
Gio Gonzalez, SP: 1-0 / 7.0 IP/ 0.00 ERA
It might be too early to make any grand proclamations, but perhaps we’re in the midst of witnessing a midseason rebound for Gonzalez. He turned in his best outing of the season against the Cubs over the weekend, hurling seven shutout innings en route to a 3-0 victory that raised his overall record to 5-4. Combine that with his previous start against the Brewers, and Gio’s now pitched 13 consecutive scoreless innings. That’s impressive enough, but what’s even more interesting is that he’s not really overpowering hitters just yet. His fastball is sitting in the low nineties and he’s gone to his changeup and breaking pitches more often than he did before he went on the disabled list. Is this a direct consequence of coming off shoulder inflammation? Who knows, but whatever he’s doing these last few starts is definitely working.
Adam LaRoche, 1B: 3 HR/ 5 RBI/ .926 OPS
Last week we mentioned how LaRoche might be the team’s most consistent hitter, albeit without the gaudy power numbers. So in that time all he does is hit three long balls and posts the highest slugging percentage (.615) of any of the regulars in the lineup. Oops. Hopefully LaRoche’s solid season at the plate doesn’t get lost in the shuffle as Anthony Rendon continues to rake and the rest of the lineup begins to flourish with all the key missing pieces finally back from their respective injuries. It’s easy to forget that LaRoche carried this offense for the early part of the season while Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos were gone for extended periods of time. He showed he could still be productive without protection behind him in the lineup; what’ll you think he’ll do now that he does?
Stephen Strasburg, SP: 1-0 / 7.2 IP/ 8 K
The curious case of Stephen Strasburg continues. One week, it seems like he’s laboring just to work his way into the middle innings. Another week, he cruises through a lineup in dominant fashion. This week he was the good Strasburg, flummoxing the Rockies Tuesday night by hurling 7.2 innings of one-run ball while striking out eight. He showed why he has the potential to be one of the top pitchers in the league when he doesn’t nibble and has his command going. He got ahead of hitters with the fastball early in at-bats, and finished them off with the breaking pitches in two-strike counts. That’s what fans envisioned he’d look like early in the season, and he’s shown glimpses of being that guy from time to time. The big question for him heading into the second half of the season is whether or not he can reel off several of these dominant outings in a row. The rotation’s been good despite his struggles, but they have a chance to be elite if he returns to his 2012 form.
Ian Desmond, SS: .185 AVG/ .185 OBP/ .296 SLG
Yes, Desmond hit a bases clearing double Monday night to help propel the Nats to a 7-3 victory over the Rockies. But that moment was an aberration in what has otherwise been a tough stretch in which he’s struggled mightily at the plate. He’s had multi-strikeout performances in six out of the last ten games — 15 K’s in all during that stretch. He hasn’t drawn a walk in his last thirteen games, dropping his on-base percentage to .285 for the season, good for second lowest of those in the everyday lineup. But despite all of that, there are still silver linings to be found. Desmond leads the team in home runs and RBI despite the recent quagmire, and he hasn’t carried his struggles at the plate with him to the field when he’s playing defense. He’d be a shoe-in for the All-Star game if his average and OBP numbers were a little bit higher.
Jerry Blevins, RP: 2 GP/ 16.20 ERA/ 2.40 WHIP
For the majority of the season, the only reliever to consistently show up in this section was Ross Detwiler. But now, Blevins appears to be the the current weak link in the bullpen. After a rough outing against the Cubs in which he allowed three runs in just 2/3 of an inning, his season ERA now sits at 5.16 — worst among Nationals relief pitchers. His big problem right now is the number of walks, as he’s given a free pass to six hitters over his last 4.2 innings of work. Luckily for Matt Williams there’s a bevy of relievers who are pitching lights out right now, so Blevins doesn’t have to be put into pressure situations until he can work himself out of the slump.