We take a look at the Nationals’ past week, at a glance:
Team slash: .265/.317/.451
Team ERA: 3.38
Runs per game: 4.83
Jayson Werth, OF: .389 AVG/ 2 HR/ 6 RBI
If Werth keeps hitting like this, he’ll probably never want July to end. After an albatross of a June in which he hit .212 with a paltry .590 OPS, Werth has emphatically slugged his way out of his recent slump. He already has more home runs in July (three) than he did in all of June and has nearly surpassed last month’s RBI total (he had 13, and 11 already this month). So what gives? Is it really as simple as finding his mojo now that the lineup is fully healthy? Well, not exactly. For one, he’s back to showing the type of patience at the plate that Nationals fans have come to expect from him. When he was scuffling last month, he had a seven-game stretch where he struck out 14 times in 27 at-bats. But in July, he’s done a much better job of working the count to his favor and driving the ball when he gets good pitches to hit. It also doesn’t hurt that the guys in front of him are getting on base more often, too.
Anthony Rendon, INF: .333 AVG/ .364 OBP/ .714 SLG
As one of the candidates for the All-Star Game’s “Final Vote” campaign in the National League, Rendon is definitely making a solid case as to why he should be heading to Minnesota. He’s hit safely in 11 of the last 12 games (Rendon leads the team in hits for the season) and is continuing to flash the leather on defense, whether at third base or at second. Big picture, it’s impressive how the 24-year old infielder has quickly blossomed this season into one of the lineup’s most consistent power threats. While most Nats fans may have hoped that same development would have taken place with Bryce Harper by now (and he still has plenty of time for that), Rendon’s progress as an everyday major leaguer is a good consolation. He’s likely done enough to earn a trip to the Midsummer Classic; the only question now is whether or not he’ll be voted in.
Rafael Soriano, RP: 3 GP/ 2 SV/ 0.00 ERA
Speaking of the All-Star Game, how does a member of one of baseball’s best bullpens not get a nod? There were plenty of candidates to choose from among the Nats’ relief corps, and Soriano may be the best of the bunch. Sure, he may not always pitch the cleanest of innings, but he’s almost always found a way to get the job done. He saved two more games this past week, dropping his season ERA down to an astounding 1.00 — lowest among Nats relievers. In 36 appearances this season, he’s converted 21 of 23 save opportunities and has allowed just four runs total. That’s about as good as it gets, so it’s somewhat surprising that Mike Matheny didn’t add Soriano (or any other Washington reliever, for that matter) to the NL club.
Bryce Harper, OF: .059 AVG/ .200 OBP/ .059 SLG
Yes, it might be too early to say that Harper is slumping. He just returned to the lineup after missing months after thumb surgery, so you knew it would take him some time to regain his footing in this lineup. That being said, he has just four hits in 28 at-bats since he’s come back, and hasn’t yet proven to Matt Williams that he should be hitting higher in the batting order than sixth. Put his on-field struggles with some of the criticism he took around the league for his recent comments regarding the lineup
, and it all adds up to a not-so-great week for the 21-year-old.
Craig Stammen, RP: 2 GP/ 27.00 ERA/ 3.60 WHIP
In any extra inning game, a relief pitcher is bound to wilt at some point. That’s baseball. Stammen just so happened to be that guy Monday night against the Orioles, allowing five runs in the 11th inning (including two dingers) that broke the game open and helped give Baltimore an 8-2 victory. Not that it’s time to panic over his performance, but Stammen’s now been charged with a loss in two of his last four appearances. But the beauty of having an otherwise lights out bullpen is that Matt Williams can put certain relievers in less pressure-packed situations here and there to help them out of whatever funk they may be in. That’s not to say Stammen deserves more days off, but his workload may be worth monitoring. After all, he’s pitched the most innings of anyone in the bullpen.