Jul 22, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
For months, they pined for the day they would be able to field a healthy lineup, recognizing they couldn’t truly evaluate themselves until all eight of their Opening Day starters were back together again.
Well, three weeks later, the healthy Nationals now boast the NL’s most-productive lineup. Not to mention the league’s best record.
With Monday night’s 7-2 victory at Colorado, the Nationals are 11-5 since Bryce Harper came off the disabled list June 30, 54-43 overall. The biggest reason for the surge: A lineup that has scored an average of 5.3 runs per game, posting a .279 batting average, .340 on-base percentage and .449 slugging percentage, all tops in the NL.
Sure, it’s only three weeks, and those numbers are unlikely to hold at such high levels. But it’s also worth noting that the Nationals are doing all this despite several key players being mired in slumps.
Adam LaRoche is 8 for his last 58. Harper is hitting just .216 since coming off the DL, and that’s with a recent upswing. Anthony Rendon, who had been on fire entering the All-Star break, is just 1-for-19 since. The Nats’ five bench players are 7-for-53 since June 30.
Yeah, those guys all play for the team with the league’s most-productive lineup this month.
At the other end of the spectrum, Ryan Zimmerman (24-for-59, 1.100 OPS), Jayson Werth (22-for-59, 1.326 OPS), Ian Desmond (22-for-60 after last night’s 5-for-5 performance), Wilson Ramos (18-for-52) and Denard Span (21-for-64, .403 on-base percentage) all have been on sustained tears at the plate, elevating this lineup to its current state.
The biggest takeaway from all this: The Nationals’ lineup is extremely well-balanced. There are pure hitters and power hitters, high-on-base guys and high-slugging guys. The leading home run and RBI guy (Desmond) bats seventh. The leading doubles hitter (Span) bats first.
Span has the lowest OPS+ in the lineup at 101. Werth and LaRoche have the highest marks at 129. For the uninitiated, an OPS+ of 100 is considered league-average. In other words, every single member of the Nationals lineup right now is above average.
Perhaps Zimmerman put it best on Sunday, explaining the significance of a lineup in which everybody is a threat.
“I think it makes us so that not one person has to do everything,” he said. “Literally from 1 to 8, anyone can go off that day and have an amazing game and drive in four or five runs. You don’t know who it’s going to be. As a team, as an offense and as a lineup, it’s fun to be a part of something like that, because there’s no more pressure. You just try to go out there and do what you do. And if you don’t do it that day, someone is going to do it.”
Right now, somebody — usually multiple somebodies — is doing it every single day.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
NL POSTSEASON SCHEDULE
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (MLBN)
OCT. 7: Game 4, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (FS1)*
OCT. 9: Game 5, PIT/SF at Nats, TBA (FS1)*
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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