Jul 31, 2014, 1:51 PM EST
Tanner Roark, SP: 2-0/ 1.29 ERA/ 0.64 WHIP
Roark’s season thus far has been nothing short of a cinderella story. Despite the 27-year-old righty’s stigma of being a supposed “back of the rotation” guy, all he does is goes out on the mound every fifth day and give the Nationals a chance to win. He did so again this past week, notching a pair of victories that included Wednesday’s win over the Marlins that stopped a two-game slide. His grind-it-out approach on the mound continues to work wonders, even though he doesn’t have what most would consider high-end stuff. But despite that, he gets results; Roark now (remarkably) leads the Nats in wins and has the second-best ERA among the starters. Clearly, Washington got a whole lot more than it bargained for nearly four years ago to the day the team traded Cristian Guzman to the Texas Rangers for a perceived low-impact pitching prospect.
Doug Fister, SP: 1-0/ 0.00 ERA/ 0.54 WHIP
The other unlikely hero of the rotation has been Fister, whose efforts combined with Roark’s contributed to all three Nats victories over the last week. The 30-year-old sinker baller has been the model of consistency: He pounds the strike zone, induces ground balls and before you know it, it’s already the eighth inning and the opposing lineup has been mostly held in check. After hurling seven scoreless innings en route to Sunday’s win in Cincy, he won his fourth straight decision to raise his record to 10-2 with a 2.69 ERA.
Denard Span, CF: .381 AVG/ .552 OBP/3 SB/8 BB
Doesn’t it seems like such a distant memory when Matt Williams was asked about potentially removing Span from the top of the lineup? It sure feels that way. The Nats’ leadoff man has continued his torrid July, a month in which he’s reached base in every single game. Span’s been so productive lately that he still contributed in the only game this week in which he didn’t get a hit, instead drawing four walks and scoring a run in Sunday’s 4-2 win in Cincinnati. With just a few weeks of impressive play, he’s raised his average on the season to .288 and his on-base percentage to .348 — the highest they’ve been since April 4th.
Rafael Soriano, RP: 3 GP/ 0-1/ 15.43 ERA
Perhaps it’s a little unfair to put Soriano here after just one tough performance against the Marlins. After all, he’s been one of the best closers in the National League all season. Even the best relievers in the game are prone to having an off night from time to time. That being said, Monday’s ninth-inning collapse was really difficult to stomach for Nats fans. Soriano just didn’t have it, allowing four runs in only a third of an inning to hand Washington its most demoralizing loss of the season. Even before Monday night, the perception with Soriano was that he tends to make the ninth inning interesting. But as Mark Zuckerman points out, he’s fourth among NL closers in percentage of 1-2-3 innings pitched. That stat probably won’t erase the sting of Monday, but the name of the game for closers is racking up saves, and Soriano has done it far more often than not.
Jerry Blevins, RP: 2 GP/ 27.00 ERA
Blevins was another reliever who had a tough series in Miami. Not only did he allow the walk-off hit Monday night, he gave up two huge insurance runs Tuesday that put the Nats out of striking distance. His season ERA is now at 5.11, which is by far the highest of anyone in the bullpen. It’ll be interesting to see how Matt Williams manages Blevins’ struggles the last two months of the season, and if he’ll start to put him in more low stress situations to try to get the lefty on track.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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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