We take a look at the Nationals’ past week, at a glance:
Team slash: .240/.307/.321
Team ERA: 3.93
Runs per game: 4
Denard Span, CF: .423 AVG/ .467 OBP/ 5 SB
Is there anything left to say about what Span’s been doing the last month? He’s giving the Nationals everything they could possibly want out of their leadoff man: Quality at-bats, a high on-base percentage and speed on the base paths, not to mention stellar defense in center field. He now leads the team in batting average, hits, doubles and stolen bases. That’s superb, especially considering Span’s relatively sluggish start to the season. He’s hitting his stride at the perfect time; with Ryan Zimmerman out of the lineup for a while, they needed someone like Span to help spark the offense. Will the rest of the lineup follow suit?
Stephen Strasburg, SP: 1-0/ 10K/ 0.00 ERA
We’ve often talked in this space about how Nats fans have gotten their fair share of the good and not-so-good versions of Strasburg this season. But on Sunday vs. Cole Hamels and the Phillies, he put on a clinic while hurling seven shutout innings, and in doing so perhaps gave hope that he might be able to find the formula for consistency during the stretch run. Matt Williams pointed out afterward that Strasburg displayed the best fastball command he’s had all season. That’s key for a guy who doesn’t touch triple digits on the radar gun as much as he used to (though throwing a heater in mid-90s ain’t half bad either). When he’s spotting his fastball like he did Sunday, it’s tough sledding for opposing lineups, who in the back of their minds also have to worry about his secondary pitches. So really, the issue isn’t so much about Strasburg’s pitch arsenal as it is about his command and his overall ability string together solid performances — both at home and on the road. Sunday’s performance was a really positive sign, but it’ll be even more important to replicate that kind of performance down the stretch.
Bryce Harper, LF: .125 AVG/ .192 OBP/ .125 SLG
It’s getting late early for Harper, who just hasn’t been able to have the kind of impact that he or the Nationals hoped he would this year. He’s had quality stretches at times, but unfortunately they haven’t lasted very long and have been sandwiched between prolonged slumps. Is he still not at full strength after the thumb surgery? Is he still getting used to his new batting stance? Have opposing pitchers picked up on his tendencies? It’s hard to tell what the exact issue is sometimes, and it could be a combination of all of those factors and then some. But the bottom line is that he hasn’t been himself for quite some time, and the Nats need the old Bryce to return as they make a playoff push.
Gio Gonzalez, SP: 0-2/ 9.2 IP/ 8.38 ERA
July and early August haven’t been kind to Gio, who’s lost four out of his last five decisions to drop his overall record to 6-8 on the season. He’s had his share of tough-luck losses, dropping a 1-0 decision to the Reds, but he’s also had starts where he couldn’t get out of the fourth inning like he did last Thursday against the Phillies en route to a 10-4 loss. After looking like he was rebounding nicely shortly after his stint on the disabled list, Gonzalez is back to showing some of the same inconsistency that plagued the early part of his season.
Craig Stammen, RP: 2 GP/ 3.0 IP/ 15.00 ERA/ 4.00 WHIP
Boy, the bullpen has really fallen on hard times lately. Once considered the strength of the team, Nats relievers are starting to tire
as their number of appearances continues mount. Stammen might be the poster child for that, as his 55.1 innings pitched are the most of anyone in the bullpen (though there are other relievers who have a greater number of appearances). Over the last week, Stammen wasn’t charged with a loss, but he allowed the key tack-on runs late that put games against the Phillies and the Orioles out of reach. Stammen and the rest of the Nats relievers needed some extra help, and they may have gotten it with the recent addition of lefty Matt Thorton
, who could help lighten the load some of the tired arms in the ‘pen.