Aug 18, 2014, 12:50 PM EST
Nats on a roll – With two walk-off victories this weekend, the Nationals have now won six straight, their best stretch of the 2014 season. Even with Ryan Zimmerman still out, even with Jayson Werth still technically out, and even with the recent struggles of Gio Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano, the Nats are playing their best baseball of the year.
The Nats currently sit six games up on the Braves in the NL East, even after Atlanta just swept the Oakland Athletics. The A’s entered their series with the Braves holding MLB’s best record. The Braves won all three games and they still didn’t gain any ground in the division race. You have to think that demoralizes the Braves a bit, no? Even when Atlanta pulls off their biggest series win in a while, it gets them nothing in the standings.
Mark actually pointed out some very interesting numbers about the Nats this morning on Twitter. Through 112 games, the Nats now have a 99 percent chance of making the playoffs and a 97 percent chance of winning the NL East, according to FanGraphs. The same calculations have the Nats at 18 percent to win the World Series, the best odds in the majors. You may want to go ahead and knock on wood after reading that, but there you go.
Werth set to return - In case the Nationals and their fans needed any reminder, Werth can make a significant difference when he is in the lineup. Sunday night was an excellent example of that, as the veteran outfielder fought through an injury to come off the bench late in the Nats’ sixth consecutive win, an 11-inning victory over the Pirates. Even while playing through pain, Werth can contribute in big ways.
The winning streak perhaps eases an urgency to bring him back, but it is still something to watch. Getting Werth back could help them sustain their winning through this upcoming four-game series with the struggling Diamondbacks. It could also be great timing if he returns in the coming days, as after the D-Backs series the Nats embark on arguably their toughest remaining stretch of 2014.
Once Arizona is gone, the Nats will host the 65-58 San Francisco Giants in what could be a playoff preview. The Giants now own the final NL Wild Card spot after the Pirates were swept by the Nationals.
After the Giants the Nats go at Philly, at 67-56 Seattle (currently holding an AL Wild Card spot) and then at the L.A. Dodgers. The three-game series in Los Angeles is their toughest matchup remaining based on record and will be their biggest test outside of their two September series against Atlanta.
Other injury updates – This week will see the one month mark pass since Zimmerman went down with a right hamstring strain. The Nationals have said they are hopeful Zim can return after six weeks, but have still not released a definitive timeline. One has to think that this week or next will reveal at least a little more information as to when he will be back.
Steven Souza, Jr. and Nate McLouth could begin minor league rehab assignments by the end of the week, or at least find out their own timelines to return. Souza has been out since Aug. 9 with a left shoulder contusion and was placed on the 15-day DL Aug. 10. He is eligible to return next weekend.
McLouth is on the DL retroactive to Aug. 2 and 15 days have past. He was set to have a second opinion on his right shoulder inflammation this weekend, so we should get some more information on him soon. At this point, though, it looks like he is on track to return in September.
NL East Standings
Offensive game of the week: Michael Taylor 8/12 vs. Mets – 2-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, R
Pitching game of the week: Stephen Strasburg 8/14 vs. Mets – 7 IP, 3 H, R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO, 101 pitches, 66 strikes.
Quote of the week:
Jayson Werth on coming off the bench Sunday despite his shoulder injury:
There’s a lot at stake here this season, and I want to be a part of it… I felt it was worth the risk tonight. In a game like that, I wanted to keep the streak going and win a game. So I went for it.
Tweet of the week:
Ian Desmond issued a strong defense of Rafael Soriano after Sunday’s game:
Soriano has pitcher his butt off for us all year. I’d take him in the 9th any day of the week. All the booing tonight was ridiculous.
— Ian Desmond (@IanDesmond20) August 18, 2014
MON – 7:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Zimmermann)
TUE – 7:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Strasburg)
WED – 7:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Roark)
THU – 4:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Gonzalez)
FRI – 7:05 p.m. vs. San Francisco Giants (Fister)
SAT – 4:05 p.m. vs. San Francisco Giants (Zimmermann)
SUN – 1:35 p.m. vs. San Francisco Giants (Strasburg)
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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