The Nationals are tied with the Dodgers for the best record in the National League at 18-9. Yes, the Nationals are that good. Yes, the Nationals are good enough to be leading the NL east. Yes, the Nationals should be among the top in baseball all season.
Their starting pitching is amazing. Detwiler and Gonzalez are both 3-1 with ERA’s below 2. Strasburg is 2-0 and also has an ERA below 2. Zimmerman is 1-2 and has an ERA below 2. The only starter without an ERA below 2? Edwin Jackson. He is 1-1 with a 3.69 ERA. But having one starter with an ERA above 2 is never a bad thing.
The thing is, the Nationals haven’t been playing against teams that have no hitting at all, minus the Astros. They have pitched against sluggers such as David Wright, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Joey Votto, Hanley Ramirez, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Reyes, Starlin Castro, Justin Upton, etc. These sluggers have all been all-stars at one point in their careers and have been forced to bat against the Nationals strong starting pitching staff already this season. And the only ones that truly succeeded? Kemp and Ethier. The two of them led the only other team with an 18-9 record in the NL to a sweep of the Nats.
However, their pitching staff isn’t the only thing that has been great about the Nationals. Their lineup is stacked, and will continue to get better over the next month and a half. Despite the lack of above .300 averages, the Nationals lineup has some pop. Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche lead the team with 4 homers a piece and they aren’t even the big threats in the lineup. Ryan Zimmerman, when he comes back from the DL early this week, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, and Mike Morse, who should return to the lineup in late June, are those threats. When Zimmerman and Morse make it back to 100%, they along with LaRoche and Werth are all 30 homerun, 100 rbi guys who will easily lead this team into the postseason.
And the final piece to the puzzle? The Nationals bullpen. Sean Burnnet has pitched in 9 games and has a 0.00 ERA. Craig Stammen has pitched in 10 and has a 0.66 ERA. And the interim closer, Henry Rodriguez has 6 saves in 7 opportunities to go along with a 1.50 ERA. Now just imagine what will happen when star closer Drew Storen comes back midseason.
The Nationals are good. Really good. Don’t be surprised to see them playing into late October.