After enduring a tougher-than-anticipated extended West Coast road trip, the Washington Nationals are in need of a jolt of energy. They finished 4-6 on the 10-game swing, coming home to the Eastern Time Zone where they face, arguably, the toughest part of their schedule for the season. Collectively, the Nats have not hit or fielded the way a playoff contender should and after the one-third point in the season, this must change and in a hurry.
(May 20-23) Washington Loses Series, 1-3 to San Francisco Giants
In quite possibly the biggest litmus test of the young season, the Nats had to travel to picturesque AT&T Park to face the San Francisco Giants, defending MLB world champion. Starter Ross Detweiler missed his scheduled start on Game One March 20 with back spasms. That proved to be a bad omen as left-handed reliever Zack Duke lasted just 3 1/3 innings, as the Nats were shut out for the sixth time this season, this time 8-0. Duke allowed four runs and seven hits in his first start of the year. In Game Two on March 22, the team wasted another sterling effort from starter Stephen Strasburg, who has come out of the slight slump from earlier this year striking out seven and allowing only five hits in seven innings. Strasburg retired 14 of the final 15 batters - six on strikeouts - and never allowed a runner past first in his last five innings. But the bullpen gave up the lead in the ninth inning, as Raphael Soriano blew the save on a defensive gaffe. Bryce Harper let a catchable ball fall, bracing for impact against a wall where he was nowhere near. Call it being shell-shocked from his horrific crash last week. Yunesky Maya (who was finally designated for assignment by the team on Friday) ended the game by giving up a massive two-run homer to Pablo Sandoval completing the Giant comeback, with the 4-2 win. In Game Three of the series, Bryce Harper had his hand in all of the winning plays in a 2-1 victory in 10 innings. He made the game saving diving grab in the eighth inning and had two huge hits including his 12th home run of the season and a one-out double in the 10th while scoring the winning run on Ian Desmond's RBI single.
(May 25-26) Nats Start Series 1-1 against Philadelphia Phillies
Finally home and able to sleep in the comforts of their respective beds, the Nats hosted archrival Philadelphia Phillies and their sickening fans at Nats Park for a three-game set. In the first game starter Jordan Zimmermann continued what has become his breakout season with another sterling performance, becoming the first eight-game winner in the National League. He gave up only two runs which actually raised his ERA to 1.71 in a 5-2 win. Raphael Soriano saved his second consecutive game to give him 14 for the season. In Game Two March 25, Dan Haren pitched well enough to win, but Nats’ relief pitcher Drew Storen's inconsistencies appeared again as he surrendered the losing runs in the 8th inning as Philly defeated the Nats by the count of 5-3. Storen’s ineffectiveness is most certainly a mental block that he, as a young pitcher, must overcome for this team to really reach maximum effectiveness.
Player of the Week: Ryan Zimmerman
Zimmerman recorded six hits, one home run, four RBIs and no errors, easily completing his most production week of the season. He was by far the most consistent batter for the Nationals this week.
Next Week's Schedule:
A weird schedule quirk is in store for the Nats as the Battle of the Beltways commences with two games against the Baltimore Orioles at Nats Park on May 27-28, then two games at Orioles Park at Camden Yards on May 29-30. After those games, a 3-games set will be played against the top-seeded Atlanta Braves on May 31-June 2.