The 2017 edition of the Washington Nationals are on a 98-win pace. That total would match a franchise record. They’re in first place by 12 ½ games, the second-biggest cushion in baseball. After going to Houston and winning two of three from the second-best team in the sport, they’ve gone 9-5 since MVP candidate Bryce Harper went down with an injury, which was supposed to be the final push toward a slow spiral down to mediocrity after a slew of injuries.
A Washington Nationals helmet sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game between the New York Mets and Washington Nationals, Saturday, August 26, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)
And, the disabled list is vast:
-Defending Cy Young winner Max Scherzer
-2016 Rookie of the Year runner-up Trea Turner
-2015 MVP Bryce Harper
-The club’s highest-paid position player, Jayson Werth
-Ryan Madson, acquired at the trade deadline to help stabilize the bullpen
-Enny Romero, who led the club in relief appearances when he got hurt in early August
-Erstwhile closer Koda Glover
-Brian Goodwin, who replaced the injured Werth in left field, but who later moved over to replace the injured Michael Taylor in center field after Taylor had replaced the injured Adam Eaton, who was the crown jewel of the offseason acquisitions
-Goodwin’s replacement in left field, Ryan Raburn
-Turner’s replacement at shortstop, Stephen Drew
-And fifth starter Joe Ross
Scherzer is scheduled to come off the disabled list and start Monday, Aug. 28 against the Marlins. His absence was hardly felt. With the new 10-day disabled list, he missed only two starts, and the two starters who took unexpected turns in the rotation allowed only one run in 10⅓ innings.
Gio Gonzalez has had a career resurgence and has firmly placed himself in the discussion for the this year’s Cy Young award. Through his first 26 starts in 2017, Gonzalez is 13-5 with a 2.40 ERA with 152 strikeouts. His stability in the rotation during this season has been a godsend and a revelation. Going into the season, people wondered if Gio was done as a top-of-the-rotation player. Now, he’s firmly placed himself into one of the best and consistent starters in the majors.
Werth, who has been out since early June with a bruised left foot, continues to play minor league rehab games and said he feels good. Werth, 38, hopes being out for so long makes him fresher in the fall. So should Turner, who broke his right wrist in late June and is on a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac in the minors. Turner was at Nationals Park on Saturday to talk to manager Dusty Baker and get treatment before getting back to playing.
The return of the duo with a little over a month to go before the playoffs will give the ball club a much needed boost. It will also bring an end to all the questioning about how all of this has been possible without their contributions.