Baseball is a fickle game.  One minute you’re writing about how inept a team is and how their current status can be a precursor of things to come, and the next minute you’re praising that very same team about how they have recovered from the longest

Washington Nationals center fielder Ben Revere (9) bats during a baseball game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park, Monday, June 27, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Nationals center fielder Ben Revere (9) bats during a baseball game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park, Monday, June 27, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

losing slump the franchise has endured since 2009.

The Nationals’ six-game win streak coincided with their return to Washington after an extended road trip.  First up was a three-game set versus the hated New York Mets and the team didn’t disappoint the home fans at all during the sweep.  After giving up the first four runs in Game 1 on June 27, the Nationals went on to outscore the Mets, 20-2 during the rest of the series.  In said Game 1, the Nats stole six bases and rocked Mets young phenom Noah Syndergaad, who only lasted three innings, giving up a season high five runs in an 11-4 dominating win.  Starter Joe Ross, who hasn’t been as sharp as he was earlier in the season, surrendered the four early runs but then retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced. 

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Lucas Giolito (44) delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Lucas Giolito (44) delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Game 2 (June 28) was a highly anticipated game because of the debut of former first round pick and No. 1 rated phenom Lucas Giolito.  Giolito has risen to the top of the rankings after being selected 16th overall in the 2012 MLB Draft which was far lower than his talent would have indicated but there were concerns about his elbow, which would eventually need Tommy John surgery.  Even with those concerns, Nats General Manager Mike Rizzo rolled the dice and the results have been outstanding. Giolito has been selected to the MLB Future Stars All Star Game twice and continues to demonstrate all of the stuff of a top-of-the-rotation starter and future ace.  Although his first start was interrupted by two rain delays, he was impressive, allowing just one hit in four innings in a 5-0 win.  In the finale of the set, ace pitcher Max Scherzer and Daniel Murphy were the stars in a 2-0 win.  Scherzer continued a solid June, allowing just two hits with 10 strikeouts through nearly eight innings, and Murphy continued to slaughter his former team, driving in all four runs adding two home runs to bring his season total versus the Mets to four along with 11 RBIs in the process.
The sweep of the Mets put the Nationals a full six games ahead of last year’s division champion, and should give the team much needed confidence in the eventual meetings in the second half of the season. 

Earlier in the month, the team lost a series to the Cincinnati Reds and the games weren’t particularly close. Having said that, winning the first two of the series to extend the winning streak to six games has to be particularly gratifying.  Danny Espinosa continued his torrid June with two home runs, a grand slam and a three-run shot, to give him seven RBIs in the 13-4 thrashing in Game 1 and he scored the winning run in the 14th inning on Ben Revere’s game winning double in a 3-2 victory in Game 2, the aforementioned sixth straight.  Espinosa ended the month of June hitting at a .309 clip with nine homers and 21 RBIs to put him in the running for National League Player of the Month.  His ascension has helped keep this team afloat and gives the Nats’ fans even more reason to be encouraged that the team would keep up this pace and hold off the Miami Marlins and New York Mets for divisional supremacy.

 

Dion Johnson

Special to the AFRO