The Washington Nationals went into early May under .500 in third place in the National League East division, not exactly the place they wanted to be. But they were able to put together five straight wins, including two over the Detroit Tigers and a win over the Chicago Cubs, before losing to the Cubs on May 11 to advance to a 20-16 record and second place in the division behind only the first place Atlanta Braves.

That’s good news for Nats fans, but unfortunately the way Washington lost to Chicago on May 11 left a bad taste in their fans’ mouths. The game offered all of the losing characteristics that fans dread watching, such as another throwing error by Ryan Zimmermann, which led to a run scored and ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg collapsing again on the mound.

(May 5-9) Nats Close Out Pirates, Sweep Tigers

The week started off with second year power hitter Tyler Moore shaking off a poor start to his season with a three-run home run in the eighth inning as the Nats defeated the Pirates in Pittsburgh 6-2 on May 5, closing out the series, 2-1.

Washington had a day off on May 6 in preparation for a two-game interleague set against Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers. Luckily for the Nats, they would not face the two best pitchers of the Tigers’ rotation in former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and the undefeated Max Scherzer. The May 8 game produced a matchup of Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann and Nats killer Anibal Sanchez, who was 8-0 with a 1.97 ERA in 19 starts against the Nationals while with the Marlins. Zimmermann continued his Cy Young pace after pitching 17 shutout innings in his prior two starts, the right-hander allowed one run in seven innings in a 3-1 win. Outfielder Bryce Harper connected with his team leading 10th home run of the season. In the series finale on May 9, starter Dan Haren nearly squandered a four-run lead as Washington’s three relievers had identical lines, each giving up a hit and striking out a batter in an inning in a 5-4 triumph, the team’s fourth in a row. First baseman Adam LaRoche seems to have worked his way out of his April slump with two hits for his first back-to-back multi-hit games of the year. LaRoche has eight hits in his last 14 at-bats, raising his average from .129 through May 1 to .196. Designated closer Rafael Soriano sewed up his 12th save in 13 chances.

(May 10-11)Nats Split Games One and Two with Cubs

A three-game set against the Chicago Cubs would bring back former Nats star Alfonso Soriano, who in his one season here in D.C. holds almost all single-season batting records including home runs, slugging percentage and extra base hits. The one player on the roster that will probably be the guy to eventually bring down all of those records, Bryce Harper, did not play May 10 or May 11 because of an ingrown toe nail. Also sitting out would be outfielder Jayson Werth, who has been hampered with a hamstring and would eventually be placed on the disabled list on May 11. Neither of those players would be missed a bunch on May 10 as Ian Desmond continued his torrid ways with three hits including a two-run homer and a RBI double. Second baseman Danny Espinosa and catcher Kurt Suzuki each drove in a pair of runs with a double, helping Washington beat the Chicago Cubs 7-3 for its seventh victory in the past eight games. Ross Detweiler wasn’t his sharpest, but did enough to earn his second win of the season.

Player of the Week: Ian Desmond –
He had eight hits in five games including two doubles, two HRs and six RBI. He also added a stolen base.

The Nats head on their first extended West Coast road trip as they land in Los Angeles on May 13 for a three-game set, then on to San Diego for four-gamer with the Padres May 16-19.


Dion Johnson

Special to the AFRO