The Nats have rattled off a season best 7 wins in a row. This team has really turned it around, and should finish up the remainder of the season without losing, making the playoffs. Er, with a winning record. Ah, how about .500? No, see, the truth of the matter is, with 24 games to go, the Nats would probably be happy to finish up 10-14, to keep the number of losses at only 99.
It’s not going to be easy, their remaining schedule includes 17 games against teams above .500. And 11 of those games are against playoff contenders – the Phillies and the Mets. But it’s not all bad news. The other 6 of those games are against Florida, who may not be above .500 by the time the Nats meet them. And the remaining games versus the non-winning teams are against Atlanta and San Diego. San Diego is contending with the Nats for the number 1 draft pick next year, and Atlanta, despite a decent start, is not that far behind. Thoughts on whether or not the Nats should even try to beat these teams and get the best pick should probably be kept to ourselves.
Meanwhile, the team really HAS won 7 in a row, it’s not something to just gloss over. Why have they been able to do this? Well the pitching has been about a run better than usual in the stretch. A run over the course of a season is huge, if they pitched this well over a full season they’d have the best pitching staff in the majors by a small margin. It’s great, but over a 7 game stretch it really shows very little, every team has little streaks. What has improved significantly is the hitting. They have scored 7 runs per game, almost double their usually putrid below-4 output. This is also a streak, but it highlights the fact that the pitching was never REALLY the problem. Sure, it’s bad, but it was never as bad as the hitting. The recent performance has actually moved them up from last place in runs scored, and it shows what this offense is capable of.
Some players deserve credit for this surge, although some doctors may deserve some, too. The health of Zimmerman, Guzman, and Dukes are all big factors to this team being able to put together a run. Zimmerman’s OPS of 1.214 including 2 HRs, Guzman’s ridiculous 1.323, and Duke’s 2 HRs in 21 ABs have all helped significantly. Guzman has raised his SLG from an unhelpful .399 to a very acceptable .422 in the course of 7 games, thanks in part to hitting for the cycle on Thursday, and Zimmerman has raised his OBP by .017. Dukes continues to convince me that he is probably the best hitter on this team. Milledge and Bonifacio have both also hit well over this stretch, and all these players have allowed the Nats to score despite Flores‘ bat being a nonfactor. While it isn’t exactly a murderers row, these players have shown what a healthy Nats lineup can do. It’s sustainability is questionable, for example, Guzman has shown streakiness in his ability to get on base and little power outside of April. But this does show that this team isn’t, as some people put it, a collection of minor leaguers.
I wouldn’t read TOO much into the offensive explosion, 7 games is an extremely small sample, and despite the pop these players have shown, many are playing above their heads. But it is much more fun to watch this team right now then it has been any time this year after March 31, and hopefully this run will help them keep it under 100.