The Yankees had a great week, capped off with a spectacular weekend. 7 wins in a row, a sweep, can’t get much better than that. Unless of course you’re the Washington Nationals. The Nats have won 8 in a row, and they’ve gone 8-2 in their last 10 games, a major league best at the moment. They’re actually playing so well that they’re in danger of losing the title of Worst Team in Baseball. They’re only 3 wins behind the Royals right now, and 5 behind the Pirates. If they keep playing this way, they’re gonna miss out on the #1 pick next year.
After sweeping the Marlins, they went out and swept the Diamondbacks. Pretty impressive, even if the competition wasn’t the best in the biz. They did beat Dan Haren this weekend, so it’s not like they got off lucky. Meanwhile, since the All Star break, the only team in the NL that has scored more runs than them are the Chicago Cubs.
Hitting Gets Top Billing
That’s right, hitting is the story here, at least on the surface. In their last 12 out of their last 14 games, they’ve scored at least 5 runs. Zimmerman is killing the ball. Dunn just got to 30 HRs. Guzman is hot again. Nyjer Morgan continues to set the table, it’s not just that he’s hitting .362/.407/.449 since he’s come. It’s that he’s had exactly 5 games, out of the 34 he’s played for Washington, where he HASN’T reached base.
As for Elijah Dukes, well, I feel like I was right about that one. Since coming back, he’s played 8 games. In that span he’s got 9 hits, 3 BBs, 12 RBIs, and 1 HR. His presence does something that is very very important for this team. It extends the lineup beyond the #5 spot. Even when Guzman and Morgan are hitting, once you get past Willingham batting 5th, the lineup tended to get much easier to deal with. Having to face Dukes instead of Harris, Belliard, or Gonzalez is just a different level of work for a pitcher. Not only can Dukes lift the ball out of the park, he sees a LOT of pitches, and really makes the guy on the mound work. I think his presence has alot to do with this team’s run scoring bonanza since he’s returned. If only pitchers then had to face Jesus Flores in the #7 spot…
There’s Pitching, too
It’s not only the hitting that’s making strides for this team. The team ERA is 4.36 since the break, putting them 12th in the NL. This isn’t that impressive until you remember that they’ve been at 16th, at the bottom of the league, all year. What I find very interesting about their post-break pitching numbers is the walks allowed. Normally awful in this category as well, they’re tied for Philly at 3rd best, allowing only 65 BBs, and this is while playing 2 more games than the Phils. Not walking people appears to really be a good idea.
Signing Update (Not Really)
This 8 game winning streak, the fact that guy’s like Dunn are saying positive things about being in Washington, this can’t hurt the Stephen Strasburg negotiations. People around baseball have said one of the biggest hurdles to signing him may have been not the money, but convincing him that playing in DC wouldn’t be a waste of his early career. This kind of play from all aspects of the team has gotta help. And I still contend that the fact that Boras hasn’t been heard from in a while, and the fact that the Nats aren’t taking negotiations public are good things.
Finally, an intriguing, and somewhat surprising that it’s even being mentioned, quote from Buster Olney’s daily blog:
We should find out today if any team has been awarded a waiver claim on Washington shortstop Cristian Guzman. A lot of executives Sunday privately debated the merits of such a claim, because Guzman is making $8 million a year and that is probably far beyond what his current value in the market is, in the minds of those executives.
And Buster isn’t the only one who’s saying something. According to Rotoworld:
Major league sources have told the Boston Globe that the Red Sox have claimed Cristian Guzman off waivers. The Red Sox desperately need shortstop depth, and Guzman would fit the bill. Hitting .315/.333/.437, Guzman has resurrected his career after 2002-6 all but left him for dead. Guzman will make $8 million next year, so the Nationals should heavily consider just letting him go to the Sox on the waiver claim.
Ok, One More
While I’m quoting, how about Stephen Goldman, Baseball Prospectus writer and author of The Pinstriped Bible
That Josh Willingham is having a terrific year (.309/.417/.595) shouldn’t be a surprise–his numbers were neutered by the Marlins’ ballpark. He always had it in him to be this kind of hitter.