Its amazing what one night can do for a team. The 14-2 win might not end up meaning much in the grand scheme of things, there are, after all, 161 other games to be played. And the games versus Atlanta might be more important just because of what it does to the NL East standings. But still, a drubbing like that… alot of things happened in one night that are simultaneously completely meaningless and totally consequential, depending on how you look at the world. But it certainly showed that the Nats, a team built on pitching and known mostly for it, can score with the best of them.
This team, the Washington Nationals, have scored the most runs since the All Star break. Think about that for a minute. This is a team that was winning thanks almost entirely to their pitching staff early in the season, with late game heroics allowing them to take 2-1 leads in the 8th, and plenty of anectodal stories just like that. But here they are, scoring the most runs in baseball since mid-July. And take a gander on the right side of the screen. That’s right, they’re now 6th in the NL in runs per game. Murderer’s Row it aint, but that’s till a pretty good place to be. And keep in mind that offensive explosion was at one of the best, if not the best, pitcher’s park in baseball.
The Cy Young Race
That they did it against Ryan Vogelsong was also significant. Going in to the game, he might not have been the leading Cy Young candidate, but he was certainly leading the NL in ERA. Now if you look at that list, you see Jordan Zimmermann right at the top. Now Vogelsong has one more win that JZimm, but the same number of Ks and a half a run more on the ERA. Is Jordan the leader for the award? Probably not – voters are still hung up on wins, and he doesn’t strike a ton of guys out. Dickey’s got the Ks, the ERA and the Ws, as does Cueto (who gets bonus points for pitching in a hitter’s park), but that is probably you’re top 3 right now. So Zimmermann certainly has a chance, and the Nats knocking the guy who’s season who most like his down on the ERA list helped his case quite a bit.
Specific Players on Offense
This kind of game can do more than just prove a thing or two to the world, it can remind players what they can do when they are going well. Kurt Suzuki raised his OPS 18 points despite being just over 300 PAs into the season. It’s actually been climbing since a week before he came to the Nats, so the timing of the trade could end up being very beneficial. Danny Espinosa is now hitting .250/.317/.406, which is pretty good. But I’ll go back once again to May 4th, when he started crawling out of his atrocious April slump. Since that admittedly arbitrary date, he is hitting .267/.328/.448, in what is clearly no longer an extended hot streak. Instead it appears to be what we should expect from him, barring any more major slumps. That .776 OPS would rank him 6th in the majors among 2Bs, just behind Ian Kinsler (.778).
And Steve Lombardozzi, who had been struggling as a starter, continued to build on what was a strong Arizona series that ended in a 0-3 night. Perhaps his hot streak continues, and he’s raised his OBP (definitely much more telling for the almost powerless MI than OPS) from .307 to .325 in the last week. Still not enough for a guy with so little power, but it’s almost there.
Finally, the talk before last night seemed to be about how poorly Bryce Harper was hitting. Well, perhaps those worries are a bit unfounded. Besides the fact that he’s 19 and already has a league average bat (98 OPS+) at the moment, compare his current .251/.328/.405 to what Mike Trout did last year at the same age. The presumptive RoY and MVP for the AL hit only .220/.281/.390 last year, and while Harper probably won’t put up Trout-like numbers next year, it is important to remember just how well he’s hitting for his age. And yesterday, hitting 2 singles actually lowered his OPS, but the coaches were probably very happy with how he squared up the ball.
All in all, it was a good night for the team and for individuals on the team. It might not be a night that they look fondly upon in the future as a turning point, or a statement game, which is why it could be relatively meaningless. But if this a the game that helps the offense, and individual players who are slumping, improve, gives them confidence, and pays off in the future, it could be quite consequential.