As we know, Max Scherzer struck out 20 Tigers yesterday en route to a 3-2 win. Only 3 other pitchers in the history of baseball have done that in a 9 inning game. Coming off the sweep by the Cubs, it was important to bounce back, and they did by taking 2 out of 3 from the Tigers.
It was performances like yesterday’s that show the Nats are for real. Atop the rotation, we have a reinvigorated and absolutely dominant Max Scherzer who just K-ed 20 batters. He is followed in the rotation by another ace in Stephen Strasburg, who has been dominate in his own right. This 1-2 punch can hold its own against Arrieta and Lester, Kershaw and Maeda, Bumgarner and Cueto, or DeGrom and Syndergaard. Behind them, you’ve got dominance in Joe Ross and plenty of talent from Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez. Come playoff time Lucas Giolito is bound to be up with the big club and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was used in an Adam Wainwright-relief type role. The Nats starters have been the bright spot for this club, which is especially important in a league where starting pitching can make or break you.
The biggest concern for me right now is Jonathan Papelbon. Unless he miraculously turns things around and gains more velocity on his pitches, I would be shocked if Jonathan Papelbon is the team’s closer on September 1st. Dusty is a loyal guy, but Paps numbers do not translate into a long-term closer.
Offensively, the Nats could be better but it’s not as bad as it sometimes looks. Obviously having the reigning NL MVP in Bryce Harper is a complete game changer. Team are too afraid to pitch to him, which bodes well for the Nats now that Daniel Murphy has been moved to the 4 spot behind him. The 2nd baseman is hitting .409…the fact he wasn’t moved up to the cleanup spot earlier is proposterous, but he’s there now. We’ll look back on that Cubs series and wonder “what if?” he was batting behind Bryce for those 4 games.
Toss in destined improvements from Anthony Rendon, more production from Ben Revere, a Wilson Ramos who can actually see the ball now, and (cross your fingers) Trea Turner taking over at SS soon, the Nats lineup is slowly developing into one to be reckoned with.
The Nationals were swept by the Cubs, but it didn’t derail the season. They came back strong against the Tigers, are half a game out of their division lead, and can only get stronger. It’s going to be an intense season between the Nats and Mets fighting tooth and nail for first in the East. But with Scherzer and Strasburg cooking the way they are, as well as Bryce and Murphy’s one-two punch in the middle of the lineup, I like our chances.