When we left the Nats after game 36, they were 23-13, having followed a scorching 14-4 start by going 9-9 in their next 18 games. But .500 didn’t look too bad considering the tough opposition they faced (Cardinals, Royals, Cubs, Tigers) after getting swept by the Phillies to start off the set.
This time around, with a convincing sweep over the Phillies as May turned to June, the Nats were able to go 10-8.
SWEEP VICTORY: Scherzer goes eight strong as the #Nats win 7-2 to take three straight in Philadelphia! #IBackTheNats pic.twitter.com/LJFqkVgY1q
— Nationals on MASN (@masnNationals) June 2, 2016
So, as many have noted, 1/3 of the season is in the books, and the team sits at 12 games over .500 at 33-21. We’ve done it in sets of 14-4, 9-9, and 10-8.
I’ll take it.
Here’s your summary of the games, including the cumulative team slashline after each one:
It seemed like kind of a mishmash of a set, but there was a certain symmetry to it:
LLWWW LWLWLWLW LLWWW
That’s how you get to 10-8. Not winning every game, but consistently winning more than you lose. And that’s why averaging 10-8 gets you to 90 wins and the playoffs.
Of course, we started this 18-game set a bit behind the 8-ball, losing the last two games of a 4 game series against the Marlins. Dusty pretty much conceded the first game, which was the nightcap of a doubleheader, by starting virtually his entire bench. Tanner Roark had a bad outing and the depleted lineup couldn’t muster anything. Unfortunately, the next day, the regulars faced Jose Fernandez and couldn’t muster anything either.
And so the team headed to New York to finally face the Mets, having already played the Marlins, Braves, and the Phillies six times each. And a full third of this 18-game set was against the Mets, with two, three-game series, one in each ballpark, separated by a quick trip to Miami.
The first Mets series, at Citi Field, featured some great pitching matchups, and the Nats came out if it with two wins behind great outings by both Gio and Stras. Scherzer also pitched well, giving up just 3 hits and striking out 10 in seven innings, but he gave up so dingers to Granderson and Conforto and was outdueled by Thor. The loss spoiled Murphy’s heartwarming return to Citi Field, in which we saw a rare moment of class from the Mets fans.
After Gio bested Bartolo, giving up just 5 hits over 6 1/3 and bringing his ERA for the season down to 1.86, Stras won his first matchup with Matt Harvey since the first week of the 2015 season. It was also his first victory in three starts against Harvey. A very sweet blowout win:
Even though they won 2 of 3 in the Mets’ house, the Nats were making friends in NY, led by their biggest stars. Bryce:
This little guy gave up Ramos' bat that flew into the stands and Bryce was kind enough to give up his own in a trade pic.twitter.com/C4ZijqXk4c
— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) May 19, 2016
@masnNationals Here you go.We may be Mets fans, people should know what a wonderful thing Max did. #lifelongmaxfans pic.twitter.com/urUYis2X5b
— Joe La Rocca (@joerock101) May 19, 2016
Stras would even his face to face matchup record with Harvey just five days later in DC. But first, the Nats journeyed to the park with the strange green maritime themed statue and took a series against the Marlins. The most memorable moment from that series was perhaps the strangest rally killing play we’ve ever seen. Jayson Werth, batting for Espinosa with the bases loaded and nobody out with a run already in, hit a grounder right over the third base bag, allowing the Marlins to turn a 5-2 double play and escape with a 3-2 victory.
Unable to solve Fernandez that night, the Nats did beat up on Conley the next, winning 8-2. Ben Revere started things off with a single, stole second, and went to third on Werth’s groundout and came home on a sacrifice fly by Bryce. Textbook.
And the first run of the game goes to… #IBackTheNats pic.twitter.com/mGF9BZoixx
— Nationals on MASN (@masnNationals) May 22, 2016
The Nats then came home to host the Mets, starting with rematches of the two successful pitching non-“duels” from the previous week. Unfortunately, Gio was not sharp this time and lost his game to Colon by the same score, 7-1, as his victory five days earlier. But Stras and the Nats once again provided a dark night to the Dark Knight, getting to him for five runs the second time through the order with back to back jacks from Zim and TTB in the 4th, and then another homer by Murphy the following inning.
Unfortunately, the Nats ran into a buzzsaw name Matz the next night, so the season series is tied at 3-3. We next face the Mets in a 4-game series at Citi Field right before the ASG. That could be a very significant weekend.
The Nats finished off these 18 games playing very good baseball and winning four in a row — the last game of a split of a 4 game series with the Cardinals and all three games in Philadelphia. The total score in those four games? 26-8.
Amazingly enough, the offense is clicking, despite the figurative absence of Bryce Harper before his HBP injury and his literal absence after that injury for the last two games. Bryce continued his lengthy slump in this 18 game set, and he didn’t walk that much either. His OBP not only was below .400 in this set, it was below .300.
Click here for the Harper spreadsheet.
Daniel Murphy, on the other hand, continued his year long hot streak. Check out how consistent his numbers are in the first three 18 game sets:
Click here for the Murphy spreadsheet.
Still, the best hit from the point of view of @EveryMurphyAtBat wasn’t a hit at all.
A baseball gets revenge on Daniel Murphy on behalf of his fellow baseballs: HBP in the 4th (second of the year).
— EveryMurphyAtBat (@EveryMurphyAB) May 28, 2016
It seems fitting to end this recap with Daniel Murphy, who won the NL Player of the Month award in May. He’s done it all, including doing some truly refreshing, cliché-free postgame interviews. For your viewing pleasure, I thought I’d dig up his interview with FP after his lengthy post-signing press conference. He said some awfully nice things about the Nats. And now, we’re saying nice things about him.