The Nationals started the 2016 season on the fast track going 14-4, and then stumbled hard going 5-8 in their next 13 games. The Nationals had fallen out of 1st place on Mother’s Day for the first time in the season while dropping four straight games against the Chicago Cubs in excruciating ways.
There were declarations from many in the fan-base that ‘it was over’ on Mother’s Day. It was a low point in the season, but the Nationals were 19-12, and the team just needed to make some changes.
Dusty Baker changed up the line-up removing Ryan Zimmerman from in between Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy in the batting order, and since May 29th, the Nationals have owned 1st place every day from that day and forward. It is not to say it has been easy if you recall the pre-game jitters of July 8th when Stephen Strasburg and Noah Syndergaard would face-off with only 3 games separating both teams. The Nats won that game, and showed the Mets who the Beasts of the East were.
The Nationals have persevered, and the Nationals have had most of their success with great starting pitching, a very good bullpen, defense, and timely hitting. The secret sauce now could be the team speed, and manufacturing runs.
Two days after the July 8th game between Strasburg and Syndergaard, Trea Turner became a permanent part of the line-up as he began playing 2nd base with Daniel Murphy playing 1st base. On July 26th, Trea Turner would debut in centerfield, and four days after that Mike Rizzo traded for Mark Melancon.
The Nationals are not perfect, and no team is. The question is whether the Nationals are good enough to win in the bright lights of October. We still do not know the status of ace Stephen Strasburg or whether Dusty Baker will tweak his line-up. The imperfections are there, and baseball is an imperfect game.
Trea Turner has started a new club. He has started 54 games, and is the only MLB rookie to ever hit at least 8 HRs and steal 24 bases in less than 100 games. Turner has scored 41 runs and has driven in 30 RBIs with just those 54 games started. Multiply 54 x 3 = 162 games. If you were to project those numbers out to 162 games, you are then talking about 123 runs scored and 90 RBIs in a full season. With a .340 batting average, he is clearly an MVP type player. Last week, it was the Trea Turner walk-off which was added to his resumé.
Trea Turner cannot do it all by himself. This is a team game, and it will require Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark, and Gio Gonzalez to all pitch like aces, and as we saw in the 2014 post-season, it will take more than just Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon to carry the offense. We hope to see Daniel “Hits” Murphy repeat what he did last year in the NLCS throughout this year’s post-season.
Mother’s Day is in the rearview mirror, but the Nationals need to set their sights on Mother-in-Law’s Day and beyond.