Washington Nationals: Opening series observations

Thursday afternoon the Washington Nationals completed a sweep of the New York Mets in their opening series of the year. The Mets bullpen struggled to find outs throughout the series, as the Nationals came back from early deficits in all three contests.

Though he has only pitched in two games this season, I cannot help but notice Drew Storen’s improvement. During an injury filled 2013 Storen’s fastball averaged only 91 mph. Through his first two games this season, his fastball has hovered around the 95 mph mark. This is in part due to his renewed health, but also due to a weight gain in the offseason that will allow his body to better handle the strenuous season.

Secondly, Danny Espinosa’s new and improved approach at the plate really stood out to me. Espinosa appears to be more relaxed at the plate as he has a loose grip on the bat and is allowing the ball to travel. During his first at bat of the season, Espinosa drew a two out walk in the 9th inning that later helped the Nationals tie the game. He also hit two doubles into the left center gap during his first start of the season, showing the ability to hit pitches on the outside corner into the opposite field.

If Espinosa can continue to swing the bat well, the Nationals will have to place one strong bat on the bench as current second basemen Anthony Rendon has also gotten off to a hot start. Rendon has hit the ball hard to all fields, and even picked up a pinch hit during the final game of the series while Espinosa got the start.

During Jayson Werth’s first year in Washington he suffered through a miserable season. The adjective “Werthless” perfectly summed up his standing with the team’s fans during 2011. Now, however, a healthy Werth is living up to his massive contract while continuing to proved quality at bats. He is 6 for 13 so far in 2014.

washington-nationals

Jayson Werth

Already, it is evident that Manager Matt Williams is not afraid to shake up the batting order. He has posed different batting orders in all three games, and is willing to make changes based upon that day’s matchups.

The Nationals are rightfully proud of the way they have started the season. Now, they face an even greater and more important challenge as the defending division champion Atlanta Braves are heading to Washington for the weekend.