Throughout the first third of the 2014 season the Washington Nationals have experienced a variety of highs and lows while managing to stay in the thick of the NL East race. Currently, the Nationals are tied with the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins for the division lead.
Given the surplus of injuries and inconsistency of their starting pitching Washington has to be pleased with their current standing. Fortunately, the Nationals’ starting pitchers have seemed to have turned a corner of late as three of their last five have posted at least eleven strikeouts while issuing zero walks. If the Nationals’ starting pitching continues to reach its potential it is hard to envision a scenario in which they do not win the division.
One area of the roster that has overachieved is the bullpen. Closer Rafael Soriano has only surrendered runs in two of his last thirty-six innings but a blown save on Saturday night may be a sign of a return to expected form. Also, Drew Storen and Aaron Barrett both are sporting ERA’s below 1.00 at the moment. Even though many Washington relievers are pitching unsustainably well, if they can stay anywhere near their current pace the Nats should be in solid shape towards the end of the season.
Washington hitters have had an average season at the plate so far this year, in part due to abscenses from Wilson Ramos, Ryan Zimmerman, and Bryce Harper. However, with the return of these players the production and run support from the lineup should increase. Up until this point, and though his .230 batting average might not prove it, Ian Desmond has carried the Nationals’ offense. His thirteen home runs and thirty-seven RBI lead the team while eight of his home runs have either given the Nationals the lead or tied the game.
Overall, the Nationals have had a B season. They have not taken a firm grasp on the division but have also stayed in the heart of the race. At the end of the year, I believe we will look back and see that this first third of the season was good enough to win the division.