Washington Nationals ride hot pitching staff to first place

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

The Washington Nationals’ pitching staff have walked four batters total over the last seven days.

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Justin Verlander has walked twice as many hitters by himself (eight) in that same period of time.

The Nationals’ pitching staff has surrendered 13 earned runs the last seven days (good for a 1.59 team ERA). The Colorado Rockies allowed 13 earned runs in a single game during that same stretch.

Those stats only begin to tell the story of the dominance of the Washington pitching staff, both the rotation and the bullpen, over their last 10 games. The team has gone 8-2 in that stretch and now holds sole possession of first place in the National League East.

Ryan Zimmerman, recently returned from the disabled list and roaming a new position in left field, touched on the great work from the pitching staff when he said they’re the “main reason why” the team is playing such great baseball.

You might assume that the Nats are feasting on a soft portion of their schedule. That was true last week as they beat up on the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies, but three impressive wins over the San Francisco Giants have put the rest of the National League on notice that Washington is starting to look like the World Series favorite many thought them to be prior to the season.

On the offensive side of things, the Nationals are finally starting to score runs despite the absence of star outfielder Bryce Harper. If he joins a version of the team that’s winning like this, it could potentially present big problems for the Atlanta Braves and the rest of the division.

The rotation isn’t full strength either. Gio Gonzalez is currently on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. His absence has been offset by the emergence of Tanner Roark. If he sustains his success and Gonzalez returns to form with good health, it is hard to argue against Washington as the scariest rotation 1-5 in all of baseball.

A slow start last year was ultimately too much for the Nationals to overcome. After another mediocre April in 2014, it looks like this year’s version has the goods to dig out of an early hole and contend for a division title. That starts with their ridiculous pitching staff.