Nationals Notebook: Sweeping the Birds from Baltimore

Sweeps are nice. They’re the regular season knockout as opposed to the split-decision.

And even though the Baltimore Orioles are not a contender, taking three straight from the O’s was sweet for the Nationals who are trying to climb their way back into contention.

This past weekend gave us a little bit of everything, from Stephen Strasburg’s return Friday to Ryan Zimmerman’s record-setting Saturday to Sunday’s first-inning fireworks. Three nail-biters the Nats could have easily lost. But three games they wound up winning.

With sub-500 Cincinnati and .500 Milwaukee dropping by the District, there’s a chance this team could catch that patented late-May spark.

Digesting the Division: Does anybody want to win this thing? The New York Mets (21-19) lead despite possessing the lowest-scoring offense in the majors. Atlanta (23-24) moves into a tie for second with Philadelphia (23-24) who lost four of five to slip under .500. For those curious, Bryce Harper is hitting .2745 with seven homers and 13 RBI … but just .211 in May. Miami (22-24) is in fourth place after taking back to back series against the Phillies and Mets. The Marlins are also the only NL East team with a positive run differential. And then there’s the last-place Nationals (20-23), only two and a half games back.

O’s Woes: The Birds are grounded in last place of the AL East at 17-29. Not all divisions are created equally, and while the Nats may be two-and-a-half games out of first, the Orioles are six-and-a-half games out of fourth. Look no further than the pitching as the primary problem: They allowed 22 runs in three games against the Nationals and 32 in their three-game sweep by Tampa Bay.

Say isn’t that?: Michael A. Taylor homered Friday for Kansas City, but his batting average is down to .244. He’s got five homers with 16 RBI, which is better than Wilmer Difo (. 243 with 1 and 6) for Pittsburgh, who added pitching in relief to his repertoire (eight runs allowed in one inning). Wil Crowe’s ERA climbed to 4.91 after allowing four runs over five innings for the Pirates. Adam Eaton went 0-6 during the Chicago White Sox’ series at the New York Yankees and is now batting .203, but has 23 RBI in 38 games played. Sean Doolittle went 1-0 and allowed three runs over six innings for Cincinnati. He comes to D.C. this week with the Reds.

This Week’s Heroes: Ryan Zimmerman went .545 with a homer and four RBI while setting the franchise record for career run scored. Kyle Schwarber belted three homers with seven RBI while Trea Turner hit .300 and scored five runs. Daniel Hudson tossed 4.2 scoreless innings over four games while Stephen Strasburg came off the injured list and threw 5.1 scoreless frames.

This Week’s Humbled: Will Harris is still not right. He allowed three hits and two earned runs without recording an out on Saturday. Jon Lester had two rough outings, allowing 11 runs over 9.1 innings. Starlin Castro hit .214 while Yan Gomes batted .105.

Game to Watch: Sunday the Nats wrap up their series with Milwaukee as Max Scherzer pitches against Corbin Burnes (not to be confused with LA Law and Major League actor Corbin Bernsen) who is posting a 1.79 ERA and is tied for tenth in the majors with 67 strikeouts. Max is second with 76 K’s.

Game to Miss: Saturday’s pitching matchup has Patrick Corbin (6.13 ERA) facing Brandon Woodruff (1.58-second best in MLB), but we’re going to pass because, for the first time in three years, the Wizards will have a home playoff game (as opposed to the play-in game last week). They may very well be down 0-2 to number one seed Philadelphia when Saturday arrives, but the ride the Wiz took us on this spring (17-6 finish after a 17-32 start) was something special.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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