Nationals Retrospective: Week 5

 

The Nats were 4-3 this past week
while facing tough competition in the division rival Atlanta Braves and the
up-and-coming Pittsburgh Pirates. Even though the Nationals just barely stayed
above .500, there were many encouraging signs coming from the team that many
deem as ‘underperforming’ thus far on the young season. Let’s take a look at
all that’s been going on in Natstown.

Observations:

Adam
LaRoche is turning things around

LaRoche came into this past week
sporting a dismal .135 avg. Even beyond the numbers, he just looked completely
uncomfortable at the plate. But this week, Adam went 6-for-21 at the plate. It’s
still nothing fancy, but considering LaRoche didn’t record one hit in the
previous week, this is progress. The veteran first baseman also walked seven
times this week, including three times in Saturday’s win against the Pirates. If
Washington is to perform more consistent offensively, it’s no shock that
LaRoche has to get things going. You can’t have your cleanup hitter underneath
the Mendoza line. Unless your name is Mark Reynolds or Carlos Pena, then it
seems to work out for you.

LaRoche raised his average by 30
points this week. Every sign is pointing towards a more comfortable LaRoche.

Davey
is not afraid to experiment with the lineup

For about the first 25 games of the
season, manager Davey Johnson fielded a ‘cookie cutter’ lineup consisting of
all his regulars. And the offense struggled to string hits together. Since
then, Davey has gotten creative in trying to give this club a jump start.

On Monday, Ian Desmond batted sixth.
On Wednesday, he batted cleanup. On Sunday, he hit second.

On Tuesday, Danny Espinosa hit
second. On Friday he batted out of the seven-hole. On Saturday the second
baseman led off.

Bench players such as Steve
Lombardozzi, Chad Tracy, and Roger Bernadina, were sprinkled in and out of the
lineup in all different ways, shapes, and forms.

Even with the tinkering, Washington
only scored an average of 2.42 runs per game this week. As individual players
start to find their groove as the weather warms up, members of the starting
nine should slide back into their usual slots where they were penciled in to
start the season.

Haren
has his most impressive outing as a Nat

Newly acquired veteran starter Dan
Haren certainly had his share of haters entering his sixth start of the season
on Thursday. But he silenced the critics with his best start in a Nationals
uniform. Haren had been completely ineffective prior to this week’s start
against the potent Braves lineup, but he turned things around in dazzling
fashion. Haren twirled eight innings while throwing only 90 pitches. The righty
gave up just one run via a seventh inning solo shot of the bat of Braves second
baseman Dan Uggla. Haren fanned only four in the outing, but absolutely
dominated Atlanta hitters, having them completely in his control. Haren handed
the ball to closer Rafael Soriano to pitch the ninth and secure his third win
of the season. The outing lowered Haren’s season ERA from 6.29 to 5.01. That’s
not a bad trend to try to keep going. Haren will look to build on his recent
successes when he faces off against the tough Detroit Tigers on Wednesday
evening. 

Injuries:

Ryan
Zimmerman: Hamstring

Face-of-the-franchise Ryan Zimmerman
was activated from the disabled list this past Friday after nursing an ailing
hamstring. Zimmerman struck out in all four at bats in his debut, but went
3-for-6 with three walks in two games over the weekend. Zimmerman was never
really himself even before the injury shut him down two weeks ago. He is
hitting .222 on the season with only one home run in 63 at bats. And the
All-Star’s fielding has been lacking thus far. Zim has five errors on the
season – good for second-most amongst MLB third basemen.

Zimmerman has missed time the past
two seasons early in the year to take care of nagging injuries as well. He has
come back and proven to be effective and a true offensive leader once healthy. There’s
no reason to think this season will be any different.

Jayson
Werth: Hamstring

Just as Washington got Zimmerman
back, slugger Jayson Werth was also hampered by hamstring woes. Werth would up
missing the entire weekend series against the Bucs, but hopes to be reinserted
into the lineup early this week. The team doesn’t believe he’ll need a stint on
the DL, but rather hope that some light rest will get him healed and good to
go. At 33 years of age, Werth is not necessarily in his prime as far as quick
healing is concerned. But the right fielder has proven to be durable over his
career and should be back in the starting lineup soon.

Bryce
Harper: Ribs

Harper slammed hard into the right
field wall in Tuesday’s contest while attempting to rob Tim Hudson of a home
run. Not only was Harper unsuccessful at pulling back the ball, but he also
bruised his rib cage in the process. The injury was initially not thought to be
severe, but Harper tweaked the area during a check swing the following day, and
was lifted after six innings. Harper was reinserted into the lineup on Thursday
and played the rest of the week, but surely anything that happens to the
20-year-old phenom is worth a good scare. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Davey
gave the three-hole-hitter a day off this upcoming week. Or the ump crew could
give him another day off. Either way.

Around the league

Atlanta
Braves:

The Braves has seen their lead in
the standings whittled away to just two games ahead of the second-place Nats. Atlanta
has been at the top of the throne the entire season thus far, but it’s not out
of the question to think this week the Nats may be able to regain their place
on top. The Nats had a four-game series against the rivals this past week and
split the series with two wins apiece. This is the perfect indication of how
neck-and-neck the Braves and Nats will be as the season continues.

Philadelphia
Phillies:

The Phillies are staying in the
race, even despite lackluster performances from members of their starting
rotation. Ace Roy Halladay continues to be dreadful. In Sunday’s game against
the Marlins, Halladay lasted only 2 and ⅓ innings and got slammed for nine
earned runs while being saddled with his fourth loss of the season (2-4 record)
and is now set to have his shoulder examined in the next day or two. The start
rose Halladay’s ERA to 8.65. Two years ago, the Phillies rotation was thought
to be a powerhouse that would last for the better half of the next decade. Nowadays,
things don’t exactly seem to be playing out that way.

New
York Mets:

The Mets have begun the decline that
so many in the baseball world saw as inevitable. The Mets are 3-7 in their last
10 games. A combination of lackluster offense that is only plating an average
of 3.66 runs per game this past week along with mediocre pitching has led to
the Mets current woes. Not terribly surprising as it was fairly evident that
the Mets lineup would not be leading the league in run production for a sizable
portion of the season. This Mets team will have to quickly figure out whether
they’re a team that can contend or if they are still in their rebuilding mode. The
team’s performance in the upcoming weeks will be the deciding factor.  

Miami
Marlins:

Having a .313 winning percentage and
being nine games back in the standings at the end of April, it’s hard to find
positive signs from the floundering fish. But in Sunday’s win against the
Phillies, Marlins rookie shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria knocked in seven runs
with a grand slam and bases clearing triple. The 24-year-old is only hitting
.190 on the season, but any excitement is a good thing for Miami right now.

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