With every loss to the Oakland A’s over the weekend the refrain remained the same: “The Nationals can’t beat good teams.” In recent days the Nationals have lost a number of wins against good teams with the Cardinals, Mets, and Phillies all falling below .500. Still the Nationals are 9-12 against teams with a .500 record or better. It isn’t a winning record but it isn’t as bad as many make it out to be. The more important record for the Nationals is that against the teams under .500, and that is 11-6. So far into the season the Nationals are doing an acceptable job of beating the teams they should.
The thing with the under .500 teams the Nats have played is that they aren’t under .500 by much in the case of the Mets, Padres, and Phillies or they don’t belong under .500 in the case of the Cardinals. One of the biggest issues with looking at how a team does against good and bad teams is that the season is still too young for all of that to have shaken out. And with most of the under .500 teams the Nationals have played being within a game or two of .500 their record against those teams would carry more weight than a team that has played only the drecks of baseball.
That is why these games against the Diamondbacks are so important, as were the ones against the Astros when the Nationals played them. It was important that the Nationals take advantage of the opportunity to beat up on a vastly inferior team. Especially with a large portion of the starting line-up lost to the DL. The Nationals did indeed win last night in their first game of the season against the Diamondbacks but it wasn’t an easy victory. Jordan Zimmermann struggled allowing five runs over 5 2/3 innings pitched and the Nats were bailed out by late home runs from Danny Espinosa and Kevin Frandsen.
All wins are equal in the standings and a one run victory counts as much as a ten run victory, but the Nationals should mop the floor with these Diamondbacks. Stephen Strasburg vs. Bronson Arroyo and Doug Fister vs. Brandon McCarthy are both pitching match-ups where the Nationals have the clear advantage. There are only so many games on the schedule against the bad teams and the Nationals need to win when the opportunity is presented, and the Diamondbacks are doing a good job of presenting that opportunity.
As far as the injury concerns go for the Nationals that shouldn’t matter as much against a Diamondbacks team that has allowed the most runs in the NL by a wide margin. With Harper, Zimmerman, and LaRoche the Nationals would score even more runs, but even without those players they should be able to score against a pitching staff that has performed as bad as the Diamondbacks. This is the part of the schedule the Nationals need to take advantage of. They only get six games against the Cubs and Diamondbacks and they need to make them count, because at the end of the day no one cares how a 90 win team got to 90 wins, only that they got there.