*Disclaimer: This series is a simulated version of the 2020 Washington Nationals season on MLB The Show. This is all for fun and not to be taken seriously. Player quotes are fake and made up to add realism to articles.
The Washington Nationals (28-21) sputtered early in the season, a World Series hangover seemed to play a part, winning only 16 of their first 30 games. The ball club continues to gain steam as the weather starts to warm up and the calendar starts to flip to summer.
Winners of 12 of their last 19 games, the Nationals ride into Saturday afternoon’s game against the Miami Marlins riding a three game win streak.
Sitting three games ahead of the second-place New York Mets on May 23, the Nationals’ pitching has played an extensive role in the success of the ball club early on. The staff’s ERA currently sits at 3.56 — seventh-best in the league while the offense remains league average.
The rotation, headed by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, sits in fifth in the league in strikeouts, seventh in walks allowed and is tied for third with the St. Louis Cardinals in runs allowed with 172. The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the league with only 150.
A surprise to many, Austin Voth leads the rotation with a 2.55 ERA but has only pitched 49 ⅓ innings compared to Max Scherzer’s team-leading 67 ⅔ innings. Scherzer enters Saturday tied for the 13th best ERA in the National League with a 2.79 ERA. Scherzer, however, sits fifth-best in the NL with a 1.03 WHIP. Aníbal Sánchez, Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg round out the rotation with 3.47, 3.70 and 3.79 ERAs, respectively.
The bullpen, notorious for blowing leads late during the early stages of last season, has hampered down and become a strong suit for the team, aside from Tanner Rainey (8.05 ERA) and Wander Suero (11.74 ERA) — both continuing their inefficient struggles from the 2019 postseason.
“Both Suero and Rainey will figure it out,” manager Davey Martinez said after yesterday’s game. “They’ve had success in the past and I’m fully confident they can get the job done. A demotion [to the Minor Leagues] isn’t something we’ve yet considered.
Leading the bullpen is the three-headed monster of the surprise emergence of Ryne Harper (2.01 ERA, 0.86 WHIP), eighth-inning setup man Will Harris (1.54 ERA, seven holds) and closer Sean Doolittle (16-for-17 in save opportunities, 0.93 ERA).
Daniel Hudson has only taken the mound for five games this season for 3 ⅓ innings and racked up two saves while blowing one while recording two holds. The results haven’t exactly been pretty for Husdon, who took over closing duties at the end of last season and closed out the World Series, his 8.10 ERA and 1.50 WHIP are cause for concern. But, his very limited usage (five appearances in 49 games) makes it difficult to analyze his season so far.
“He’s [Hudson] been pretty sore each time he comes back,” Martinez said. “He’s frustrated [with the lack of usage] so we’ve thought about switching his role with Suero’s.”
The offense, however, hasn’t been as dominant as the pitching has been. Even though the team sits fourth in the league in batting average, that success hasn’t translated to runs on the scoreboard where the Nationals rank 21st in the league. This season, Washington averages only 4.06 runs-per-game. A steep drop from their 5.31 runs-per-game average last season in which they ranked sixth best in the league.
What might be even more concerning, is the lack of power coming from the entirety of the lineup. With only 46 homers, good for fourth-worst in the league, the Nationals are more reliant on manufacturing their runs which hasn’t seemed to work in the early stages of the season.
“It’s tough when Juan [Soto], [Eric] Thames and [Starlin] Castro are tied for the team lead in homers (six),” Martinez said after an 11-inning loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks last Sunday. “To manufacture our runs we’ve got to get ultra-aggressive on the bases. It works for a little bit but won’t for an entire season.”
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