The first 10 games of the Nationals season have already been played, and the Nats are off to a 9-1 start, the best record in the bigs and the best record to start a season in DC baseball history. They already have a 5-game lead in the NL East over the Mets and Phillies. While records are meaningless at this point in the season, a large lead right out of the gate might be too much for the rest of the division to overcome. This start is some sort of amazing, and is a very, very good sign to a special season for the Washington Nationals. The question is, why are the Nationals, led by almost the same players as 2015, doing so much better? In this post, I will tell you what the Nats have done right this season.
WHAT HAVE THE NATS DONE RIGHT?
Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper getting on base
Daniel Murphy, the former Met who led his team to the World Series, was signed by the Nationals to a 3 year, $37.5 million contract on Christmas Eve, a nice present for Nationals fans. On Opening Day, Murphy hit a towering home run to center field and doubled down the line in extras to win the game for the Nats. Since then, Murphy has continued his tear, and leads the league with a .438 average. Bryce Harper, on the other hand, has been what everyone expected out of him. Harper already has 5 home runs, putting him in a tie with 4 others for 2nd, only behind rookie phenom Trevor Story. Harper is also tied for 1st in the league (with Nolan Arenado) in RBIs, and the two together have been a dominant force in the lineup.
Joe Ross and Tanner Roark pitching very nicely
After losing Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister to free agency, the Nats needed someone to fill the last starter role, behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez. Joe Ross and Tanner Roark both are really good options, and they’ve been pitching really well this year. In 2 outings, Ross has been phenomenal. In a 4-2 victory over the Miami Marlins on Sunday, April 10, Ross went 7 innings, and gave up 1 run. He also struck out 5 (and gave me a fantasy baseball win over my brother). Roark has also been great. While he lost the home opener to the Marlins, Roark bounced back, beating the Braves 3-0. He went 7 sparkling innings, and struck out 4. Neither was a lock to make the rotation out of Spring, but they’ve been playing great.
The bullpen has been lights out
Last season, the bullpen was one of the worst parts of the team. That bullpen had Drew Storen, Matt Thornton, Casey Janssen and Aaron Barrett, who are no longer on the team anymore. This year, Dusty Baker’s 100-pitch limit for starters has been great, with the bullpen getting key outs. Jonathan Papelbon has been a great closer, going 5/5 in saves. Felipe Rivero, acquired in the Jose Lobaton deal, has been very good himself, with a 1.80 ERA and a save. Blake Treinen and his 100 mph slider has been really promising, with already matching his win total from last season (2). New recruit Oliver Perez boasts a 0.00 ERA, as does Shawn Kelley, another new signee. The bullpen has done a great job, and the Nats hope the ‘pen keeps it up for the whole season.