The Washington Nationals are surging and will enter September in contention for a playoff spot. Entering the final day of August, the Nationals are 16-10 in the month, which has given them a reason to play meaningful baseball in September.
The pieces of the puzzle have been coming together for Washington. Perhaps they were not able to handle the early season hype that surrounded the team, but, as for now, they have a chance for redemption.
Going forward however, it is imperative that they have some of their most important pieces go far and beyond what they are capable of. If they do this, and get a little bit of luck, the Nats might once again be playing in October.
Let's take a look at the keys to the Nationals' success going forward.
Has anyone noticed the incredible season that Stephen Strasburg is having?
Everyone, everywhere, could not get enough of Strasburg last season. Surprisingly, his numbers this season are not only eerily similar to his shortened 2012-13 season, but also better. Below are Strasburg's stats from his entire 2012-13 season and his current statistics in 2013.
|Innings Pitched||Hits||Earned Runs||Home Runs||Walks (BB/9)||Strikeouts (K/9)||W/L||Run Support|
|2012||159.1||136||56 (3.16)||15||48 (2.7)||197
|2013||158.0||118||52 (2.96)||15||48 (2.7)||164
A lack of run support has slighted Strasburg in terms of wins and losses in 2013, but almost all of his other numbers are better this season, excluding strikeouts.
The decreased strikeout rate actually shows Strasburg's maturity as a big league pitcher however, not always relying on overpowering hitters but rather learning how to pitch to get an out.
There are no signs of him stopping and, if he keeps it up, the Nationals will be unbeatable every fifth day.
Bryce Harper has begun to find his stroke in the second half, hitting nearly 40 points higher in the second half of the season. This success will continue into September and his resurgence will bring about more wins for the Nats.
If last season was any measure of things to come, then Harper is just getting comfortable. Last season, Harper hit .330 in September with seven home runs and a 1.043 OPS.
The best is yet to come for Harper and the Nats.
He has not turned the season around on his own, but he certainly has helped on the offensive end.
The Nationals' schedule has been set up for success in September. Washington is 39-30 at home this season and can drastically improve that record in the final month of the season.
The Nats begin a 10-game homestand in the middle of September and this homestand might bode well for the Nats. The timing of the homestand breaks up two lengthy road trips and will set them up for a nice streak in the middle of the month.
These games at home can only help Gio Gonzalez to have a huge final month.
Gio Gonzalez has been exceptional in D.C. this season and with the season potentially coming down to a 10-game homestand in September, things might be looking up for him.
Gonzalez has a 4.58 ERA on the road while he boasts a 2.64 at home in 2013. Gio had similar success at home last season with a 2.38 ERA.
There is no question that Gonzalez is comfortable at Nationals Park and if he has the opportunity to rack up home starts then the Nationals will be able to cut into the Wild Card deficit a bit more.
It was Jayson Werth's walk-off home run in Game 4 of the NLDS in 2012 that set up the heartbreak that was the collapse of Game 5. Ultimately, Werth has been and will be one of the main contributors to the Nats final playoff push this season.
Werth, who last season hit .300 for the first time in his major league career, is hitting .325 with 21 home runs and 63 RBI. His power is back and the Nationals are the beneficiary.
What is even more amazing is how hot Werth has been in the last two months, hitting .367 in July and .412 in August with 13 home runs over the two month span.
The Nationals might have though that Ryan Zimmerman and Harper would be the offensive MVP's this season but the way it looks now, it is Werth who is going to be responsible for the Nationals making the playoffs.