Washington Nationals: Week 3 in Review

Steven RuizContributor IIApril 18, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 17:  Danny Espinosa #18 of the Washington Nationals celebrates with pitcher Jason Marquis #21 after Espinosa hit a three run home run during the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers during the first game of a doubleheader at Nationals Park on April 17, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Let's get this straight: The Nationals have the lowest batting average in the NL, are third to last in runs scored, lead the NL in errors, are without their best player and do not have a starting pitcher on the staff who won more than 10 games in 2010.

And somehow, they're 8-7.

The Nats' modest success is based on something you can't measure with a statistic and that's hustle.

The Nationals have been taking the extra base every opportunity they get, they've been hitting the cut-off man (unlike a certain former National who now resides in Milwaukee) and they've been wearing out pitchers, which will happen when you see a lot of pitches and strike out a ton.

We heard all spring that the Nationals would be a truly professional team in 2011, and, so far, that has turned out to be true. That professionalism was on full display this week, as the Nationals found different ways to win games.

On Friday night, the Nationals walked and sacrificed their way to a win over the Brew Crew before slugging Milwaukee out of Washington on Sunday.

The one disappointment to come out of the sublime weekend series was the fact that Nyjer Morgan batted only once, which means the Nationals fans had only one chance to boo him.

About a week ago, Morgan told a Milwaukee radio station, "For me, it’s fun again. And I haven’t been on what, a three-game winning streak for about two years now, so this actually feels unbelievable."

How does a three-game losing streak courtesy of the Nationals feel, Nyjer?



The week saw the Nationals go 4-2 on this little home stand.

On Tuesday, Jayson Werth homered and doubled in a victory over the rival Philles before Philadelphia stymied the Nats' bats in taking the final two of the three game series.

Friday, the Nationals took advantage of some questionable defensive alignments by the Brewers to take the series opener in extras. Due to a rain-out Saturday, the Nats and Brewers played two Sunday.

The Nationals hit five home runs over the two games and swept the double-header and the series.


Game of the Week

Tuesday's 7-4 win over the Phillies

The story of this game was obviously Jayson Werth's first game against his former club. As usual, Phillies fans flooded Nationals Park, heckling Werth every chance they got. Werth had the last laugh though, as he doubled and homered in a Nats win.

The win took on added importance after the Nationals were blown away by Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.

When you get to play against Joe Blanton, you have to win and the Nats did that and avoided a sweep.


Player of the Week

Livan Hernandez (13.2 IP, 2 ER, 13 H, 9 K, 0 BB, 0.95 WHIP)

This one wasn't too hard as the cagey veteran shut down two of the better lineups in the National League.

It is amazing that Livo was out of the league just 14 months ago and now he is 2-1 with a sub-3 ERA. How long can he keep this up?

Both he and Jason Marquis are playing out the final year of their contract, and if they continue to pitch this well, don't the Nats have to resign at least one of them?


Dud of the Week

Sean Burnett (2.2 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 1/2 SO)

I had trouble coming up with someone for this category. It would have been easier before Sunday's double header, because Ian Desmond was 0-for-the-week at that point. Then he busted out on Sunday and put me back at square one.

So I went with Burnett because he blew the save on Friday and gave up a run in getting the save Tuesday.


This week on a scale of 1 to 10

This week the Nats are getting a 8.5; last week I gave them an eight when they went 3-3; this week, they went 4-2 without Ryan Zimmerman.

If the Nats can continue to win, the standards for this section will rise.

The Nats got good starting pitching all week and, aside from the two complete games by Halladay and Lee, the offense came through in the clutch. Great week all around.


Random diatribe of the week

I know Pudge hit the big three-run opposite-field home run Sunday, but he is obviously well past his prime.

I don't think anyone is disputing that at this time; yet Jim Riggleman is sticking with alternating Pudge with Wilson Ramos everyday. I can't imagine who is benefiting from this arrangement.

Ramos' development is certainly not benefiting and neither is the Nats' chances of winning.

I understand that Pudge is a hall-of-famer and that he demands respect. But playing him every other day and stunting Ramos' growth as a player all for the purpose of showing Pudge gratitude does nothing to help this organization's future—or the present, for that matter. 

Let Ramos get his reps and get better while learning from Pudge on the bench. At this point, Pudge's best role is as a second bench coach.


NL East Power Rankings

1. Philadelphia Phillies

They are the best team in the NL East by a wide margin and they're not vacating this spot any time this year.

The other four teams in the division might as well just start looking towards 2012 if they have any hopes for a division title, because it's not happening this year.

2. Florida Marlins

The Fish went into Atlanta and took two out of three from the Braves, which has to move them to this spot. Hanley Ramirez's lack of production has to be worrisome for all 14 Marlins fans.

But hey, they're still 8-6 without their best player playing like their best player; imagine what they'll do when he eventually gets hot.

3. Atlanta Braves

They'll eventually get back to the number two spot; they have too much talent to be playing this poorly.

Fredi Gonzalez has been a little shaky in his first couple of weeks at the helm.

4. Washington Nationals

The Nationals went 4-2 against two playoff contenders this week and still dropped a spot. Yeah, the NL East is loaded.

5. New York Mets

Do I really have to explain this?


Bryce Harper Watch

.226/.333/.355, 1 HR, 5 RBI

Harper hit his first professional home run this week, but he is still struggling at the plate.

Where are those people who said he should have made the team out of camp now?


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