Apr 30, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT
While Nats fans are still reveling in Tuesday night’s historic comeback victory, imagine what Braves fans are feeling right now. Their hot start to April has dissipated, losing seven of the last 10 games and falling below .500 for the first time this season at 10-11. Worst of all for Atlanta was that dropping the series to Washington might have awakened a sleeping giant.
It was just one outing, but losing that dramatic game to the Nats shows the value of former closer Craig Kimbrel. That’s no slight to Jason Grilli, who has been a proven closer at other stops, but who thinks Kimbrel would have given up a go-ahead three-run homer to Dan Uggla on an 0-2 pitch? Blown saves used to be a rarity for the Braves, but as the season wear they’ll probably find themselves missing their former stud reliever (if they haven’t already, that is).
Okay, so maybe that players only meeting might have worked a little bit. Miami has won seven out of its last eight games and is steadily climbing out of an early-season hole.
The most encouraging trend over the last week has been the consistency of the rotation. Marlins starters have posted quality starts in six of their last eight games, lowering the team ERA from 5.10 to 4.09. And to top it off, reports are that Jose Fernandez will start to face live hitters as he works his way from rehabbing Tommy John surgery. That’s quite the turnaround for a pitching staff that looked like it was in panic mode just a few weeks ago.
And the staff picked a good time to straighten things out, too, because Giancarlo Stanton is starting to do Giancarlo Stanton-like things at the plate. In his last ten games, he’s hit four home runs and now leads the NL in RBI at 21.
NEW YORK METS
It’s still hard to believe that the Mets are in first place in the division and have the best record in the NL. One would think they were doing it via smoke and mirrors, but you don’t win 11 straight without being good. To put their recent win streak in perspective, it’s only happened four other times in franchise history, including the championship seasons of 1969 and 1986. So how much of a mirage could this be?
If their rotation stays healthy (which is far from guaranteed), there’s no reason to think the Mets can’t hang around all season and contend. Between Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and the ageless Bartolo Colon, it’s difficult to envision New York going on a long losing streak. Sure, the Mets could regress — they’ve dropped two straight series — but with the way the rest of the division has played thus far, they have as good a shot as anyone to take the NL East crown.
A month hasn’t even gone by, and we’re already hearing trade rumors involving the Phillies. The Cole Hamels saga has taken on a life of its own, as GM Ruben Amaro Jr. finds himself trying to sift through the best offers from around the league for the lefty starter. When will he finally pull the trigger on a deal? And with which team? And at what price? There’s still plenty to sort out here, but one thing that the Phillies GM has made clear it that his club is willing to eat some of Hamels’ contract, which should make things easier for other teams looking to make a move. Teams reportedly interested in Hamels’ services include the Cardinals, Dodgers, Red Sox and Blue Jays.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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