May 11, 2015, 1:17 PM EDT
Harper leading Nats offense – The Nationals enter this week having scored at least five runs in five of their last six games. They have won 10 of 12 and have seen an offensive surge along the way, particularly from players like Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos.
Their inconsistency overall at times has been mind-boggling, but they do currently rank ninth in baseball in runs scored and fourth in the NL. They are top 10 in baseball in home runs, walks and doubles and rank 11th with a .718 team OPS.
Harper, Ramos and Yunel Escobar are all hitting .300 or better. Harper (28) and Ryan Zimmerman (22) place third and sixth in the NL in RBI, respectively. Harper leads the NL in homers (11) and walks (27). He is also second in runs with 26 and slugging percentage at .655. He places third in OPS at 1.089.
Harper has obviously been the straw stirring the drink, but the Nationals lineup has benefited greatly from Denard Span’s return and the steadiness of Ramos and Zimmerman. The play of Escobar and Danny Espinosa has been an added bonus, now they just need Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond to come around.
Strasburg to return– After a brief injury scare when he was removed from his Tuesday start against the Miami Marlins, Stephen Strasburg is good to go for this Tuesday in Arizona after having work done on his back by a chiropractor. Strasburg was compensating in his pitching mechanics for his left ankle, which he had injured back during spring training. He worked with pitching coach Steve McCatty through the weekend by watching film and throwing at Nationals Park and says he’s all set to rejoin the Nats rotation and move forward.
With Strasburg pitching Tuesday, that means Max Scherzer will move up a day and pitch Monday. Gio Gonzalez will then go on Wednesday. That makes the Nationals’ rotation order as follows: Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann. Not that it matters in May, and not much separates them one through five, but there you go.
West Coast road trip – The Nationals go on their first West Coast trip of the 2015 season this week with a series at the Arizona Diamondbacks up first and a four-game set at Petco Park against the San Diego Padres to follow. Both teams have been pretty average so far, as the Diamondbacks are 14-16 and the Padres are 17-16.
Against Arizona the Nationals will miss their best starter, Chase Anderson, who has a 2.97 ERA through six starts this season. They will instead see Josh Collmenter (3-3, 3.40), Rubby De La Rosa (3-2, 4.38) and Jeremy Hellickson (1-3, 5.85).
The Diamondbacks and Nationals will be a matchup of the ninth and 10th best offenses in terms of runs scored. The big name to watch is of course Paul Goldschmidt, who is batting .345 with nine homers, 27 RBI and a 1.090 OPS.
The Padres look much different than they have in years past with the fourth-most runs scored in MLB. They are being paced by Justin Upton, who has eight home runs, 24 RBI and a .919 OPS.
Here are the pitching matchups for Nats-Padres:
Doug Fister (2-1, 2.87) vs. Tyson Ross (1-3, 3.98)
Jordan Zimmermann (2-2, 4.20) vs. Andrew Cashner (1-6, 3.07)
Max Scherzer (2-3, 2.11) vs. Odrisamer Despaigne (2-1, 5.13)
Stephen Strasburg (2-3, 4.73) vs. Ian Kennedy (2-1, 5.03)
NL East Standings
Offensive game of the week: Bryce Harper 5/6 vs. Marlins – 3-for-4, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R
Pitching game of the week: Gio Gonzalez 5/8 vs. Braves – 7.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, BB, 8 SO. 103 pitches, 67 strikes.
Quote of the week:
Harper after hitting three home runs in one game on May 6…
“That’s how I should be, plain and simple. That’s how I should be. That’s how I expect myself to play. If it’s hitting homers or hitting doubles or anything, that’s what I need to do. That’s what I expect out of myself. Of course, you’re not going to do that every single day. You’re not going to hit three homers, or whatever, and drive in five. But that’s the type of player I need to be.”
Tweet of the week:
Nationals and Capitals united as one…
MON – 9:40 p.m. at Arizona Diamondbacks (Scherzer)
TUE – 9:40 p.m. at Arizona Diamondbacks (Strasburg)
WED – 3:40 p.m. at Arizona Diamondbacks (Gonzalez)
THU – 10:10 p.m. at San Diego Padres (Fister)
FRI – 10:10 p.m. at San Diego Padres (Zimmermann)
SAT – 8:40 p.m. at San Diego Padres (Scherzer)
SUN – 4:10 p.m. at San Diego Padres (Strasburg)
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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