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State of the Nats: First place within reach

May 18, 2015, 2:27 PM EDT

May 17, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) hits a three run home run in front of San Diego Padres catcher Derek Norris (C) and umpire Phil Cuzzi (10) during the seventh inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Top storylines:

Offense continues to roll – After scoring 10 runs against the Padres on Sunday, the Nationals now rank second in baseball in scoring. They went 5-2 on their road trip and scored at least nine runs in four of those games. With Bryce Harper leading the way, the Nats’ lineup has been on an absolute tear in the month of May.

This month the Nationals lead the majors as a team in runs (91), OPS (.833) and batting average (.299), and they place second in extra-base hits (257). Harper is 23-for-56 (.411) this month with nine home runs, 22 RBI, 14 walks, 18 runs and a 1.511 OPS in 16 games.

Many Nationals fans have wondered what it would look like if the lineup was clicking on all cylinders and Harper was playing up to his potential. Right now, you’re seeing it.

Could be big week for injury updates There should be plenty of injury updates from the Nationals this week as several players are set to undergo tests on various ailments. On Tuesday, we could see Casey Janssen be activated off the disabled list for the first time this year. We should also know more about Jayson Werth’s left wrist. The Nationals waited through the weekend to see if the swelling would go down after he was hit by a pitch on Friday night. We’ll see what they have for us on that in Matt Williams’ pregame press conference on Tuesday.

Anthony Rendon is in Viera, Fla. doing baseball activities as he works his way back from a strained oblique. Perhaps we know by the end of the week when he will be ready to go on a rehab assignment.

Doug Fister is on the mend with a strained right flexor muscle. He is also waiting for the swelling to go down before the next step in his rehab is determined.

Will Nats leap the Mets this week? – The Nationals enter this week just a half-game behind the New York Mets in the NL East and a unique schedule due to interleague play. The Nats are off on both Monday and Thursday, with games against the Yankees on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Yankees are in first place at 22-17, the same record the Nats’ currently have. It is not an easy matchup by any means, though the Nats will miss starter Michael Pineda, who has been brilliant so far this season. After the Yankees, the Nationals will face the Phillies, who have won five straight. They are still in last place, however, at 16-23.

While the Nats go up against the Yankees and Phillies, the Mets will have a tough four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have MLB’s best record at 25-12. After hosting St. Louis, the Mets go at the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates have been disappointing so far this year at 18-20, but they are a team that has made the playoffs in consecutive years. Pittsburgh is also 9-5 against the Mets in the last two seasons.

NL East Standings

source:

Offensive game of the week: Bryce Harper 5/17 vs. Padres – 3-for-4, HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, 3B, BB

Pitching game of the week: Max Scherzer 5/16 vs. Padres – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 11 SO. 104 pitches, 73 strikes.

Quote of the week:

Jose Lobaton on Harper via MLB.com:

“Oh, my God. I would say OMG. He is unbelievable. How can you explain that? He hits a home run, a single, triples. I don’t know. It’s good to have someone like that on the team.

“He is ready. The way he is seeing the ball, he is hitting everything. High fastballs, he checks those pitches. What’s going on here? I want to do that. I’m really happy for him and we have that guy with us. He has been doing good. He is going to keep doing the same right now.”

Tweet of the week:

Road ahead

MON – OFF
TUE – 7:05 p.m. vs. New York Yankees (Gonzalez)
WED – 7:05 p.m. vs. New York Yankees (Cole)
THU – OFF
FRI – 7:05 p.m. vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Zimmermann)
SAT – 4:05 p.m. vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Scherzer)
SUN – 1:35 p.m. vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Strasburg)

  1. masterfishkeeper - May 18, 2015 at 2:55 PM

    Have the Nats really decided Cole will pitch Wednesday? Nats’ website says “TBD”.

  2. tcostant - May 18, 2015 at 3:12 PM

    I hope it’s not Cole. Enough off days to go with 4 men until almost the end of May and the have Roark ready. Roark went 3 innings yesterday, you can give him 4 inning next time etc.

    • virginiascopist - May 18, 2015 at 3:24 PM

      It will be interesting to see how it’s handled. It may also depend how Gio does tomorrow. Plus, if Janssen is activated and Trienen is sent down (not saying that will happen, just speculating), then we could be short a long man in the bullpen. Of course, Roark will have had the off day as well. Never mind. I’m done speculating.

  3. Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 3:16 PM

    “WED – 7:05 p.m. vs. New York Yankees (Cole)”

    Are you ready to put in Cole? I thought it was (TBD)

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 3:18 PM

      I would also say that 3 innings of Low Lev relief with a 10 run lead isn’t necessarily a glimpse into A.J. Cole’s next appearance.

  4. natsfan1a - May 18, 2015 at 3:21 PM

    Niiiice.

    ===

    Mark Zuckerman ✔ @ZuckermanCSN

    Bryce Harper is NL Player of the Week. Just as he was last week. 10th-ever to do that back-to-back.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 3:24 PM

      I wonder how long they have been giving out the award. 10th ever sounds like they haven’t been doing it for 75 years.

      • natsfan1a - May 18, 2015 at 3:32 PM

        Started in 1974, according to Baseball Reference:

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Player_of_the_Week_Award

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 3:35 PM

        Thanks! Great detective work!

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 18, 2015 at 3:32 PM

        Apparently, since 2008.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 18, 2015 at 3:33 PM

        D’OH!

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 3:38 PM

        This is funny because obviously it’s tracked as they know only 10 players have won the NL POTW back-to-back!

        From BR: “While the award is publicized when given out, it is not tracked much (i.e. who has won it the most times, or the most times in a season, how it correlates with seasonal awards, etc) and tends to be treated as a curiosity.”

      • natsfan1a - May 18, 2015 at 3:34 PM

        I am so lolling, sofa. (sorry)

  5. Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 3:22 PM

    Congrats to Bryce Harper for winning another NL Player Of The Week honor.

  6. langleyclub - May 18, 2015 at 3:23 PM

    It’s long season; I’m OK with giving Cole a start on Wednesday. Like the idea of getting the Sherzer, RZ, SS and Gio extra rest. Nats don’t need to shorten the rotation in May.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 3:27 PM

      JZim says he doesn’t like the extra rest as it makes his arm too strong. Creature of habit.

      • jd - May 18, 2015 at 3:31 PM

        I wouldn’t do it. I’s go 4 deep for as long as possible.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 3:35 PM

        That’s what I think. I’ve also said if Roark wants the start you get him worked up as a tandem starter. If there aren’t enough innings you have him finish up his work after the game in the bullpen.

      • masterfishkeeper - May 18, 2015 at 4:06 PM

        I’d actually prefer to see Cole/Roark, because it’s a long season, and I’d like to give our starters as much rest as possible, so that they still have something in the tank at the end of the year.

    • nattygoats - May 18, 2015 at 3:57 PM

      Wins in may count the same as in Sept. Pitching Cole is conceding victory

      • virginiascopist - May 18, 2015 at 4:26 PM

        Well, Cole’s last start turned out pretty well.

        Is the proper term concede victory or concede defeat?

    • tjr324 - May 18, 2015 at 4:00 PM

      RZ?

    • rlndtln - May 18, 2015 at 8:29 PM

      It would mean 2 extra days for JZIM,Scherzer and SS. As we are off thursday.No brainer to go with 4 guys until May 26th.

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 3:52 PM

    Scooter Gennett who batted .324 with a .834 OPS during his rookie year and followed that up with an impressive ,754 OPS last season can’t get above Mendoza this season and just got sent to AAA.

    He was one of the 2nd baseman who I really liked as he feasts on RHPs and is solid defensively. This year he isn’t feasting on any pitcher consistently.

  8. nattygoats - May 18, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    Are the Nats really going to pitch Cole? OMG.

  9. Theophilus T.S. - May 18, 2015 at 4:07 PM

    Quibble: Do we know that Fister is “on the mend” or whether he is “shut down?” If the latter, then we have no objective knowledge whether he is “on the mend.” Until his status changes. For the record, I’m thinking this is not a serious injury. (My only evidence is hope, and the fact Fister doesn’t throw hard — although he does throw a lot of sliders, which are hard on the arm.)

  10. adcwonk - May 18, 2015 at 4:07 PM

    Many Nationals fans have wondered what it would look like if the lineup was clicking on all cylinders and Harper was playing up to his potential. Right now, you’re seeing it.

    But here’s the thing — it’s still not yet clicking on all cylinders! (Rendon, Werth, Fister….)

    • Ghost of Steve M. - May 18, 2015 at 4:53 PM

      That’s how scary the Nats are to the Majors that they are now playing well and not clicking on all cylinders as the team’s MVP Rendon still isn’t back and like you named Werth is at Mendoza and struggling on defense, and Fister is injured and Strasburg hasn’t pitched like an Ace this season.

      • jd - May 18, 2015 at 5:14 PM

        But in fairness I think there are several players who are very likely to regress such as Escobar, Espinosa and Ramos and perhaps even Harper and Span.

      • Hiram Hover - May 18, 2015 at 5:39 PM

        Agree with jd. I think having all your regulars in at the same time and performing at their peak is the exception, not the rule.

  11. Nats Fan Zee - May 18, 2015 at 4:23 PM

    The Nats take over 1st tonight … Back in.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - May 18, 2015 at 4:29 PM

      Strictly speaking, a tie /= “taking over”
      Just saying.

      • Nats Fan Zee - May 18, 2015 at 7:30 PM

        True enough … My bad

    • jd - May 18, 2015 at 5:13 PM

      I am not sure I’m rooting for the Cards tonight. In my mind the Mets won’t present a serious challenge to the Nats long term and I really would rather the Cards don’t get too far ahead of us.

      • Section 222 - May 18, 2015 at 5:17 PM

        I love that fact that you’re thinking about HFA on May 18!

      • jd - May 18, 2015 at 5:24 PM

        Deuces,

        I am convinced that the real competition is the Dodgers and the Cardinals. I don’t think any one else is at our level.

      • Nats Fan Zee - May 18, 2015 at 7:37 PM

        I want to see haw they perform against a good team. I was thinking they drop 3 of 4 to the Cards but you never know.

  12. Section 222 - May 18, 2015 at 5:11 PM

    The Nats would be crazy to send Cole out there to start against the Bronx Bombers when JZnn can pitch on regular rest. With the off days, they don’t need a 5th starter until May 26. That seems like a no-brainer to me, unless someone needs an extra day of rest in the meantime.

    This is exactly the kind of advance notice needed to stretch Roark out to start on May 26. I really hope that’s the way they go.

    • jd - May 18, 2015 at 5:22 PM

      I agree 100%.

      Sooner or later we will have to see if Cole can be in the rotation next year because more than likely both JZim and Fister will be gone. I just would rather Cole is used in more Low lev. situations just like on Friday night before he gets thrown to the wolves again.

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MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
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