May 21, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .286/.363/.468
Team ERA: 3.75
Runs per game: 6.3
Bryce Harper, RF: .500 AVG/ 3 HR/ 1.751 OPS
As Mark Zuckerman stated out recently, at what point is this no longer a hot streak and just what Harper is as a hitter? With the way he’s going, it looks like he’s about to set up permanent residence in this spot for years to come. It seems like we’ve thrown out about as many superlatives as we could to describe his last few weeks, and yet he continues to put up these gaudy numbers. At about a quarter through the season, Harper is on pace to finish with 59 home runs and notch 150 RBI. Obviously, those totals aren’t things Nationals fans should reasonably expect come season’s end. But given how locked in he is right now, who knows what his numbers will look like in a few months?
Ian Desmond, SS: .346 AVG/ 2 HR/ 5 RBI
Yes, there are other hot hitters in the Nats’ lineup besides Bryce Harper. Desmond is currently riding a six-game hit streak, and is clearly enjoying batting second in the order. On the season, he has a slash line of .316/.373/.513 with three homers hitting in the two-hole. Whether it’s his comfort level with being near the top of the lineup, the protection behind him or something else entirely, for whatever reason he’s thriving in that spot much more so than when manager Matt Williams had him hitting sixth or seventh.
Denard Span, CF: .391 AVG/ 3 RBI/ .435 SLG
He’s been hitting well for a while now, so forgive Span’s absence on this list in recent weeks. Regardless, the Nats’ leadoff man has clearly shaken off the rust a month after coming off the disabled list and is just about back to his 2014 form. He’s hit safely in nine straight games, and has posted multi-hit efforts in seven of them. If there was one thing to be nitpicky about, it’s that he’s only swiped three bases thus far this year. But with the way the guys behind him are mashing, it’s not like the Nats offense needs to play small ball to win games these days.
Jordan Zimmermann, SP: 2-0/ 1.38 ERA/ 13.0 IP
Outside of a tough first inning Wednesday night, Zimmermann has now turned in two straight quality starts, raising his record to 4-2 and lowering his ERA to 3.52. It may not seem like he’s throwing as well as he used to, but the Nats have now won five straight games in which he’s pitched. Going through his nine starts this year, he’s only had one truly bad outing, when he surrendered eight runs in 2 1/3 innings against he Red Sox at Fenway Park in early April. Other than that, he’s pitched at least six innings in every start this year and hasn’t surrendered more than three earned runs.
Doug Fister, SP: 0-1/ 2.0 IP/ 31.50 ERA
Fister just hasn’t been himself thus far this season. His sinker hasn’t worked as consistently as it did in 2014, and he isn’t getting the amount of ground ball outs like he used to. As a result, he’s leaving fastballs (most of which top out under 90 mph) elevated in the zone and hitters have been feasting on those mistakes. However, it turns out his struggles may have been health related, as he was placed on the 15-day disabled list late last week because of forearm tightness. Whenever he comes back, the Nats will need him to rediscover the formula that made him the club’s most consistent starter last year.
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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