The Nationals got bad news last week, with OF Adam Eaton suffering a season-ending injury, but that hasn’t put an end to their winning ways. Entering Sunday they have the best record in Major League Baseball at 21-9; they’re 7-3 in their last 10, and their four-game win streak is tied for the longest active streak in the majors. They’ve opened up a 6.5-game lead in the NL East.
They’re winning despite having one of the worst bullpens in the majors, with their 5.32 bullpen ERA ranking as the fifth-worst in the majors and opponents hitting at a .266 clip against their relievers. The Nationals’ 4 blown saves put them near the middle of the league. The bullpen’s 10 saves have been split between five pitchers, which isn’t a good sign. RPs Blake Treinen and Shawn Kelley are tied for the team lead with 3 saves apiece despite holding a 9.00 ERA and a 5.40 ERA, respectively (Kelley was placed on the 10-day disabled list this week).
On the other side of the spectrum, the hitting has been fantastic. The Nats’ offense ranks first in the majors in batting average, OPS, hits, doubles and RBI, while their 48 home runs place them second, behind the Brewers. Individually, 1B Ryan Zimmerman is leading the team with a .435 average and MLB-leading 13 home runs, and OF Bryce Harper — who has sat out the last couple of games with a groin problem — is hitting .376 with 9 home runs. Even their worst-hitting regular, OF Jayson Werth, is at a .264 average with 3 home runs in his first 26 games of the season.
The starting pitching is doing all right, with a 3.63 ERA and 15-5 record through 30 games. Their 172 strikeouts are the sixth-most in the majors, and opponents are hitting .235 against the starters, the best mark in the National League and third-best in the majors. It is SP Gio Gonzalez leading the rotation, with a 1.64 ERA through six starts. SP Max Scherzer leads with the team with 51 strikeouts in 40.2 innings, and his 2.66 ERA ties him with SP Stephen Strasburg for the second-best ERA in the team’s rotation.
Elsewhere in MLB, the injuries keep piling up with this week’s injury report highlighted by a couple of big-name pitchers being placed on the DL by teams who had high hopes of making the playoffs before the season started. The longer-term of the two looks to be Rangers SP Cole Hamels, who is expected to miss at least eight weeks with a strained right oblique muscle. That timeframe means he is likely to be out until after the all-star break in mid-July. That is not a good sign for a team that is trying to win the AL West for the third straight year. Even before Hamels’ injury, the Rangers were not performing to the expectations people had for them. After Saturday’s action, they’re five games under .500 and seven games behind the Astros in the division.
The other notable starting pitcher who went on the 10-day disabled list this week was Indians SP Corey Kluber, who is dealing with a stiff lower back. His injury isn’t as serious as Hamels’, and the Indians will test him before Monday’s game with the Blue Jays before determining a timeline for his return. He’ll be eligible to return to the squad next weekend, although he may need more time than that to fully recover and come off the DL.
Updating previous injury news, Mets SP Noah Syndergaard won’t throw for at least six weeks as he recovers a from a partially torn lat muscle. Although the Mets haven’t given a timetable for how long he is expected to be out, a typical recovery for this type of injury lasts about three to six months, so he won’t take the mound for a while, and possibly not again this season. He’ll be placed on the 60-day DL soon.
Other players placed on the DL this week include Orioles RP Zach Britton (left forearm strain), who was activated off the DL earlier in the week, Marlins SPs Wei-Yin Chen (left arm fatigue) and Edinson Volquez (right thumb blister), Dodgers 1B Adrian Gonzalez (right elbow soreness), Mariners SP James Paxton (left forearm strain), Mets C Travis d’Arnaud (bruised right wrist), White Sox RP Nate Jones (right elbow inflammation), A’s RP Sean Doolittle (left shoulder strain) and Yankees 1B Greg Bird (right ankle bruise).
The Week Ahead
The featured series for the first half of the week is actually a couple of two-game series back-to-back as the Nationals take on the Orioles in a battle of the Beltway. The teams begin in Baltimore on Monday and Tuesday before heading to D.C. to complete the four-game set on Wednesday and Thursday. The Cubs head to Denver for three games against the Rockies starting Monday in a battle of division leaders. The White Sox and Twins look to keep pace in the competitive AL Central with their three-game series in Chicago starting Tuesday. Heading into next weekend, the top two teams in the American League meet in the Bronx when the AL East-leading Yankees host the Astros for a Thursday-Sunday series, with Sunday’s game featuring the jersey retirement of former Yankees SS Derek Jeter. The Angels host the Tigers for four beginning on Thursday, and the Rockies host the Dodgers in a four-game set as two of the NL West’s best do battle. The Indians host the Twins starting Friday in another key AL Central series, and in the NL Central longtime rivals meet in St. Louis when the Cubs come to town to play the Cardinals starting Friday.
The pitching performances to look for in the first half of the week include Orioles SP Kevin Gausman, who was controversially ejected in the second inning of his last start against the Red Sox, taking the mound Monday in the series opener with the Nationals, and Yankees SP Masahiro Tanaka goes for his fifth straight win against Reds SP Rookie Davis. Yankees SP CC Sabathia looks to return to how he was pitching in his first three starts of the season, not the last three, when he throws Tuesday against Reds SP Tim Adleman. Giants SP Jeff Samardzija opposes Mets SP Zack Wheeler at Citi Field that day, and a couple veterans meet in interleague play in Houston when SP Bartolo Colon leads the Braves against the Astros and SP Charlie Morton, who has pitched surprisingly well so far this season. Wednesday, Rays SP Chris Archer follows up the 11-strikeout performance from his last start when he pitches against Royals SP Jason Hammel