By Jason Smith
The Washington Nationals have been one of the hottest teams in baseball lately and have been able to climb the standings within their division. At one point they were in first place in the NL East. In the midst of a 10-game road trip, the Nationals went up against the Baltimore Orioles and the Atlanta Braves this week.
Monday, May 28th – The Nationals started a three game series against the Baltimore Orioles on Memorial Day. In the past, the Orioles have owned this rivalry, but with the two teams trending in opposite directions, the Nationals looked to change that. Gio Gonzalez got the start in game one and pitched around the Orioles lineup for 7.2 innings allowing no runs and striking out three. A two-run homerun by Anthony Rendon in the 3rd inning and RBI’s by Matt Adams, Michael A Taylor, and Wilmer Difo would give the Nationals all the runs they needed. Nationals 6, Orioles 0
Tuesday, May 29th – Jeremy Hellickson was back in Camden Yards but this time on the visiting team. Hellickson had a tough opponent in Dylan Bundy but was able to hold the Orioles offense in check just enough to get the victory. Solo homeruns by Bryce Harper and Mark Reynolds helped the Nationals secure a victory in game two of the series. Nationals 3, Orioles 2
Wednesday, May 30th – In the final game of the series, Max Scherzer took the mound in hopes to complete the sweep against the Orioles. Scherzer was once again dominant, pitching eight innings and striking out 12 batters and only allowing two hits on the night. Sean Doolittle entered in the ninth inning protecting a 2-0 lead and was able to lock down his 13th save of the season. Nationals 2, Orioles 0
Thursday, May 31st – With the Nationals controlling first place in the division, they began a massive series against their rival Atlanta Braves. Tanner Roark was given the first start of the series and had a difficult outing. Unable to find his command, Roark walked five Braves who consequently were able to score four runs off of the Nationals starter. The Nationals offense was unable to provide much in terms of run support and dropped game one of the series. Nationals 2, Braves 4
Friday, June 1st – Stephen Strausburg came to the mound in hopes of getting the Nationals back into the win column and back into first place. Strausburg pitched well, striking out 10 batters over 6.2 innings and only allowing three earned runs; however, the Nationals offense had no answer for Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz. Foltynewicz struck out 11 batters in a complete game shutout. Nationals 0, Braves 4
Saturday, June 2nd – Gio Gonzalez looked to back up his previous dominant performance with another solid outing versus the Braves. Gio did just that by pitching seven innings only allowing only three runs and striking out nine. Juan Soto hit a game tying homerun in the seventh inning and that would be all either team scored for a while. The Nationals bullpen came on in the eighth inning and shut down the Braves, getting out all 21 batters they faced. In the 14th inning manager Dave Martinez called up Max Scherzer to pinch hit. Scherzer came up big with a one out single to center field. After Michael A Taylor flied out, Wilmer Difo launched a triple into right, scoring Scherzer from first. Spencer Kieboom gave the Nationals a little more insurance with an RBI single that scored Difo. Sean Doolittle came on in the bottom of the 14th to secure the win for the Nationals and notch his 14th save of the season. Nationals 5, Braves 3
Sunday, June 3rd – In hopes of splitting the series with the Braves and regaining first place in the division, the Nationals went with Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson has pitched extremely well this season and was pitching well until he was forced to leave the game due to a hamstring injury. This was a difficult situation for the Nationals since they had to rely on their bullpen so heavily just the night before. However Jefry Rodriguez, making his Major League debut, came in and pitched four shutout innings for the Nationals. Unfortunately this would not be enough for the Nationals as Braves would eventually hit a walk off home run in the bottom of the ninth to take three of four games from the Nationals. Nationals 2, Braves 4
The Nationals had been on fire entering this week. Even after a tough series against the Braves, the Nationals can still hold their heads high going 7-3 on a 10-game road trip. The Nationals come back home next week with series against the Tampa Bay Rays and San Francisco Giants. The good news is that Brian Goodwin came back from his trip on the disabled list and Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy are both on rehab assignments currently. If the Nationals can get healthy, they will have just as good a shot as anyone in the National League.
Current Record – 33-25; 2nd Place in NL East