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At the All-Star Break the Washington Nationals were so buried at the very bottom of the standings that we can all be forgiven for having ceased to pay any attention to them. So it is not surprising that nobody noticed just how good the Nationals have been for the past month, having gone 7-1 in their last eight games, and 15-7 since July 15.

So what is their secret? Now that is the real shocker. Since July 1st, the Washington Nationals have had the best ERA in all of baseball. That’s right, I think you probably need to read that sentence again because it doesn’t seem to compute in your head, but for nearly a month and a half, the Nationals hurlers have been the best in the game, better than Boston, better than San Diego, better than the Cubs, A’s, or Mets.

Chad Cordero and Brian Schneider have been front and center in a Nats pitching surgeThis pitching dominance has been created by letting youngsters have the ball and seeing how far they can go. Things were bad for a while when injuries felled 1-2 starters Shawn Hill and Jason Bergmann, but in recent weeks rookies Joel Hanrahan (3.27 ERA) and John Lannan (3.71) have stepped into the void, along with veteran scrap-heap find Tim Redding (2.43). And prospects are looking even better with ace Hill due back any day now and Bergmann expected to be ready by September.

But even better than the rotation has been the team’s bullpen, which has been a strength since day 1, and currently sports the third best ERA in the National League, behind only the Mets and Padres. Pretty much anyone Manny Acta runs out of that pen can be counted on to turn in a good outing, whether it’s Chad Cordero (2.57), Jon Rauch (3.67), Chris Schroeder (1.46), Luis Ayala (2.45), or Saul Rivera (3.31).

Let’s face it, at 52-61 and 11.5 games out in the East, the Nationals are not going to get anywhere near contention this season, and probably not next season or the season after that, for that matter. But if they keep pitching like they have of late, by which I mean, better than any other team there is, they can make a pretty inspiring run at .500 down the stretch!

5 Responses to “Don’t look now, but here come your Washington Nationals, roaring toward .500”

  1. Paul Moro says:

    Let’s not forget John Patterson. When healthy, he can be a pretty good #2 or #3 starter. The Nationals pitchers just need to trust that they can afford to make mistakes because of their home park. Limit your waks and they’ll be OK.

  2. Nick Kapur says:

    Yeah, but when is John Patterson ever healthy?

  3. Paul Moro says:

    He’s been healthy… Two years ago…

    I just don’t understand it. He has “successful” right forearm surgery in 2006 which was supposed to have him back during that season. Never happened. And come 2007, he gets rocked to the tune of a 7.47 ERA over seven starts and goes on the DL with a “sore bicep”. Dude, I’ve had sore biceps before. Especially the day after I do ten push-ups (once a year). It doesn’t take me three months to recover.

  4. Coley Ward says:

    Here’s what Yahoo! Sports writer Jeff Passan had to say about the Nationals’ pitching staff before the start of the 2007 season:

    Their projected starting rotation was 2-13 last season. Oh, no, not their No. 5 starter. Their entire rotation.

    John Patterson was hurt and went 1-2. Shawn Hill spent most of the season at Double-A and went 1-3 in the major leagues. Matt Chico split the season between Class A and Double-A and will make his big-league debut this year. Jerome Williams went 0-2. Tim Redding went 0-6. The quintet pitched 120 1/3 big-league innings, or less than Jered Weaver, who wasn’t called up for good until July.

    And that does not including Jason Simontacchi, who had won a rotation spot before getting injured. Simontacchi spent last season in the independent Atlantic League, which is about as far from the big leagues as Chico’s Bail Bonds.

  5. SpankyBarlow says:

    Good thing they don’t face the Diamond Backs again cause Arizona beat them BIG in 6 of 7 games.

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