Michael A. Taylor’s two run home run was the deciding blow in Washington’s 6-5 victory over Philadelphia on May 14th. The win gave the Nats a split of their day-night twin bill against the Phils, and moved Washington 7.5 games ahead in the National League East.
We’re not yet to Memorial Day, let alone to the Fourth of July or to the trade deadline, but forgive us if we’re thinking October already in the Nation’s Capital.
Washington’s fast start to the 2017 season has the Nats at 24-13, 7.5 games ahead of the slumping Mets in what has turned out to be, at least to date, a fairly non-competitive National League East. And while it is never wise to count one’s chickens before they hatch, it is not going too far out on a limb to predict that there will be October baseball in Washington in 2017.
Since the 1995 season, four six teams besides the 2017 Nationals have finished play on May 15th with greater than a 7.5 game lead in their division. Two of the teams (last year’s Cubs and the 2007 Red Sox) won the World Series, and the other two (the 2001 Mariners and the 1998 Braves were playoff squads). The Mariners (116 wins), Braves (106) and the Cubs (103) cracked the century mark in victories, while the Red Sox won 96.
Stephen Strasburg takes the mound for the Nats tomorrow against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. The hard-throwing righthander is 3-2 with a 2.51 ERA in his career against the Buccos, and has fanned 60 batters in only 43 innings pitched. The Pirates’ .532 OPS against Strasburg is the lowest of any National League opponent.
The Nats will be facing righthander Chad Kuhl, who is 1-3 with a 5.81 ERA on the year. Opponents have put up a healthy 1.613 WHIP rate against Kuhl in his seven starts.
The Nats’ Bryce Harper is a home run threat wherever he plays but to date, he’s not been able to hit a long ball at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. In 49 career at bats in Pittsburgh, Harper has hit .265 with three RBI but has yet to go deep. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day the Nats’ rightfielder makes a splash in the Steel City!