As the Washington Nationals milled about their dugout late Tuesday night, with the luxury of a cushy lead over the Chicago Cubs in an 11-5 victory, they allowed themselves to wonder what their closest competition was up to. They glanced out at the out-of-town scoreboard in right field and noticed the Atlanta Braves were losing.
Judging by the standing ovation, Edwin Jackson could have pitched a two-hit, shutout gem for the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night. He didn't. What he did was more than good enough, however.
When the Washington Nationals move on past the shutdown of Stephen Strasburg, left-hander John Lannan figures to be the guy to fill in the necessary starts for the rest of the regular season. Lannan is still expected to join the rotation, but he won't necessarily be just stepping into Strasburg's turn.
When the St. Louis Cardinals rolled into town Thursday they brought with them a reputation for offensive firepower. The only team in the National League the Washington Nationals had yet to face were supposed to bring a stiff test at the start of their longest homestand of the season.
The sight was one no member of the Washington Nationals wanted to witness. After so many injuries had been put behind them, after they’d cobbled things together and persevered – even thrived – without so many of their key components, their lineup was finally all healthy.
Edwin Jackson slowly walked toward the dugout at Nationals Park, glove covering his mouth. Usually mild-mannered, the pitcher's head jerked as he unloaded the frustration of a game gone awry into the leather.
Has Bryce Harper hit a bit of a wall? Could be. Have pitchers figured him out some? Well, the statistics seem to suggest that. But the Nats are confident that, as pitchers adjust to him, he'll adjust right back because, well, this is what the best hitters do.
Davey Johnson's proclamation that he'd take the Nationals' pitching staff "over any staff in the league" — even the celebrated Phillies rotation — became fuel for an already burning fire of bravado that Johnson didn't shy away from all spring. His words now seem more prophetic than ever: The Nationals have the best pitching staff in baseball with a 3.25 ERA — 0.80 better than that of the Phillies.
Inside the comfort of the clubhouse, the Washington Nationals insist they know it won't last forever, that eventually they'll lose a game or two again. They stress that thinking they won't isn't an option because it can only lead to a complacency they show no signs of developing.