The Washington Times - June 7, 2012, 11:05AM

The Nationals’ team earned-run average was a stingy 2.97 going into Thursday’s series finale against the Mets – best in the majors. That’s a good place to be. I just researched the last 10 NL clubs to post sub-3.00 ERAs. (The most recent was 23 years ago.) Here’s what I found:

Their combined winning percentage was .5707, which figures out to 92 wins in a 162-game season.


All but one of them would have made the playoffs under the current format.

One of them won the World Series, another reached the Series and three others reached the NLCS.

Hall of Famer Don Sutton was in five of the 10 starting rotations.

The Nats’ Davey Johnson managed one of the teams (the 1988 Mets).

The Nationals, by the way, were 32-22 heading into Thursday’s game. That projects to 96-66. Keeping their ERA this low the rest of the way won’t be easy, though. As I said, it hasn’t been done in more than two decades.

The last 10 NL pitching staffs to post ERAs under 3.00:

1989 Dodgers (77-83, 4th in NL West) – Starters: Orel Hershiser, Tim Belcher, Fernando Valenzuela, Mike Morgan, Tim Leary. Top relievers: Jay Howell, Alejandro Pena. ERA: 2.95.

1988 Dodgers (94-67, 1st in NL West, won World Series) – Starters: Hershiser, Leary, Belcher, Valenzuela, Don Sutton. Top relievers: Howell, Pena. ERA: 2.96.

● 1988 Mets (100-60, 1st in NL East, lost NLCS to Dodgers) – Starters: Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, David Cone, Bob Ojeda, Sid Fernandez. Top relievers: Randy Myers, Roger McDowell. ERA: 2.91.

1985 Dodgers (95-67, 1st in NL West, lost NLCS to Cardinals) – Starters: Valenzuela, Hershiser, Jerry Reuss, Bob Welch, Rick Honeycutt. Top relievers: Tom Niedenfuer, Ken Howell. ERA: 2.96.

1981 Astros (61-49, 1st in NL West in second half of strike season, lost NLDS to Dodgers) – Starters: Joe Niekro, Sutton, Bob Knepper, Nolan Ryan, Vern Ruhle. Top relievers: Joe Sambito, Dave Smith. ERA: 2.66.

1976 Mets (86-76, 3rd in NL East) – Starters: Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack, Jerry Koosman, Mickey Lolich, Craig Swan. Top relievers: Skip Lockwood, Bob Apodaca. ERA: 2.94.

1975 Dodgers (88-74, 2nd in NL West) – Starters: Andy Messersmith, Doug Rau, Sutton, Burt Hooton, Rick Rhoden. Top relievers: Mike Marshall, Charlie Hough. ERA: 2.92.

1974 Dodgers (102-60, 1st in NL West, lost World Series to A’s) – Starters: Messersmith, Sutton, Rau, Tommy John, Al Downing. Top relievers: Marshall, Hough. ERA: 2.97.

1972 Pirates (96-59, 1st in NL East, lost NLCS to Reds) – Starters: Steve Blass, Bob Moose, Nellie Briles, Dock Ellis, Bruce Kison. Top relievers: Dave Giusti, Ramon Hernandez. ERA: 2.81.

1972 Dodgers (85-70, 2nd in NL West) – Starters: Sutton, Claude Osteen, Downing, John, Bill Singer. Top relievers: Jim Brewer, Pete Richert. ERA: 2.78.