Getting off to a great start doesn’t always mean that’s the way the season will play out, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The Washington Nationals are off to a red-hot start, owners of the best record in baseball at 9-2 after the first two weeks of the season. They are in first place in the National League East.
Reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper is picking up where he left off a season ago and this last week was a historical one for him. On Thursday night, Harper launched his 100th career home run in grand fashion, hitting his first career grand slam against the Atlanta Braves. The historic home run came in front of the home crowd and on his mother’s birthday. He became the eighth youngest player in MLB history to reach the 100 home run plateau.
During the next three games at Philadelphia, he smacked a homer in each game, giving him more historical perspective. He has now homered in six straight games he has played in Philly, tying Hall of Famer Ernie Banks for the most consecutive home runs in the City of Brotherly Love. He has now homered in four consecutive games.
Over the past week, Harper had a slash line of .346/.400/.846 to go with his four home runs, 12 RBIs and 6 runs scored. He is second in the MLB in home runs with six.
Harper wasn’t the only National to have a big week. Second baseman Daniel Murphy has been making himself quite at home in a Nats uniform. This past week he had a slash line of .417/.462/.708 to go with a home run, two doubles a triple, five runs scored and three RBIs. He currently leads the MLB in batting average at .432 and is 19 hits shy of 1,000 for his career. He also batted in five during the week.
The pitching was stellar this week, led by ace Max Scherzer, who went 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA, giving up 11 hits, five runs and striking out 13. Gio Gonzalez did not record a win this week due to two no decisions, but he was great, with a 0.69 ERA, scattering seven hits and fanning 12 in 13 innings pitched. The opposition batted just .156 against him this week. Stephen Strasburg went 1-0 and struck out seven in 7.2 innings pitched.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon was lights out this week converting his first two save opportunities, until he blew a save in Philadelphia on Sunday, in a game the Phillies went on to win 3-2 in 10 innings, snapping the Nats seven game winning streak.
The defense has been great in the early going of this season. Washington is tied with the Boston Red Sox for fewest errors committed, with three.
Washington was able to sweep the Atlanta Braves for a second time this season before winning the series against Philadelphia. Next up on the docket for the Nats is a four-game series against the Miami Marlins in Miami and then a three-game home series against the Minnesota Twins.
So far, so good for Washington. Many expect this team to be in contention to make the playoffs and even dethrone the defending NL East champion New York Mets. Harper is off to a great start, a big reason the Nats have found early season success. Murphy has proved to be a nice addition to this team.
The pitching, outside of Scherzer, was an uncertainty for the Nats heading into this season, but the staff and bullpen have put together a nice couple of weeks to kick off the season. It’s still entirely too early to say the Nats are a threat to come out of the NL and play for a World Series championship, but if this play continues over the next five months, Washington will be tough to beat.