The Nats look to continue the streak
The Nats struggled out of the gates following the All-Star break but after a five game losing streak (four to the Cubs and one to the Mets), things appear to be clicking. A win tonight will give them five in a row and their third straight series victory. The team’s efforts have really paid off in the last week, as the Nationals have won six of their last eight games. The key has been consistency in the pitching staff and the outfield, places that were previously unreliable.
The pitching has been slowly improving throughout the season and it’s no surprise that John Lannan continues to anchor the staff. In his three outings since the All-Star break, Lannan has given up just three earned runs in 23.2 IP and is showing no signs of stopping. The 24 year old is now 7-7 on the season and sports an impressive 3.25 ERA. The bullpen is beginning to turn things around as well. It took a complete overhaul, as Joe Beimel is the only member of the bullpen left that started the season on the Opening Day 25-man roster, but the bullpen boasts an NL-best 2.22 ERA in the 13 games since the All-Star break. As if that isn’t good enough, 2009 first round (10th overall) draft pick RHP Drew Storen appears to be on the fast track to the Majors. The 21-year-old out of Stanford University has struck out 33 without walking a batter in 14 combined appearances with Single-A Potomac and Single-A Hagerstown.
Nothing seemed to work for the Nationals outfield the first half of the season. Austin Kearns couldn’t get it going in right field and the team lacked a true center fielder. Willie Harris, Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge all got a chance at the position, but none of the three are natural center fielders. On June 30, the Nationals shipped Milledge to Pittsburgh in a deal that landed them lightning quick center fielder Nyjer Morgan. Not only has Morgan filled a huge void in center field, but he has also been red hot at the plate batting .389 in 23 games since coming to DC. His ability to get on base, along with his blazing speed has also provided a spark at the leadoff spot in the lineup. Morgan, along with Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham, who blasted two grand slams in a 14-6 victory over the Brewers Monday night, are giving the Nats the offensive production they needed from their outfield.