What to Watch for: 5.10.13

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Chicago Cubs (13-21) vs. Washington Nationals (19-15)

RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-4, 3.09) vs. LHP Ross Detwiler (1-3, 2.50)

As the 2013 season is now just over 20 percent complete, certain trends have begun to emerge, defining each team’s identity on the field. For instance, when the Nationals score three or more runs, they are a stunning 16-2 on the season. When scoring five or more, they are a perfect 13-0. The only problem lies with the fact that they have played 34 games heading into this weekend’s three-game tilt with the Cubs, meaning that in 16 of those contests they have failed to cross the plate as many as three times, going just 3-13 in those affairs.

Of course, if this tells us anything about the club, it simply reaffirms a fact we already knew: the Nationals are built on pitching. As such, it should be no surprise that they own the league’s best winning percentage in one-run games, claiming a victory in six of their first eight battles separated by a single run. They have also made their offense hold up, owning the league’s best mark when scoring first (15-1) and second-best record when scoring last (9-2). With a strong back of the bullpen, it should be no surprise that they are 18-1 when leading after eight innings, but they impressively carry the same mark when leading after just five frames, a testament to that bullpen’s depth.

We remain early in the season, and these numbers won’t be a truly accurate reflection until sometime closer to the All-Star break. But the most important trend for the Nationals is quite clear. They’ve won four straight and six of seven heading into Friday night’s matchup, and are four games over .500 for the first time in nearly a month.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Bernadina RF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Desmond SS

6. Espinosa 2B

7. Moore LF

8. Suzuki C

9. Detwiler LHP

APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAY FLOWERS

With the sweep of Detroit complete, the Nationals 6-1 mark in May is tied for the second-best record in baseball this month (St. Louis is also 6-1). Only the 7-1 Indians have been better in May. Meanwhile, Washington’s four-game winning streak is tied for the longest in MLB with Arizona, San Diego and Cleveland.

LONG STREAK OF LONG BALLS

The Nationals have hit at least one home run in 67 consecutive series. That is currently the second-longest such streak in MLB (the Rangers have homered in 76 straight series) and the longest streak in D.C. baseball history (1901-71, 2005-present). Washington blasted 15 long balls in its four-game home series with Chicago last season.

BULLISH ON THE ‘PEN

Jim Lett’s bullpen has excelled of late, going 2-1 with six holds, seven saves and a 1.84 ERA (11 ER/53.2 IP) in 22 games dating to April 15. Nationals relievers have posted a .191 batting average against and been touched for just three home runs during the 22-game revival.

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