Just a few months ago, the Washington Nationals were languishing about ten games under the .500 mark. Skip ahead to the present and the Nats are rolling, in command of the NL Wild Card and full of good vibes that had been so elusive in the Bryce Harper era.
Washington has won three in a row, five out of six, and will try to make it two in a row over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Saturday, when Joe Ross takes the hill against Jose Quintana.
There’s talk the Nationals have the three best starting pitchers in the National League with Max Scherzer, who threw 70 pitches in his return from injury on Thursday, Stephen Strasburg, who will enter September as a front-runner, if not, the front-runner for his first Cy Young award, and Patrick Corbin, who has been everything the front office could have hoped for after inking him to a lucrative six-year deal in the offseason.
But Washington has more than just a top heavy staff with three aces. Anibal Sanchez got through the first eight innings of yesterday’s game without allowing a run and Erick Fedde stepped into Scherzer’s place to pitch better than just ok. Joe Ross wasn’t a starting pitcher until just this month but he has been as good as either of the other two in his new opportunity.
Ross has given up one run in four August starts. The last one was cut short after he took a comebacker off the leg in an 11–0 game. He left because you don’t take any chances when you’re up 11–0 but he’ll start this game, presumably a little more rested after throwing just 58 pitches. He went 18 innings in the first three starts of the month.
Then there are Washington’s bats, which have all been just so hot for so long now. Trae Turner and Adam Eaton haven’t been hot for as long but they’re both hot now and when those two guys are getting on at the top of the batting order, Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto are only more difficult to pitch to. The next home run for the 22-year-old Soto will be his 30th.
His age mate in the outfield, Victor Robles has blossomed into the tools-y player he was projected to be when the Nats signed him out of the Dominican Republic. He’s four home runs away from going 20/20 at age 22 and I’m thinking 30/30 isn’t far off in his future. With some of Washington’s veterans like Matt Adams and Asdrubal Cabrera hitting so well in the middle of the lineup after Rendon and Soto, there’s little pressure on Robles down at the bottom and it’s showing.
I’m here to say I love the Nats and, somehow, they’re still vastly undervalued in the betting markets. They’ll trade for at least +130 this afternoon at Wrigley, where they should be not far from a pick, so long as Ross manages to avoid Chicago’s left-handed power.
Play: Washington +130