The Nats are getting into a dangerous area in terms of wins and losses. Once it looked like 70+ wins was in the bag but a terrible August (7-16) has put that goal in extreme jeopardy. If you worry about the Nats getting past the 59 win barrier, don't. That's still going to be beat. They need 7 wins to do that. They have seven wins in August (with a few games left) and they've been as bad as they can be this month. They'll get 7 wins. Worried about 100 losses? The Nats are doing all they can to keep it on the table, but again still probably getting past that. Anything beyond that modest goal will take some extended decent play.
But wins and losses don't matter all that much do they? What matters is the pitching, and with Strasburg likely out for the year (like I said - no reason to bring him back for 2 starts or something), it's imperative that the Nats feel good about a couple other guys in the rotation that they control for next season. Lucky for them a couple of the returning starters are shaping up.
John "Top Chef" Lannan has pitched to a 3.81 ERA in August in 5 starts. His K's (18 in 28.33 innings) aren't going crazy but we shouldn't concern ourselves with that. Let's face it, if they haven't been great by now - they aren't getting much better. His walks though are way down (only 5 in the same time frame) and his HRs are low (3) . As long as he can keep that up, he can keep the Nats in the game and he can keep a rotation spot as far as I'm concerned.
Jason Marquis has finally tossed a couple of decent games - allowing only 2 runs in the past 12+ innings of work. He hasn't been up to form in either game - still walking more guys than he Ks - but the improvement over the last few games has been promising. Since it's almost certain he'll be in the rotation next year, this is very nice to see.
Even more intriguing is the return of Jordan Zimmermann tonight. Unlike Lannan, Marquis, or anyone else in the rotation outside of Strasburg, ZNN has "swing and miss" stuff. Combine that with his age and you can see him maturing into a very nice #2 behind a healthy Strasburg. Of course the key words in that phrase are "you can see him" because despite the praise heaped on ZNN in the rotation guessing game he hasn't done anything yet. Yes, his stats looked very good. 92 Ks to only 29 BBs in 91+ innings and a reasonable 10 HRs. But in tough situations Zimmermann would seemingly collapse. Seven of the 10 homers were hit with men on. I won't bore you all the numbers but his lines in high leverage siutuations, or 2-out RISP situations, or basically most situations with runners on at all look pretty bad. Is it just bad luck or the sign of a pitcher that loses focus? Plus now he's coming back from injury. It seems like he's pitching just as well as before from the minor league stats, but it's limited numbers. We'll see over the next few weeks if he has his stuff back and he's in command of it at all times.
The offense will suffer because it was a three man show to begin with and one man has been effectively out for two months now. The Nats may still lose because of this. As long as their starters are pitching well though, that should make the losses go down a bit easier.