Greinke and Kershaw. The Nats needed last night's game because this is what they are facing over the next two nights. And they got it easily with an offensive outburst that we've hoped to see from this team with everyone back. In fact they haven't had a truly bad offensive game since the Mets series ended. Is the offense really back?
Last night was the best night so far because unlike the D-back series, which looked better than it did thanks to 6 runs off mop-up pitcher Daniel Hudson, and the Rockies series, which featured one bad pitcher after another that the Nats couldn't knock out, the Nats finally got an ok/mediocre pitcher and sent him packing. The last time that happened was probably Miguel Gonzalez around a month ago* This is good. This is what good offenses do sometimes.
Good offenses also find a way to score 3-4 runs versus very good pitchers and win those games too. The Nats have had a real issue with that and now the Nats have to prove they can do it against two guys in Cy Young contention. Greinke has had only two bad games all year, a blah hold your ground 6 innings in Colorado a few months ago and pretty solid beating from the Phillies last time out in Philadelphia. Maybe last time out was a sign of things. Or maybe coming back home where he has a 0.78 WHIP a 1.54 ERA will put him right back on track. Kershaw had a bad-for-him start to the year but has been picking up steam as the season progresses. Before last time out, he had four straight outings with no runs allowed. Of course last time out the Pirates got to him, so... hope?
I don't know if it's fair to judge the Nats offense versus these two but that's exactly what I'm going to do. The Phillies got to Greinke. The Pirates got to Kershaw. The Nats should be able to get to one of them. Eventually we have to stop throwing up our hands and saying "Well, just a good pitcher. Nothing we can do about it" because you have to beat good pitchers in the playoffs. You are likely to only face good pitchers in the playoffs. And the Nats are going to have to beat good pitchers to beat the Mets head to head as well. You can't concede these games before they start and you can't excuse them time after time when the offense doesn't come through. You aren't going to beat good pitching every time, even most times, but you have to do it sometimes.
Offensively things have perked up because some Nats other than Bryce have finally started to hit things other than singles. Zimmerman has 6 doubles and 4 homers since being back. Ian is on a mini-tear with 5 XBH, including 3 homers over the past 5 games. Pitchers will make mistakes. They'll hit a batter or walk a guy. Or maybe a error puts someone on, or a seeing eye single. At that point if you have a guy getting an XBH, well you have a run. Can Rendon or Werth flip the switch and make this offense truly formidable?
Meanwhile I finally get to see what I wanted (barring the Dodgers putting up another line-up like last night. Not that it would have mattered but if you don't have good righty hitters - don't force it. P U) I get to see Joe Ross against a good offense for like the third time in 8 starts. As I said before the previous times (both against the Pirates) produced his best start and his worst, and his worst even wasn't that bad. If he can come through with big time starts versus the Dodgers and the Giants well then I personally, who doesn't love Ross as much as you (worst Friend too - not even close. There are no arguments here), will have to start changing my tune. Or at least allow for an optimistic view to creep in.
Late night baseball!
*We can argue this point if you like. They didn't really knock Flande out. As a converted reliever he had a pitch/innings limit on him. They did knock Hellickson out but I don't consider him a decent pitcher given his last not bad season was 3 years ago. They did knock Burnett out, and he was actually having a good year, but it seems likely that given that run of starts and his subsequent possibly career-ending tendon issue, that the Nats beat a hobbled AJ. So that brings us to Miguel Gonzalez, who's not having the best year and is having a bad post-All Star time but bounced back from the Nats game with 2 good starts so it seems like he wasn't done yet. If you don't like this pick the Nats did run Bumgarner for America and off-year or not, he's not bad.