Remember when you all said the NL East was super tough? That the Nats not only had an equal challenger in the Mets but game 3rd and 4th place teams with the Phillies and Marlins? Well the Phillies are garbage (6th worst record! congrats on the free fall) and with a few injuries the Mets are close to a .500 team. I guess the Marlins are ok, which is amazing considering the year Stanton has had. Still I can't look at that rotation and feel worried at all.
The Nats have a nice opportunity to put the reeling Mets and the Marlins away but haven't yet. Part of the reason is the pen which had another rough go on Saturday. I know I said recently that the pen is ok, but man, watching those Padres games shook my faith in the stats. One clean outing (Kelly had a 2/3rds of a inning with no runners in the first game) compared to 6 shaky ones (where you give up at least two baserunners in an inning).
Here are the WHIPs for the reliever over the past two weeks
Treinen 1.571 (0.00 ERA! Not my guys scoring!)
That's not pretty. Basically you like Kelley and that's it. Maybe Belisle is ok, we'll probably see it put to the test over the next week or two. The structure of the pen has rapidly changed. For a long time is was basically a very good Rivero (occasionally Kelley) rolling into an effective (but yes scary) Papelbon closing games. Other guys fit into situations that were most advantageous. Now Rivero looks broken and Papelbon is. Kelley is shunted toward the closer role, Solis/Treinen taking over for Rivero/Kelley. But Solis isn't as effective as April/May Rivero. Treinen isn't as effective as Kelley. Perez is out of the LOOGY position. Petit is forced to get a scoreless inning rather than what he had been doing - soaking up a few frames limiting damage.
These things are all about timing and context though. We've mentioned this a few times this season, but good teams have one aspect cover another. That allows for problems to work themselves out rather than trying to force quick solutions. In this case, the bats have been hot and had helped cover the recent issues with the pen. Plus, as we noted before the Mets have tanked. I think we'd really be upset with the pen if the Nats had lost that last game to the Phillies and the game to the Cubs and were looking at a 3-5 run right now, with the Mets 2 games behind.
But the bats have cooled down a bit the last few games and get Kershaw next, then a much better Urias (at least for 4-5 innings) to end the series. If the pen wants to stay as is, the pen needs to get better sooner, rather than later.
MAT is red hot. .500 with 2 homers and a double in the last week. What does this mean? I don't know. I'd rather see one of these guys (Revere) start everyday and one back-up but Dusty might be going back and forth looking for, then riding out, the hot hand.
On the flip side Rendon is ice cold. Part of that is your usual small sample size bad luck (.083 BABIP) but he has struck out 9 times in the past week. Only the contractual obligation that is Ryan Zimmerman has struck out more times.
It's easy to forget Gio's last couple games weren't that bad. But last nights' game was. Gio's season has had a general trend that's bothersome, but the last couple of games had me hoping he had pulled out of things. An excellent game vs the Padres would have been a capper. Instead we get that. Oh well. The bad game is not completely telling either. Yes, the Padres aren't great offensively and yes, it's Petco, but they've been hitting better lately and hit lefties better. So let's see what he does next time.