The only real stain on the Nats season so far, the only thing you could say had gone really wrong, was when, in early May the Cubs swept the Nats out of Chicago. The games were mostly competitive. The gap between the teams didn't seem all that large. But still, as we say here "a sweep's a sweep" and the Nats seemed to be a step behind the Cubs. For a team wanting to make an impact in the playoffs that seemed important.
Now of course there's a 100 games between now and October and a lot happens in 100 games. So did it really matter? No. It's very likely two slightly different teams would be facing off in the fall, if they even met. But a win now would quell the inevitable "Nats can't beat Cubs" story beats that would carry from now till season's end. Not only the Nats win a game, they won a series, and put the whole thing back to where it probably should be. The Nats and Cubs are both very good teams. The Cubs may have a slight edge. Let's see this series!
For those of us (re: Me) looking for the Nats to define themselves they have in June. They took 6 out of 9 games in a road trip, followed by winning 5 of 6 at home. They beat great teams at home (Cubs), good teams on the road (White Sox) crushed the season of a previously lucky team, now flailing (Philly) and ok, had a hiccup (Reds). That happens. They are a great team.
This isn't a team firing on all cylinders. The starting pitching has been hit or miss during this time. The pen has had a couple misfires. Ryan Zimmerman died and no one noticed. But it's a team that is very healthy and teams that are healthy win games. Being healthy lets the assembled talent shine through and Rizzo assembled a pretty good team. Murphy, Espinosa, Rendon, Bryce, Werth, Ramos are all in line to play full seasons. Zimm would currently be in line for a little less than that, in part thanks to missing games due to the birth of a child. Revere has been back for over a month now. The bench has been stable as well. Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio, Ross and Roark have made every start so far for the team. The Nats have only used 8 relief arms.
Is it Rizzo? Is it Dusty? Is it luck? Probably a bit of all three. Rizzo has spent each offseason making the Nats better (other than 2012-2013 where he rode a bench that could not possibly repeat it's performance) It's been mostly tweaks here and there with the occasional Scherzer, but tweaks matter. Drew, Heisey, Robinson, Taylor vs Moore, Lombo, Tracy, Bernadina? It's a better team top to bottom in 2016 then it was in 2015 than in 2014 than in 2013. That's Rizzo.
I'm not convinced that Dusty has helped the Nats arms stay healthy. They have a pretty long history now of being so (betting on young arms is a big part of that) and both Davey and Matt presided over healthy staffs. And like many of you I wonder how the rotation will hold up down the stretch*. However, I'd be inclined to say Dusty might be helping getting these bats back after injury. Letting them play, rotating in some bench guys, always working advantages to give players the best chance at succeeding. Dusty was a batter, he knows what he needed. He is playing with a lot of veteran guys, no starter not playing in at least his 4th major league season, and 6 starters in their 7th year or more.** This is an offense made for a guy like Dusty.
Is it luck? Sure. Of course. Healthy can be planned for but injuries happen. We've seen dives into bases, running into walls, running into players, bad hops, all take out players. The Nats can work to avoid the repetitive injuries, lessen the chances of injuries due to age, or use. But they can only do so much and can't avoid the flukes. So far so good.
The Nats were built to be a very good team and luck has been on their side so they can show that. You can't really ask for more.
*don't call me worried - call me curious. I think staff can go harder and longer than they are given, but I also worry about staffs trained a certain way for years might need a bit more... ramp up. Of course I might also say damn the torpedoes - blow these arms out - get a title.
** Also Lobaton, Heisey, and Drew are at that level of experience. Robinson is at the 4th year level, but is 31. Really only MAT is young and relatively inexperienced.