SportsNation Blog Archives Washington Nationals
Washington Nationals in 2014?
Things didn't go according to plan for the Washington Nationals in 2013. Expected to be one of the best teams in the majors, the Nats struggled so much early that their late playoff push fell short. But it's hard to deny the talent in the nation's capital, with Stephen Strasburg -- who shined in his spring debut Tuesday -- and Jordan Zimmermann leading the rotation and Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth among the team's impressive hitters. Will Washington stay healthy and bounce back under new manager Matt Williams?
Can Nationals make the playoffs?
Remember a few days ago, when the National League playoff picture was all but set -- at least in terms of which five teams would vie for the pennant? Not anymore. The Washington Nationals are soaring, winners of 10 of 11 after their valiant two-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves a day after tragedy struck the nation's capital. The team still sits 4.5 games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the race for the second wild-card spot. But with the kind of talent on the Nats, would it be that surprising if the final 11 games delivered joy to D.C.?
A bit of Bryce Harper's luster had come off recently, as his long absence from the Nationals allowed other young players to shine. We're looking mainly at Yasiel Puig, whose 2.1 wins above replacement over 26 games is insane and would be a halfway-decent number over a full season. Harper wasted no time at all in re-establishing himself, however -- he homered in his first game back from injury on Monday night. The Nationals aren't a bad team without Harper, but their left fielders could use the boost -- during Harper's 31-game absence, the gentlemen who replaced him hit .200 with two home runs, eight RBIs and a .540 OPS.
We're lucky enough to be living in the dawn of a potential golden age of outfielders, but it remains to be seen which one will rise above the rest.
Harper, Strasburg and the Nationals
Washington Nationals star pitcher Stephen Strasburg <a href="http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=9385258">is set to return to the mound Sunday</a>, after spending time on the DL with a lat strain. Meanwhile, standout outfielder Bryce Harper got good news from Dr. James Andrews on his ailing knee and could be back next week. This, of course, is good news for the Nats, who entered the season as a popular World Series pick but who enter Friday at just 33-32, 5.5 games out of both the NL East lead and a wild-card spot. As for fans, they'll be watching closely to see if their two biggest names can remain on the field.