Apr 13

Three reasons Nats fans should remain optimistic

Repeat after me: “It’s still early… It’s a marathon, not a sprint… Nobody ever won a pennant in April… Three of our best hitters haven’t played yet.”

Can we think of any other worn-out clichés to perk up the spirits of Nats fans expecting more after a 2-4 first week?

There are probably plenty. Quite a few have appeared on Nats message boards and discussion groups this year, almost as many as the number of posts pointing out mistakes the Washington fielders, hitters, pitchers and coaching staff have made.

How about some real reasons for optimism? With the offense struggling to score more than one or two runs a game and the bullpen seemingly unable to hold a lead, Nats fans need some reason for hope that their team will live up to even some of the expectations that have been thrust upon it.

Here are three reasons based in reality to believe that the Nats can turn it around and emerge at the top of the National League East:

  1. The starting pitching is every bit as good as it should be. Washington starters lead the National League with a 1.91 ERA and 37 2/3 innings pitched. The Nats have the only starting staff in the league and one of only two in all of baseball that did not allow a home run in the first week of the season. Doug Fister’s ERA is zero, Max Scerzer’s is 0.66 in two games, and Jordan Zimmermann’s is 1.50. Despite the fact that Zimmermann is the only one who has actually won a game, there is plenty of reason to believe that the Nats will be in games and hold leads as long as the starters can stay on the mound.
  2. Clint Robinson and Yunel Escobar are productive. The surprise of the season so far is outfielder Robinson. In four games, his line is .400/.400/.500, and he doubled and scored the insurance run in the 10th inning of Sunday’s 4-3 win over Philadelphia. He also has the team’s only pinch hit so far this season, an RBI single in the eighth inning Saturday against the Phillies. Escobar is showing his value with a .304/.385/.391 line and a team-high seven hits, including a double that led to the go-ahead run in Sunday’s win. Not to mention his versatility in playing a flawless third base while the team waits for Anthony Rendon to come back from his sprained MCL.
  3. Drew Storen seems like himself. He is 2-for-2 in save opportunities and is holding hitters to a .143 average. Despite a pair of walks in Sunday’s win over the Phillies, he still has delivered almost 60 percent of his 32 pitches for strikes. If the Nats can get him the ball and the lead in the ninth inning, there’s a good chance he can close out games.

Despite their slow start, there are still plenty of reasons to believe the Nationals can be everything they have set out to be this season. They can start by building on what’s working, then address their weaknesses and get help from the valuable missing players.