Poultry fueling Nats to postseason

September 4, 2014

If Washington, D.C. is a sports town on the turnaround, the Washington Nationals deserve much of the credit for the change in fortune.

Though the Nationals’ 2013 campaign proved disappointing, with the team missing the postseason, the team has come out strong in 2014, sitting first in the NL East at 79-59, seven games ahead of the second-place Braves, with contributions coming from players outside of the team’s regular superstars.

Outfielder Bryce Harper, after undergoing thumb surgery in late April, missed all of May and most of June during his third season in the majors. After returning, Harper hit 0.228 during July and continued to slump in early August, dropping in Manager Matt Williams’ lineup, motivating some to call for a stint in the minors. However, Harper has picked up his play in the last week, hitting nine for 22 with three home runs in his last five games.

Though right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg leads the National League in strikeouts, he hasn’t been the ace of this year’s rotation. That position would go to Tanner Roark, who leads the team with a 2.91 Earned Run Average and is tied with fellow righty Doug Fister for the team lead in wins with 12. Fister, an offseason acquisition from Detroit, in limited starts, has thrown exceptionally well. Jordan Zimmermann also ranks among the NL’s elite. The weak link in the rotation has been the 2012 NL leader in wins, Gio Gonzalez, who has garnered a 7-9 record and an ERA that has ballooned to 3.89.

Most noteworthy in the field has been outfielder Denard Span, who, during the late summer, had an on-base streak that stretched to 36 games. During the month of July, Span hit a staggering 0.368. In August, the outfielder continued his strong performance at the plate, hitting 0.328. Recently, Span has even found a power game, hitting three home runs in his last six games, including a two home run game Monday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. To put this in perspective, Span has only four home runs on the year and 31 over his seven-year career.

Though fans may be confused about this recent surge, Span has theories on the key to his performance. “Last night, I did eat Roscoe’s chicken and waffles,” he joked in an interview with Scott Allen of the Washington Post. “I think that might have helped a little bit tonight.”

Currently one game ahead of the Dodgers for the top spot in the National League, the Nationals sit in the driver’s seat, just as they did in 2012. Though Tuesday night brought a spanking at the hands of Dodgers’ starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, September presents a slate of winnable games for Washington.

The manner in which the Nationals have reached this point may have been significantly different than that imagined by oddsmakers who projected them as one of the five most likely teams to win the World Series, but the team nonetheless stands as a favorite to win a title. The Nationals certainly aren’t a lock to run through the playoffs, but in a town where the basketball team is still developing and the football team is a national laughingstock, competing for a top seed is the most excitement that D.C. fans will have the chance to enjoy.

Chris Almeida
Chris Almeida was an editor for The Georgetown Voice and graduated in 2016.

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Turd Turgenson

Go Nats! Man chicken and waffles sounds so much better than soylent….