Baseball: The Amazin’ Nats

Baseball: The Amazin’ Nats

Stephen Stras­burg (11-4) has allowed 2.76 earned runs per game and leads the Nation­al league with 151 strike­outs. Their start­ing rota­tion that has kept the Nats in almost every game from the begin­ning. Pitch­ing isn’t every­thing; but it’s near­ly every­thing.

In 2012’s great­est base­ball suc­cess sto­ry, the Wash­ing­ton Nation­als went 60-40 on July 28th, hav­ing won more games as they won all year in 2008 and 2009. In the Nation­al League they’re first in pitch­ing, tied for sec­ond in field­ing, and sev­enth in hit­ting, although in the last month their bat­ters have been on fire.

Tied with the Yan­kees for the best record in base­ball, the prece­dents fall week­ly. 2012 is sup­plant­i­ng 2005 as the best year since base­ball returned to Wash­ing­ton. The Nats are now about five games bet­ter than they were at this time in 2005, when they dove from first to last place in the sec­ond half.

With 20 more wins than loss­es, they’ve drawn even with the 1945 Wash­ing­ton Sen­a­tors, who almost won DC’s fourth pen­nant and fin­ished 87-67.

Coin­ci­den­tal­ly, 100 years ago the 1912 Wash­ing­ton Sen­a­tors fin­ished 91-61, their first win­ning sea­son, a 27-game improve­ment from year before—the first of many win­ning years includ­ing three pen­nants and a World Cham­pi­onship over the next few decades. (Wash­ing­ton has a much rich­er base­ball his­to­ry than acknowl­edged by those who recall only the bad stretch­es.)

There are still prece­dents left. The pen­nant-win­ning Sen­a­tors of 1924 and 1925 fin­ished with 40 and 39 more wins than loss­es. The all-time win­ning per­cent­age of .651 was set by the pen­nant-win­ning Sen­a­tors of 1933, 46 more wins than loss­es. Can 2012 top that? Prob­a­bly not, but few will bet on it.

Catch­er Jonathan Lucroy of the Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers, who fell to the DC jug­ger­naut on July 26th, cites the most arrest­ing aspect of the 2012 team: “They’re down two or three of their best guys—their start­ing catch­er [Wil­son Ramos] is out, their start­ing short­stop [Ian Desmond] is out and their start­ing right field­er [Jayson Werth] is out…that’s pret­ty amaz­ing for that team to be that good and be down those three key guys right there. Pret­ty impres­sive.”

The 2012 team has yet to play one game whole. Out­field slug­ger Michael Morse was out the first cou­ple of months; Gold-Glove third base­man Ryan Zim­mer­man spent weeks on the dis­abled list. Clos­er Drew Storen has only just begun his 2012 sea­son. Washington’s best pinch hit­ter, Chad Tra­cy, has been out for weeks.

The mark of a good team: play­ers pick each oth­er up. On July 28th rook­ie phe­nom Bryce Harp­er was out of the line­up too: the game was won by a pair of home runs by two oth­er young­sters called up to fill the bench, Tyler Moore and Corey Brown.  “They’ve hung in there when times were real­ly tough,” man­ag­er Dav­ey John­son said. “Shoot, we’ve earned it.”

Nation­als vet­er­ans know it’s a long way to Octo­ber. Says first base­man Adam LaRoche, who car­ried the team ear­ly when hits were scarce: “I’ve seen a lot of crazy things hap­pen in the last month or two of the sea­son where teams have blown big leads.” Ryan Zim­mer­man added: “[When] we have the best record in Sep­tem­ber or Octo­ber, then you can talk about it.”

For now, we’ll take it. Long suf­fer­ing Nats fans, who watched their team fin­ish last or next to last for sev­en years, are hun­gry. What­ev­er hap­pens now, for those who have stuck with the team in the worst of times, it’s drinks all around.

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Oth­er posts on Wash­ing­ton Base­ball:

The Sum­mer of 1960

Old­est Liv­ing Play­er: Con­nie Mar­rero

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