The Washington Nationals' season is one week old today, during which they played six games against two totally different ballclubs. They started the season with the hapless Miami Marlins, who've won just one of their first six games. In stark contrast, they traveled to Cincinnati to face the Reds for the second series of the year, who won the NL Central last season and finished the 2012 season with the second-most wins in baseball, right behind the Nationals. Here below is the return of the Nationals Weekly Report Card for the 2013 season.
The pomp and circumstance surrounding Opening Day at Nationals Park was very special. The NL East Champions banner went up, James Brown was the emcee for the ceremonies, and more than 45,000 fans were raucous in the stands as the Nats went 1-0 on the season. Much of the first series went that way as the Nats swept the Marlins, but let's remember: the Nats swept the Marlins. That Marlins team has the potential to be just as bad as the Houston Astros with the talent on their 25 man roster. As they say, a win is a win, but the first real challenge didn't come for the Nats until they left the comforts of Nationals Park to the horrifying confines of Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
Friday's game was a travesty and was the largest margin of defeat (15-0) in the team's DC history. Dan Haren's four inning start was an atrocity, giving up four home runs and six earned runs. Still, in those four innings, he didn't walk anyone and struck out five Reds batters. The Nats relievers didn't fare much batter. Each of the three relief pitchers, Zach Duke, Henry Rodriguez, and Ryan Mattheus, gave up at least one run, and all but Mattheus gave up a home run on the way to a six home run day by the Reds offense.
Saturday's game wasn't much prettier after Ross Detwiler, who pitched brilliantly, and Tyler Clippard, who did equally well, left the game. Drew Storen pitched reasonably well, despite the less than stellar result. Rafael Soriano had a total breakdown, giving up two runs, including a home run, in just one inning to earn his first blown save of the season. The Nats defense, which is supposed to be one of the hallmarks of the team, had three errors, two on Ian Desmond and one on Bryce Harper. Desmond and Harper had an error each on the same play. The Nats snuck away with a win on the great pitching from Craig Stammen and some timely home runs by Desmond and Wilson Ramos in the 11th innings.
Sunday's game was a similarly disappointing game. Stephen Strasburg didn't have his best stuff, despite a few amazing changeups, at one of the most hitter-friendly stadiums in the country, and he give up six earned runs and four walks. Johnny Cueto didn't have the best game for the Reds, either, but he settled down to hand the Nats their first series loss of the season.
All in all, it was an above average week for the Nationals with a 4-2 record, but they beat up a really bad team and struggled against a really good one. There's nothing to be scared about long term. It's one week at the beginning of the season, after all. I just can't give higher than a B with how the team was dominated by the Reds.
Player of the Week: Bryce Harper
Harper had an insanely good start to the season. The two home runs in the first two at-bats of the season pretty much solidified his standing as the player of the week, but he never let up. he's still hitting .360 with a 1.120 OPS and a mind blowing 206 OPS+. I get the feeling Harper will appear here a few more times this season.