Wire Taps: Washington Nationals 16-12 April ends with win in Houston

Thomas B. Shea

After a sweep of their two-game set in Houston, the Washington Nationals will start the month of May in Philadelphia where a three-game set with the Phillies starts on Friday night with Stephen Strasburg on the mound against Cliff Lee.

Matt Williams likes what he's seen from his offense in the last two days. The Nationals battled back for a 4-3 win in the first game with the Astros on Tuesday night then pounded Houston on Wednesday with 13 hits and seven runs in their 7-0 win in Minute Maid Park.

"Tonight I like the fact that we went first-to-third™ twice," Williams said. "That's going to be part of our success. Last night we moved a guy to get in line to score a run to win the game. All those things contribute to wins, so we need to continue to do that to be successful."

"Wins aren't everything as a starting pitcher, as long as the team wins, but to get that many means that I'm doing something right." - Jordan Zimmermann on 45th win as a National

The Nats' starting pitchers are also going deeper into their outings and sparing the bullpen from being overworked. With two days off this week, everyone was able to catch their collective breath.

"They're finding their groove," the first-year skipper said last night. "That extra day off for Jordan may have been a little bit too much and the rhythm wasn't quite there but it's nice to give them a day off too and give them a little extra time to recover."

Zimmermann earned his 45th win as a National, becoming the winningest pitcher in the third era of D.C. baseball in the process, something he said he was happy he could now hold over "coach" and former Nationals' starter Livan Hernandez, who is now the second winningest starter.

"It means a lot," the 27-year-old right-hander told reporters. "I can actually ride Livo now and it feels good to pass up a good friend and it means that I'm doing my job. Wins aren't everything as a starting pitcher, as long as the team wins, but to get that many means that I'm doing something right."

The Nationals ended the first month of the season, four weeks filled with injuries and plenty of firsts for Matt Williams, with a 16-12 record, good for third place in the NL East behind the Atlanta Braves (17-9) and New York Mets (15-11). Next stop, Philadelphia. Stephen Strasburg vs Cliff Lee on Friday night in Citizens Bank. Until then, links and lots of them... starting... RIGHT NOW!!!:

• THE BIG STORY!!!:

• "They stood behind the Washington Nationals’ dugout, wearing red T-shirts and white jerseys with No. 6 on the back, making more noise than the rest of Minute Maid Park combined." - "Nationals’ Rendon homers, doubles twice in 7-0 win as part of a happy Houston homecoming" - Adam Kilgore, The Washington Post

• NATS BEAT:

• "Ian Desmond leads the majors in errors and owns a paltry .646 OPS while striking out a staggering 36 times." - "Despite turmoil, a successful April for the Washington Nationals" - Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider

• "Rendon has also displayed his glovework at third, making more than a few great plays on shots to the hot corner." - "Rendon and Espinosa keys to Nats offensive consistency" - Byron Kerr, MASNSports.com

• "Forgive his humility, but for one night, it was mostly about him, the Houston native and former first-round pick who is off to an absolute tear this season." - "Washington Nationals at Houston Astros - April 30, 2014" - Chris Abshire, MLB.com WSH Recap

• "The easiest choice would be Ross Detwiler, the left-hander who was part of the Nationals’ rotation last season..." - "Nationals Tuesday starter remains undecided" - Adam Kilgore, Nationals Journal

• "McLouth was not in Wednesday's lineup against Houston, and manager Matt Williams said the platoon approach will be more common without Harper." - "McLouth expects hits to start falling with regular ABs" - Chris Abshire, nationals.com: News

• "Jordan Zimmermann got plenty of run support, not that he needed it. The right-hander cruised through 6 1/3 scoreless innings..." - "Instant analysis: Nats 7, Astros 0" - Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider

• "Once the Nationals offense got going, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann had no trouble becoming the winningest pitcher in team history." - "Nationals Pastime: Zimmermann becomes winningest pitcher in Nats history" - Pete Kerzel, MASNSports.com

• "Jordan Zimmermann earned the win against the Astros on Wednesday night, and it meant more than just his second victory of the season." - "Jordan Zimmermann sets Nationals mark for wins" - Chris Abshire, nationals.com: News

• "After getting off to a slow start to the season, with short outings and inconsistent efforts, Nats starters have been excellent of late..." - "Nationals Pastime: Plenty of positives to point out" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com

• "With the way the Nationals’ lineup has been bit by the injury bug this season, where would the offense be without LaRoche?" - "Nationals Stock Watch: Roark continues to impress" - Daniel Shiferaw, Nats Insider

• "As Harper prepares for two months on the sideline, now is a fine time to evaluate him." - "Bryce Harper, by the numbers" - Adam Kilgore, Washington Post

• "Knorr was a backup catcher on two separate Astros division championship teams, including the '97 team..." - "Knorr quite familiar with Astros, Houston" - Chris Abshire, nationals.com: News

• "The Phillies opened the 2014 season with the belief they could contend again in the National League East." - "Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies - May 2, 2014" - Todd Zolecki, MLB.com Preview

• "First baseman Adam LaRoche, the Nationals’ best hitter through the season’s first month, is resting a sore quadriceps and expects to return the Nationals’ lineup Friday in Philadelphia." - "Adam LaRoche rests sore quad" - Adam Kilgore, Washington Post

• "LaRoche is in the midst of a torrid run-producing stretch, driving in seven runs and collecting 10 hits in his last seven games. Given that production, Williams said he'd rather be cautious." - "LaRoche sits out with sore right quad muscle" - Chris Abshire, nationals.com: News

• "Overall, Barrett is 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA in nine games over 7 2/3 innings. He has given up four hits, one run and five walks in that span, and has struck out 11 batters." - "Barrett's solid start is making people take notice" - Byron Kerr, MASNSports.com

• Your Daily Message From the Dalai Lama on Twitter (@DalaiLama):

• NATIONAL(S) BEAT:

• "When looking back on a rough month of April for his young team, Astros manager Bo Porter correctly said his club had let a lot of winnable games slip away." - "Washington Nationals at Houston Astros - April 30, 2014" - Brian McTaggart, MLB.com HOU Recap

• "Rolle, a senior at Georgetown Prep near Washington D.C., got Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez to act as his wingman during a well-planned prom proposal to his girlfriend..." - "Gio Gonzalez plays wingman as high-school senior asks girlfriend to prom" - Mike Oz, Big League Stew - Yahoo Sports

• "Nationals outfielder Kevin Frandsen might have received the luckiest bounce of the baseball season Tuesday night in Houston." - "Kevin Frandsen Made a Lucky Behind-the-Back Grab Off-the-Wall in Houston" - Mike Cardillo, The Big Lead

• "This Is How You Play A Ball Off The Wall" - Barry Petckesky

• "Nationals right-hander Doug Fister, who was acquired this past offseason in a trade with the Tigers, has yet to make his 2014 debut because of spring elbow inflammation." - "Doug Fister could join Nationals rotation on May 7" - Dayn Perry, CBSSports.com

• "Ninety percent of Bryce Harper is about 150 percent of most players, so is he going to be able to do that and maintain what he needs in his head," - Will Carroll - "Injury Expert Calls for Bryce Harper to ‘Dial it Back’ Upon Return" - CBS DC

• "Anthony Rendon had four hits, Jordan Zimmermann pitched smoothly into the seventh inning and the Nationals beat the Houston Astros 7-0." - "Rendon, Zimmermann lead Nationals to win" - Houston Chronicle

• "Left-hander Robbie Ray will make his major-league debut for the Tigers in Tuesday night’s game at Comerica Park against the Houston Astros..." - "Robbie Ray to start for Tigers on Tuesday against Astros" - Tom Gage, The Detroit News

• "Sometimes, we need a reminder of why Billy Beane is the best general manager in baseball." - "Fernando Abad: The Oakland Athletics' best relief pitcher?" - Alex Hall, Athletics Nation

• "Remember last December’s trade between the Tigers and Nationals that sent Doug Fister to Washington while Detroit netted pitching prospect Robbie Ray..." - "Robbie Ray Is Coming to the Bigs" - Jason Epstein, National Review Online

• "The Astros offense was dismal against  Jordan Zimmermann ( 6.1 IP, 7H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO) and the Nats bullpen." - "Nationals 7, Astros 0: Oberholtzer, German for six runs" - The Crawfish Boxes

• "Lefty Brett Oberholtzer has hit the first ugly patch of his major league career – bound to happen at some point, but not much comfort in the big picture as he fell to 0-5." - "Oberholtzer tagged as Astros shutout by Nationals to end tough April" - Evan Drellich, Ultimate Astros

• "Detroit Tigers fans will see Robbie Ray sooner than they probably expected." - "Detroit Tigers prospect Robbie Ray to start Tuesday at Comerica Park in place of injured Anibal Sanchez" - Chris Iott, MLive.com

• "This season, Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon is showing us the potential many saw in him when he was still in college." - "Roto Roundup: Jesse Chavez, Nathan Eovaldi, Anthony Rendon and others" - Ray Guilfoyle, Fake Teams

• NATS MINORS:

• "The Hagerstown, Md., City Council has agreed to a two-year lease extension, providing the Hagerstown Suns a home stadium as the minor league baseball team attempts to relocate in Fredericksburg." - "Suns extend stadium lease in Hagerstown" - Pamela Gould, The Free Lance-Star

• "Thursday’s News & Notes" - Luke Erickson, NationalsProspects.com

• NATSTOWN:

• "Favorite Nats Vines For April 2014" - Joe Drugan, The Nats Blog

• "In front of his closest friends and family, Texas-native Anthony Rendon put together his second four-hit game in less than a week..." - "Washington Nationals: Anthony Rendon's Big Night Leads Them To Sweep" - Brian Skinnell, District Sports Page

• "Well, Anthony Rendon went off in his home town of Houston last night: 4 hits, 2 doubles, a home run, 3 RBI, and a great diving stop in the sixth inning." - "Anthony Rendon, Homecoming King" - Nats Enquirer

• "R.I.P. Ross Detwiler's mustache" - Nats Enquirer

• "Georgetown Prep senior Nick Rolle was under a lot of pressure to find a creative way to ask his girlfriend, Holy Child senior Lauren Thomas, to prom." - "Gio Gonzalez helps high school senior ask girlfriend to prom" - Scott Allen, DC Sports Bog

• "The Houston Astros came up on the Washington Nationals schedule right at the exact time." - "Washington Nationals Game 28 Review: Zimmermann, Rendon lead Nats to sweep in Houston" - Dave Nichols, District Sports Page

• "What a Difference a Year Makes" - The Nationals Review

• "The Art of the Walk-Up Song" - Nationals 101

• NL EAST UPDATES:

Phillies: "The forecast Friday is calling for sunny skies and a high of 70 in Philadelphia, where Cliff Lee will take the mound against Stephen Strasburg..." - "Rotation shuffled following rainout" - Ryan Lawrence, Philadelphia Daily News

Phillies: "After announcing the postponement of Wednesday's game against the New York Mets, the Phillies decided to push righthander Kyle Kendrick's next start back to Monday..." - "Kendrick's next start pushed back after postponement" - Bob Brookover, Philadelphia Inquirer

Mets: "The Mets started the year poorly but turned things around quickly and finished April with a winning record." - "Mets Month In Review: Starting pitching leads team as Mets finish April 15-11" - Chris McShane, Amazin' Avenue

Marlins: "Giancarlo Stanton sets the pace for the Miami Marlins with a record-setting April, plus links on Ed Lucas, Greg Dobbs, Jose Fernandez and more." - "Fish Bites: Now Healthy, Giancarlo Stanton Posts Monster Month" - Paul Washington, Fish Stripes

Braves: "The last time the Marlins swept the Braves, Fredi Gonzalez was manager." - "Miami Marlins roll as Nathan Eovaldi shuts down Atlanta Braves" - Clark Spencer, MiamiHerald.com

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