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Washington Nationals 9-9 After Eighteen...What, If Anything, Does It Mean?

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ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 21: Jayson Werth #28 of the Washington Nationals waits on deck against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 21, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 21: Jayson Werth #28 of the Washington Nationals waits on deck against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 21, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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The upstart 2005 Frank Robinson-led Washington Nationals, who surprised everyone in baseball when they were tied for first in the NL East as late as July 24th in the first season of baseball's return to the nation's capital, started their inaugural campaign 9-9 after 18 games. The '05 Nats ended up winning 81. The '06 Nationals were 7-11 after 18 with 71 wins total after 162. In '07, on their way to winning 73 in the first year under Manny Acta, the Nationals started the season by losing eight of their first nine games. By taking five of the nine that followed, the Nats ended up 6-12 after eighteen. In 2008, the first year in Nationals Park, the Nats began the season with a three-game win-streak, followed by nine straight losses, and by taking just two of the next six, the Nationals found themselves 5-13 after eighteen on their way to 102 losses total. The '09 Nats lost the first seven games they played, and earned curly-W's in just four of the first 18. For the second season in a row, they finished with over 100 losses, 103 in fact. Last year's Nationals, who'd lose 93 of 162 in the end, were able win nine of their first eighteen. What does it mean? Nothing in the end, they were all different teams, different rosters under three different managers....

But this year's Nats have won nine of eighteen with Ryan Zimmerman in the lineup for just eight games. With Jayson Werth, their big free agent acquisition hitting .209 with a .293 OBP and a .358 SLG. Werth put up a .325/.402/.584 line in 21 games last April. Adam LaRoche, a notoriously slow starter who last year got off to a .296/.390/.563 start in March/April 2010 with the D-Backs, is back to his old tricks, nursing a slightly torn larbum in his left shoulder and playing at-times stellar defense at first base, but hitting just .211 with a .338 OBP and a .316 SLG. The pitching is what's kept the Nats in games, with each starter in the first 18 games going at least 5.0 innings, while the already-overworked-bullpen's done what it could to hold the leads they were given. 

But what if Zimmerman, who was clearly uncomfortable while hitting in 10 of his first 28 at bats is able to come back hitting like he was at the start? What if Jayson Werth is able to make the necessary adjustments at the plate and benefit from having Ryan Zimmerman in front of or behind him in the lineup? What if Danny Espinosa continues to prove he's the Nats' ideal-on-this-roster-at-least leadoff man...and what if Ian Desmond can hit enough to get himself back up to the two-spot where he posted a .326/.359/.489 line last season? And seriously, Morse? What's going on with Michael Morse? Which direction are the Nationals heading? Up or down? The inevitable decline or another unexpected success? Express your opinion below either way. Are the Nats on the rise, or about to fall...