With a 32-13 record going back to May 24th after last night’s 13-4 win over Atlanta’s Braves in SunTrust Park, and wins in 14 of their last 18, 19 of their last 25 games, and 28 of the last 40, the Washington Nationals improved to 51-44 overall on the season after a 19-31 start to the 2019 campaign.
With the win over the NL East’s first-place team, the Nats pulled within 5.5 games of the division lead with three more to play in the Braves’ home this weekend.
Looking back on the way things started this season, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this week that he had never experienced something like that in his long career in the game.
“This was the most frustrating two months that I’ve ever had as an executive and as a baseball guy,” Rizzo said, “just because of all the things that happened.
“It just kind of roller coastered and dominoed on us, it was — when Trea Turner goes down and then [Juan] Soto goes down, [Anthony] Rendon goes down, [Ryan Zimmerman] goes down, [Matt] Adams goes down, two of our starting pitchers go down, all in a big bulk of the season, then you’re playing — the toughest part of your season really was in those first two months.”
At the risk of offending some of the players the Nationals were fielding at that point, Rizzo recalled looking at the lineup card during a rough road trip in May and not being sure how they would do it.
“I remember going into the clubhouse when we were on the road trip where we were in Philly for three, Milwaukee for three, and Los Angeles for four, and the lineup card on the wall, I go to Davey [Martinez], ‘How are you going to pull this one off?’ you know what I mean? With the lineup that we were featuring there. It was several Triple-A players, we had bench players that we were playing every day, we had pitchers that we have high regard [for] but we thought that needed more seasoning in the minor leagues, and we’ve got these guys in prominent roles against some big-time teams, and we’re just treading water to keep our nose afloat and from not drowning totally, so, again, a testament to that coaching staff and to Davey, he kept this club together when it could have splintered off very, very easily.
“I didn’t hear and I didn’t notice, and I’m around all the time,” Rizzo said, “... one player, one veteran, one young player, pointing a finger or blaming someone else either on the record or anonymously. There was nobody back-biting the manager.”
“Everything was handled professionally and the way a big league team should.”
Now that the Nationals are healthy, for the most part, though a few players are still banged up and everyone’s waiting to see when Max Scherzer returns, they’re playing like the team Rizzo and Co. in the front office thought they assembled for the season.
“I thought all along that this was going to be a good team,” he said.
“I thought that we were a 90-92 win-ish team coming out of Spring Training and that’s how we attacked the offseason and early on in this season. So when it doesn’t go your way, you try and find remedies for it, and kind of some fixes, and again, coaching staff and our minor league staff, our development staff that kept developing these players that we could bring up to kind of stopgap these things till we got healthy are to be commended.”
The lineup today does look a bit more impressive than the one the Nationals fielded in Miller Park on that May trip. No offense to those players, of course...