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NL East Roundup - Washington Nationals out of the basement...

Checking in on the Nationals and their competition in the NL East...

Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

Welcome to another edition of NL East roundup. One team is opening up a bit of a lead in the division, while another is beginning to slip further behind. Additionally, only one team (the Mets) have a winning record in the division. Who would’ve guessed that would be the case back in March? Let’s get to it.

New York Mets (28-23)

One big thing: Positive run differential! (+7)

For weeks I talked about how the Marlins were the only team in the East to manage a positive run differential. Despite all that, the Fish were back in the standings, while other teams with negative differentials managed to stay atop the division. Now, balance is restored (for now). The only team with a positive differential is also the only team with a winning record.

What’s amazing is how the Mets have managed to get the job done despite their mass injuries list and Francisco Lindor’s terrible bat. While we’re on the matter, Lindor has an 83 wRC+ as we speak and a .282 wOBA. Will he figure it out? Possibly. His BABIP (.242) tells me he’s been a bit unlucky. But if he can’t figure it out, oof. The Mets will be saddled with his baggage for the next decade. Ouch. It’s too early to tell whether this signing will pan out (but news flash, it seems like these monster deals never really pan out).

Atlanta Braves (27-29)

One big thing: Austin Riley

This isn’t news anymore, but Riley has been excellent for the Braves in 2021 (until the last week). Currently, he possesses a 144 wRC+ and has contributed 1.4 fWAR to the Atlanta cause. But we like to try to focus on the last week, if possible, and here’s the deal: Riley has been bad.

In 25 plate appearances since last Saturday, he’s carrying a 35 wRC+ with a .219 wOBA. From this week alone, his fWAR has retreated 0.2 points. He likely won’t be this bad the rest of the way, but he’s not going to be like he was for the first couple months. He was a good story for the Braves, but his rocket ship is coming back down to earth.

Philadelphia Phillies (27-30)

One big thing: Andrew McCutchen

Over the last week, the Phillies’ outfielder has been dazzling the stats columns. With a 222 wRC+, he’s been the most productive offensive Phillie since last Saturday. His 1.215 OPS and three home runs have been a boon for the Phillies, who are still trying to claw north of .500. Making $20 million this year, the 34 year old is trying to earn his keep on a team with players like Bryce Harper and JT Realmuto. Over the last week, he has.

Washington Nationals (24-31)

One big thing: Strasburg hurt... again

Man, this seems to pop up again and again. When Strasburg’s been on the field in his career, he’s been good — we know that. But he’s been off the field so much. The right-handed former fireballer is in the second year of his contract, which lasts through 2026; he’s slated to make $32 million each of those years. Big contracts are always risky, but handing an albatross of a deal to a seemingly perpetually hurt starting pitcher was more than a gamble, it was reckless.

General Manager Mike Rizzo sure does love his starting pitchers, so he decided to lock Stras up on a major deal, but it’s increasingly looking like that wasn’t the most prudent option. We’ll see what happens as we move forward, but Strasburg hasn’t been able to shake the injury bug, which has plagued so much of his career to this point.

To begin the season, Strasburg made a full start against the Braves before being lifted after four innings in St. Louis. Once he returned over a month later, he lasted 11.2 innings before going down again, with his final start lasting 1.1 innings in Atlanta. This problem could be long-lasting; it’s not like it hasn’t already been.

Miami Marlins (24-33)

One big thing: L8

I’d been publicly wondering if the Marlins’ record would come to reflect their (formerly) positive run differential (now at -5) or if the run differential would reflect their losing record. I opted to choose the latter option as the most realistic and that prediction has come to pass.

After losing three consecutive games to the Pirates heading into Sunday, the Marlins have lost eight straight games and are 1-9 in their last 10.

Once Miami returns south from its road trip, its record over that time will have dipped in equal measure.

Perhaps a respite is in the offing for the scuffling Fish, as they’ll host the Rockies for three games once they return to their tile-clad ballpark. But fortunes quickly turn again, because then it’s a three-game date with the Braves before embarking on another road trip, with stops in St. Louis to play the Cardinals and Chicago to play the Cubs. The Marlins appear to be on the way down.