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AND, HERE COME THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS JUST WHEN YOU COUNTED THEM OUT!

Through the first quarter of the 2014 MLB season, the Washington Nationals were barely heard from. The Atlanta Braves were the hot team in the NL East. And, the downtrodden Miami Marlins were the brewing Cinderella story that grabbed whatever headlines the Braves weren’t getting. Washington? They were largely forgotten. To the degree people were talking about them, it concerned the stunning disappointment that nothing was happening during the Stephen Strasburg era.

After the games of May 27, Washington was saddled with a 25-27 record and was deep in the doldrums.

  • They had just lost two straight home games to Miami, which seemingly confirmed that the Nats weren’t going to be anything special this year. You have to win at home against the teams you need to beat in the divisional race!
  • That came on the heels of dropping three out of four in Pittsburgh. The Pirates have been a big disappointment this year as well. Washington was playing worse than a disappointment.
  • And, THAT had come on the heels of dropping two out of three in Cincinnati…another early season disappointment in the National League.

Hey, 52 games is less than a third of 162, so it wasn’t the end of the world. But, there just wasn’t any evidence that Washington was going to play to the level of “division favorite” that they had entered the season with. Remember, this was a team many were picking to go the distance prior to 2013…and respect for their young stars still held true this season. Maybe Washington wasn’t a juggernaut. They were supposed to at least be a contender!

We’ve seen that contending potential juggernaut since the end of the Miami series.

  • Washington took two out of three from Texas, winning the first two games by a combined 19-4 score before getting shut out by Yu Darvish. No shame in that.
  • Washington swept the fading Philadelphia Phillies by a combined 19-6 score in a three-game set. Sure, Philadelphia has been in the tank for awhile. But, Washington crushed them the way champs are supposed to.
  • Washington took two out of three on the road at San Diego, winning a pair of games by 6-0 scores and losing a toughie in extra innings.
  • Washington stormed into San Francisco and took the first three games against the Giants by a combined 17-5 score. The Giants entered the series with the best record in baseball!

Through the games of Wednesday Night, that’s a 10-2 tear that featured multiple impressive blowouts, and a true statement on the road against the current favorite to win the National League.

Washington is back baby!

Well, at least it seems that way. But, another challenge is ahead this weekend when the Nats visit St. Louis in another showcase series. St. Louis is supposed to be playing come October (though they’ve been slow out of the gate as well). Nats/Cards should have a playoff feel to it from start to finish. That’s why we’ve decided that series deserves special attention here in the NOTEBOOK.

OFFENSE
Washington: 4.27 runs per game, .319 on-base, .395 slugging
St. Louis: 3.74 runs per game, .319 on-base, .360 slugging

Big difference in run production, as Washington has surged to respectability during this recent blitzkrieg. St. Louis has been a disappointment with the bats, and probably isn’t a playoff caliber team if that’s the best they’re going to be able to do. You can’t ask your pitching staff to carry such a big load once the elites are playing each other.

FRIDAY’S PITCHERS
Jordan Zimmerman: 3.17 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.8 K-Rate
Lance Lynn: 3.49 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 8.0 K-Rate

Wow…Zimmerman just shut out San Diego with a 2-hitter, on the heels of throwing eight shutout innings against the Phillies. He must have been inconsistent before then for his ERA to only be 3.17 after 17 scoreless frames. Lynn shut out the Yankees three starts ago, but hasn’t made it past the five inning mark since. Very poor WHIP for Lynn in a low scoring season in the non-DH league. Edge to Zimmerman.

SATURDAY’S PITCHERS
Stephen Strasburg: 2.99 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 11.1 K-Rate
Shelby Miller: 3.59 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.1 K-Rate

Strasburg is pitching in better luck lately, both in terms of run support and the percentage of batted balls not falling in for hits. He still has the peripheral stats of a phenom…and is back to getting results that match his reputation. Miller ended a 3-game mini-slump with a 3-hit shutout of Toronto. A lot of those going around lately! Probably an edge to Strasburg unless Miller is at his very best.

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SUNDAY’S PITCHERS
Doug Fister: 2.68 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 6.4 K-Rate
Jaime Garcia: 4.26 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 7.4 K-Rate

Fister didn’t join the rotation until early May. If he keeps pitching like this, then Washington might run away and hide in the NL East over the rest of the season. Garcia has only made five starts, allowing five home runs total. That’s how you can get an ERA above 4.00 with a WHIP below 1.00. He’ll probably settle in to historical norms very quickly. St. Louis sure needs him too.

JIM HURLEY is likely to have at least one play in this series over the weekend. You can purchase all GAME DAY BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about summer baseball packages or early-bird football, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Another baseball day tomorrow, as we preview the Los Angeles Angels/Atlanta Braves game that many of you will be watching on FOX Saturday Night. Of course, this Nats/Cards series will be part of the FOX mix as well. Basketball is back on Sunday with Game Five of Heat/Spurs. Here’s the schedule for the next few days…

Saturday: TV Preview: LA Angels at Atlanta on FOX
Sunday: NBA Finals Game 5
Monday: MLB Series Preview: Kansas City at Detroit
Tuesday: NBA Finals Game 6 (if necessary)

It’s going to be a great Father’s Day Weekend with all the baseball and basketball (plus the US Open in golf and soccer’s World Cup if you’re into those sports). Make it a fortune-making experience you’ll never forget with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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