Nats' success bordering on absurd

Nats' success bordering on absurd
April 25, 2012, 1:43 pm
Share This Post

The clock had passed 1 a.m. on the East Coast when Henry Rodriguez threw the last of his 12 unhittable pitches in the bottom of the ninth, sealing the Nationals' 3-1 victory over the Padres.

Perhaps it was appropriate the Nationals' latest win -- the one that gave them the best record in the NL at 13-4 -- was wrapped up at such a late hour back in D.C. Anyone who stayed up til the end was probably operating with less than 100 percent brain function. And truth be told, you don't want to try to analyze this ballclub with all of your faculties intact.

What began as the feel-good story of a perennial loser suddenly enjoying success is now treading into the theater of the absurd.

How do you even try to explain what is transpiring right now?

-- Nationals starting pitchers are riding a 20-inning scoreless streak after Gio Gonzalez added six more to the tally last night in San Diego. Even more remarkable, the Nationals rotation has surrendered a run in only three of its last 44 innings.

-- With their young closer recovering from elbow surgery and their fill-in closer unable to locate his slider at the moment, the Nationals simply turn to option No. 3, Rodriguez, whose 100 mph fastball, 92 mph changeup and 88 mph slider are making opposing hitters trot back to the dugout bawling their eyes out.

-- Unable to string together any hits in key spots for much of the night, the Nationals finally produced three late runs, all of them coming via left-handed pinch-hitters sent to the plate to face left-handed pitchers.

-- The final score of the Nationals' last five victories: 1-0, 3-2, 2-0, 3-2, 3-1.

-- Oh yeah, it appears Ryan Zimmerman is headed to the disabled list with a right shoulder injury that wasn't supposed to be anything but has actually proven to be far more significant than initially believed.

Results of an MRI taken yesterday in San Diego were be sent to team orthopedist Wiemi Douoguih this morning, but manager Davey Johnson told reporters late last night that the initial diagnosis is "not real favorable" and Zimmerman is "going to need some more rest."

Seriously, if they didn't publish standings every day in print and online, you'd assume the Nationals were a disaster, toiling away in last place yet again with no hope of snapping out of their funk while several key players are sidelined with injury.

Instead this club wakes up this morning at 13-4, tops in the NL and only a half-game behind the Rangers for the best record in baseball.

The natural inclination is to try to analyze this, to make sense of it all and explain how they're doing this. But it's perhaps reached a point where there is no more explanation.

The Nationals' pitching staff is ridiculously good. Historically good, at this rate. The lineup is sorely lacking in run producers, especially with Zimmerman and Michael Morse out, yet somehow enough runs cross the plate each night thanks to the unheralded performances of players like Chad Tracy and Rick Ankiel.

How do you explain that? You don't. You just sit back and enjoy what has turned into a remarkable ride to open the season.

And pray it all doesn't come to a screeching halt.