1. The Nats haven’t exactly killed it against good teams lately, but what the Nats have done is beat up on bad teams, which is just fine. Since the Nats’ two-day, three-game sweep to the Dodgers May 19-20, the Nats have won two of three over San Diego, authored three-game sweeps at Miami and the Orioles and now have produced a two-game sweep of Tampa Bay, giving the Rays a six-game losing streak. Now, in between the sweeps of the O’s and Rays was losing three of four at Atlanta. That was disappointing. But good teams are supposed to beat bad teams, and the Nats are doing that.
2. Wednesday afternoon’s 11-2 win over Tampa Bay was as unique as it was dominant. The Nats scored 11 runs on 15 hits and four walks and went 7-for-15 with runners in scoring position in an offensive bust-out the likes of which we just haven’t seen a lot from this team in recent weeks. Heck, the previous game, the 4-2 win over the Rays on Tuesday night, saw the Nats have just four hits and a walk. But also notable about the 11-run performance on Wednesday was that it included no homers. 10 of the Nats’ 11 runs came on opposite-field hits or hits that landed in center field, a welcome change for the pull- and homer-happy Nats. Anthony Rendon on his 28th birthday had a first-pitch two-run double to left-center in the bottom of the first, a one-out opposite-field RBI double on a 1-2 pitch in the bottom of the sixth and two singles.
3. Boy do the Nats have an interesting and emerging dilemma in their outfield. Adam Eaton, who underwent left-ankle surgery on May 10 and who has not played in major-league game since April 8, is in the midst of a minor-league rehab assignment and is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on Friday. If this happens – and that’s a big “if” – who is the odd man out in the outfield? You’re obviously not sitting Bryce Harper, even though he continues to underwhelm lately. Bryce went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the 4-2 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night and got tripped up by his falling helmet in getting thrown out at second base on a single in the bottom of the fourth in the 11-2 win over the Rays on Wednesday afternoon. His OPS for the season has gone from 1.073 off his two-homer performance in the 7-3 win over Philadelphia on May 4 to now .881 – a 192-point decline. Michael A. Taylor is a very good defensive center fielder and had an RBI double, an RBI single, another single and a stolen base of third base that a) led to a run thanks toa throwing error by ex-Nat Wilson Ramos and b) angered Sergio Romo in Wednesday afternoon’s 11-2 rout of Tampa Bay. And 19-year-old Juan Soto continues to thrive. He had a single and a walk in the 4-2 win over the Rays on Tuesday night and then an RBI double, a single and a walk in the 11-2 win over the Rays on Wednesday afternoon. Soto has a .981 OPS over 61 plate appearances. How can you send him down or even sit him right now?
4. How about the four-day stretch for Max Scherzer from June 2-5? He in Saturday’s 5-3 14-inning win at Atlanta had a one-out pinch single in the top of the 14th and then scored the go-ahead run on Wilmer Difo’s two-out RBI triple. Max on Monday night led, along with Ryan Zimmerman, the “Let’s go Caps!” chants prior to the Capitals 6-2 ripping of Vegas to take a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final. And Max on Tuesday night dominated Tampa Bay in a 4-2 win: two runs in eight innings on 13 strikeouts versus five hits and no walks. He tossed an immaculate inning in the top of the sixth, facing just three batters and recording three strikeouts on the minimum nine pitches. The immaculate inning was his second as a Nat, as he became just the fifth pitcher in major-league history to record two immaculate innings (Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson). This was just the third immaculate inning for the Nats since the franchise moved to D.C. (Jordan Zimmermann in May 2011). But maybe most impressive from Max on Tuesday night was him throwing 81 of his 99 pitches for strikes. That’s absurd. The two runs off Max came in the top of the eighth on back-to-back singles by Matt Duffy and Carlos Gomez to begin the inning and then a two-out pinch two-run double by Brad Miller. Otherwise, Max was outstanding. Again. He now has an ERA of 1.95 and WHIP of 0.83 over 13 starts this season.
5. Tanner Roark rebounded nicely from a rough series at Atlanta with his work in the 11-2 win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday afternoon. Tanner got roughed up in the 4-2 loss at the Braves on May 31 (four runs in 6 2/3 innings) and then gave up a one-out pinch walk-off two-run homer to Charlie Culberson in Sunday afternoon’s 4-2 loss at the Braves. But Tanner on Wednesday allowed two runs in six innings, lowering his ERA to 3.56 over 13 games (12 starts) this season. And he had a two-out full-count two-run opposite-field single off Ryan Yarbrough in the Nats’ five-run first.
6. The Nats’ bullpen continues its surge since being abysmal in the two-day, three-game sweep to the Dodgers May 19-20. Sean Doolittle tossed a perfect ninth in the 4-2 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. Justin Miller, Wander Suero and Matt Grace each tossed a scoreless inning in the 11-2 win over the Rays on Wednesday afternoon. Grace tossed a scoreless ninth in his first outing since April 20 due to a left groin strain. But the revelation is Miller, who since being brought up from Triple-A Syracuse on May 25 has tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts. This is a journeyman in his age-31 season who has fought his way back to the majors off time in the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies and Angels organizations, and, at least right now, he’s killing it.