Taking stock with 30 games to go

The Nationals enjoyed a welcome day off in Atlanta today on the heels of a tough weekend series sweep in Cincinnati at the hands of the Reds.

All three games were winnable, but hitting with runners in scoring position just wasn’t there and some good pitching from Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler and Jordan Zimmermann was wasted. The bullpen struggled Friday night but was very good Saturday and in the marathon game Sunday.

Wilson Ramos’ home run bat has come alive again and he now holds the Nationals’ team record for homers by a catcher in a single season. He surpassed that of Brian Schneider back in ‘05 and, I feel, will be a 20-plus home run catcher in the years to come.

While struggling defensively in his major league debut at first base, Chris Marrero showed us a live bat and collected his first three big league hits Saturday and Sunday. It’s always exciting to see in person these young men we’ve been hearing about in the minor leagues, and Marrero’s arrival was no exception.

September 1 is almost here and there will be more debuts in the days to come.

While we are all excited about the future, there are still 30 games to be played and the Nats need to take care of some business to make this a successful 2011 by the numbers:

* They have eight more games to win to surpass the 69 wins in 2010. That should be easy to do.

* 13 more wins gives the Nats 75 victories, a nice number if you’re looking for significant improvement over last year.

* A 17-13 mark in these last 30 would give the Nats 79 wins, a 10-win jump over 2010 (and 20 more than ‘08 and ‘09).

* A 19-11 record in these last 30 games would make the Nats the .500 ballclub we hope to see as a springboard.

* And, of course, if they finish 20-10, they will make it over .500; no small task.

Whatever happens down the stretch, the Nationals are improved as a team over previous seasons, and can you imagine how much better they would be right now if the team batting average was higher than .242?

Or if they could hit even .250 with RISP? Or if Jayson Werth was simply reaching his last four-year averages of .284 with 24 HRs and 75 RBIs? Or if Ryan Zimmerman wasn’t injured for two months? Or if there had been a bonafide leadoff hitter at the top of the lineup all season?

Yes, these last 30 games will be very revealing. With talent like Strasburg, Lombardozzi, Peacock and Milone about to reach the major leagues, there might be plenty of reasons, very shortly, to get real excited about 2012!