Proof is in the pitching: Nationals staff is dominating

The Nationals have played 16 games and have won 12 of them, resting in first place in the National League East in late April.

The Nationals have had big extra-inning wins, like Saturday’s thrilling 3-2 win over the Miami Marlins, or the timely hit to stay in games. They haven’t blown out teams, going 6-2 in one-run games. They have played error-free baseball, tallying an 8-2 mark when they don’t commit a miscue.

But manager Davey Johnson said pitching, with starters Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler, has been main reason for the quick start out of the gate.

“Real good pitching from the starters and the bullpen has been outstanding,” Johnson said. “We have got key hits. Most ballclubs, early on in the season, come out with some guys hitting and some guys aren’t. We have had the same problem. Overall, we have hit enough. We feel very good. The starting pitching has been unbelievable. Everybody is throwing gems.”

Those gems show up in the major league team pitching statistics, where the Nationals lead in several categories.

The Nationals’ major league-leading 2.34 ERA is 12 points better than the Philadelphia Phillies. The 144 strikeouts are tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers as the best in baseball.

The Nationals have walked 47 batters, which isn’t bad, ranked 19th in the league. The San Diego Padres have allowed a league-worst 74 walks. But pitching coach Steve McCatty wants to see even those numbers improve.

“I think we have (47 walks), that is still high for me,” McCatty said. “But you kind of take it because they are striking out more guys. We are different pitchers than we were the last few years. The walks are always a point of contention with me. Do I stress it? Yeah, I do get on them.”

When you strike out 144 batters in 16 games, an average of nine per contest, you are doing a lot right.

The other amazing statistic is opponents difficulty getting hits against the vaunted Nationals’ hurlers. Opponents are batting .202 against the Nationals, the worst batting average against in the majors. The second best batting average against is the Dodgers at .212.

“We do have guys with swing-and-miss stuff,” McCatty said. “It kind of changes your thought process on how you do things. They have been doing great. I have no complaints in that department.”

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