Enjoying life atop the National League

How’s it all look from up top, folks?

Think you could get used to this view?

After toiling toward the bottom of the league for the vast majority of their previous seven years of existence, the Nationals went to bed last night owners of the best record in the National League.

Their 3-1 victory over the Padres yesterday coupled with the Dodgers’ loss to the Braves made Washington’s 13-4 mark tops in the NL and tied the franchise record for best 17-game start to a season.

It’s still April, but it never hurts to be the top dog on the block.

Last night, the Nats rode Gio Gonzalez, who after yesterday’s six shutout innings has now has thrown 20 straight scoreless frames. In those 20 innings, he’s allowed a measly six hits and four walks, and has 21 strikeouts.

You just keep waiting for the insanely high-quality starting pitching to end, but it won’t. Gonzalez has just been filthy his last three times out, and luckily, the Nationals were able to scrap together just enough timely offense to get the lefty another much-deserved win and make him 2-0 on the season.

Gonzalez’s 20-inning scoreless streak is the longest by a Nationals pitcher since Drew Storen went 21 straight shutout innings last season from April 17-May 16. It’s also the longest scoreless streak by a Nats starter since Scott Olsen (yes, Scott Olsen) also went 20 consecutive innings without allowing a run from April 25-May 16, 2010.

Last year, the Nationals had 14 pinch-hit RBIs all season long. Already this season, through 17 games, they have seven pinch-hit RBIs.

Three came last night when Chad Tracy delivered a clutch two-run knock in the top of the seventh and then Rick Ankiel came off the bench to provide a two-out RBI single in the ninth.

Mark DeRosa might be struggling and Xavier Nady hasn’t produced a ton, but yeah, this bench is exponentially better than the 2011 version.

When you look back on the first 17 games of the Nationals’ season, much hasn’t gone as planned.

The Nationals are averaging just 3.58 runs per game and barely doing enough to win games in which their starters keep putting up zeros. Their cleanup hitter (Michael Morse) has yet to play a game and won’t return to major league action until June at the earliest. Their closer (Drew Storen) was lost until around the All-Star break due to elbow surgery. The No. 3 hitter, Gold Glove-caliber third baseman and face of the franchise (Ryan Zimmerman) might be out of the lineup for a bit longer.

Yet, here the Nats are, with a 13-4 record, tops in the NL.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

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