The Nationals’ No. 4 and 5 hitters are starting to put it together.
Ryan Zimmerman went 3-for-4 with an RBI yesterday, bumping his average up to .239 on the season. Adam LaRoche added two hits and an RBI yesterday, as well, and he’s now getting closer to the Mendoza line, hitting .196 on the season.
Over his last six games, LaRoche is 9-for-17 (.529) with a .625 on-base percentage.
The power isn’t there from these two Nats sluggers yet - they’ve combined for just four home runs and 22 RBIs - but that’ll come around eventually. Bryce Harper has carried the Nats offensively while Zimmerman and LaRoche have battled injuries and gotten off to slow starts, something Zimmerman is aware of.
“We know Adam LaRoche isn’t gonna hit .150,” Zimmerman said yesterday. “I’m not gonna hit .200. Harp’s not gonna hit .400.”
Zimmerman then paused.
“Well, maybe,” he said with a smile.
By notching another save yesterday in the Nationals’ win over the Tigers, Rafael Soriano now has 12 saves in 13 chances this season. Only three closers have more saves than Soriano thus far this season - Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson and Mariano Rivera all have 13 in 13 tries.
Soriano has been a quiet contributor to this Nationals team this season, partly because of his demeanor and desire to remain out of the spotlight, and partly because he doesn’t fit into the 2013 typical closer’s mold.
The 33-year-old doesn’t seek out attention from the media, wishing to just go about his business and head home to his family. He doesn’t throw in the upper 90s, have a knee-buckling breaking ball or make demonstrative hand motions on the mound after striking someone out.
But Soriano has lived up to his billing so far as one of the top closers in the game. He’s able to handle a heavy workload, having pitched in six of the Nats’ last seven games. Since allowing two earned runs in back-to-back outings in early April, Soriano has thrown 12 straight scoreless frames.
He’s allowing fewer runners on base than in past seasons, posting a 0.875 WHIP through 16 appearances, significantly below his career average of 1.041, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 4.33, the highest it’s been since 2007.
Soriano has fit in well with a tight group of Nationals relievers, and he’s been embraced by the clubhouse as a whole. His routine of untucking his jersey from his pants after notching a save has been adopted by a number of his teammates, and appears to be becoming a team tradition.
Adam LaRoche and Denard Span joined the untuck club two nights ago, and Kurt Suzuki, Chad Tracy, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Mattheus, Drew Storen and others got in on the action after yesterday’s win, as well.
“Oh, you know, I see a couple guys do it, so that reminds me when I played with Tampa and a lot of people do it,” Soriano said. “I like it.”
Soriano won’t wow you with his velocity, and he isn’t one of the most bubbly major leaguers you’ll find. Far from it. But the Nationals have to be pleased with the way their new closer has locked down the ninth inning and found a way to mesh into the clubhouse just five weeks into the season.