Plenty of positives to point out

PHILADELPHIA - If you're reading this, that means that things are back up and running again. So that's a good thing.

Apologies for the technical issues yesterday. Apparently the storms knocked out our server for a while, but those issues are behind us. Let's talk some baseball.

The Nationals got the job done in Houston, sweeping their brief two-game set with Bo Porter's Astros, who are now 9-19 on the season.

Yeesh.

The Nats landed in Philadelphia around 3:30 a.m. and now will get their second off-day in a four-day span. Weird schedule, but after the late arrival, a day to catch up on sleep and relax a bit is not an awful thing.

We saw a few positive trends continue during the first leg of this road trip.

The defense was again impressive, and another fairly clean game was played in the field. The Nats no longer rank last in the majors in errors - the Diamondbacks now are the not-so-proud owners of that label - and they've been moving in a positive direction on that front.

zimmermann-throwing-white-close-sidebar.jpgThe starting pitching continues to head in the right direction, this after Jordan Zimmermann delivered 6 1/3 scoreless innings last night, picking up his 45th win as a National in the process. Zimmermann now has topped Livan Hernandez for the most wins in Nationals team history.

After getting off to a slow start to the season, with short outings and inconsistent efforts, Nats starters have been excellent of late, posting a 2.04 ERA over their last 12 games, with 77 strikeouts in 75 innings.

That's taken some pressure off the bullpen, allowing guys to settle into more defined roles and feel more comfortable.

Offensively, despite a number of injuries, the Nats continue to plug along. They tie for sixth in the majors in runs scored, and have a .415 team slugging percentage, which ranks fourth in the bigs.

Last night, Matt Williams fielded a lineup without Wilson Ramos, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper. That's four of his eight opening day starters.

The Nats still went out and pounded out seven runs on 13 hits, six of which were for extra bases.

Yes, the red-hot Anthony Rendon had half of those extra-base hits himself in front of his hometown crowd, and yes, the Nats were playing the hapless Astros.

But of late, things seem like they're starting to trend upward. The defense has improved, as has the pitching, and the Nats continue to get contributions from throughout their 25-man roster.

They finish April 16-12. Only five more months to go.

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