A step in the right direction

In their last five contests, the Nationals have recorded four wins, giving them their best five-game stretch since April 25-May 2, when they won five of six.

In this span, they’ve outscored their opponents by a whopping 24 runs (34 runs scored, 10 runs allowed). They’ve put up 19 extra-base hits. They’ve allowed just six earned runs and have seen their team ERA drop from 3.30 after last Wednesday’s loss to the Marlins to 3.11 as of today, fourth-best in the majors.

They’re back over .500 on the season at 29-28, and not that it really matters all that much in early June, but they’re just 1 1/2 games back of the first-place Braves in the National League East.

After treading water for the first two months of the season, they’re for sure ready to take off now, right? The wins will start rattling off easily at this point, won’t they?

“If I’ve learned anything in my however many years in this game, it’s that you can’t assume and you can’t take anything for granted,” manager Matt Williams said last night. “So we have to work hard every day to continue to play well and continue to do the things we want to do. Over the last five days, it’s been good, so we want to continue that trend. Have to keep working hard.”

But, but, in these five games ...

“It’s five games,” right-hander Stephen Strasburg countered. “We’re just trying to stay the same and just keep going, give the same every day, everything we’ve got, and roll with the punches.”

Williams and Strasburg are right, of course. It might be easy for some fans to get caught up in the team’s success during this five-game run, just as it might have been easy for some to get beaten down by a couple brief losing streaks earlier on.

But the baseball season, as we all know, is a marathon. It might feel like the Nats have been playing for a while now. They still have 105 regular season games ahead of them.

No five-game stretch in June, however good or bad, will determine the outcome of a season. The key is building momentum, playing consistent baseball and letting the record take care of itself.

All that said, the Nats are encouraged by how they’ve played in their last series against the Rangers (minus that Yu Darvish game) and the first two games of this current set against the Phillies. They’ve guaranteed themselves two straight series wins leading up to this long road trip that lies ahead, and have a chance to polish off a sweep of the Phils today.

The Nats are getting healthier, the bats are coming alive and the starting pitchers are delivering.

“It’s been a lot of fun for us, pitching the ball good and swinging the bat well,” center fielder Denard Span said. “It’s been a lot of fun lately, and hopefully we keep it going.”

“It’s been good,” Williams said. “The last couple of days, we scored a lot of runs, which is great. The offense has kicked it back in and guys are swinging well. Anthony (Rendon’s) really swinging well, Denard. So that’s always a good thing. Good starting pitching, too. So all of those things are positives.”

Now it’s just a matter of carrying it all forward.

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