Starting pitching holding its own

OK, I grasp the fact that 11 games is a pretty small sample, but 5-6 against the teams in your own division at this point is respectable, and you’ve got to be somewhat impressed with the starting rotation the first couple of times through.

Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Jason Marquis and Jordan Zimmermann all have ERAs under 4.00, and a cumulative ERA under 3.50. (I’m leaving Tom Gorzelanny out of it at this point, as he’s made only the single start.) I was amused the other day to read a Phillies fan posting on a Web site that the Phils should be ashamed to have lost to a “washed up junkballer” like Hernandez. Obviously that person never looked at a boxscore last year. Though, in fairness, Harnandez never faced Philadelphia in 2010, which was hard to do when you play a team 18 times.

A caller to “Nats Talk” on Tuesday night asked how Hernandez can consistently get hitters out throwing the ball as softly as 61 mph. As my guest Mike Wallace pointed out, “He threw it hard enough to win,” and that’s really what it’s all about.

Starting pitching is such a huge part of the game, and the absence this season of Stephen Strasburg led many observers to predict another 90-loss season for the Nationals. Again, it’s a pretty small sample, but so far, so good. Getting some offensive production out of third base is another issue, in the absence of Ryan Zimmerman, and so far neither Alex Cora or Jerry Hairston Jr. have shown much pop. It’s a tall order for anyone, but through three games they’re a combined 1-for-10 with three strikeouts. That has to improve.