Optimism gauge inching north

It’s a start. Whether it’s “the” start of something remains to be seen.

Beating Florida two straight at their place is quite an accomplishment, given that the Marlins are top five in the National League in runs scored, and Washington has had more than its share of scoring woes. Comparing club ERAs is a virtual wash between the Nationals and Marlins this year, but the Florida rotation has given D.C. fits in recent seasons.

It’s still an eye-opener to see that the Nats are essentially breaking even through the first fifth of the season without Ryan Zimmerman or any semblance of a sustained offense. Roger Bernadina is back, and after tonight will likely get several more opportunities to lead off while Rick Ankiel is disabled, inasmuch as they’ll be facing a number of right-handed pitchers in the upcoming week. The jury is still out on Bernadina as an everyday centerfielder, however. Nats’ minor league people believe he has the requisite skills, while their big league execs believe he’s more suited for left. He has an opportunity, at least for another week-and-a-half, to make an impression with both the glove and bat. A few more games like last night’s and he may force a more difficult roster move.

Laynce Nix also figures to get a lot of at-bats in the next week. He’s making great contact, despite everything not falling in, and his defense has been on the plus side as well.

On the heels of getting swept in Philadelphia, do the Nats dare imagine doing the same to the Marlins? I said on the radio postgame show last Monday that I thought a 4-5 road trip would be more than acceptable given the opposition. That now doesn’t seem like such a longshot.

It appears that Tom Gorzelanny is once again the pitcher he was with the Pirates a few years back. He’s put together five pretty solid starts in a row, and the Nationals have to be hoping he can approach the 200 inning-level by late September. This does not appear to be a guy who will be skipped over in the rotation again in 2011.

It’s Livan Hernandez against Anibal Sanchez on Sunday afternoon. Sanchez has never lost to Washington, but there’s a first time for everything.