There are some obvious disclaimers that must go with the Nationals' sweep of the Phillies. They're playing a team that has nothing on the line until the National League Division Series at the end of the month, and their 3-0 victory over Philadelphia on Tuesday night, which completed a doubleheader sweep over the Phillies, was aided by three uncharacteristic errors.
But at the same time, there's a legitimate reason for fans to be encouraged: In 13 1/3 innings over two games today, the Nationals' starting pitchers didn't allow a run.
In fact, other than one Tyler Clippard pitch in the first game of the doubleheader, the Nationals didn't allow a run all day. They followed a 4-3 win over the Phillies this afternoon with a 3-0 win tonight at Citizens Bank Park. Ross Detwiler needed just 81 pitches to get through 7 1/3 shutout innings, Henry Rodriguez finished a scoreless eighth and Drew Storen completed a two-save day to become just the second Nationals pitcher to record 40 saves in a season.
The Nationals have now won six straight games on the road, their longest streak since the 1994 Expos won nine consecutive road games from July 29-Aug. 10 that year.
And the big reason why has been young pitching. Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock and Detwiler all have wins during the six-game streak, and Milone could have had another one today if Clippard hadn't given up a three-run homer to Raul Ibanez after Doug Slaten put two runners on base in the seventh inning. The Nationals are getting their young starters to throw strikes effectively, without nibbling around the plate like many of the team's rookie pitchers have done in the past.
Those three pitchers will likely be fighting for one rotation spot next year, assuming Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and John Lannan are in the rotation and the Nationals either bring back Chien-Ming Wang or add a pitcher this winter. The competition for a spot should be heated, and the Nationals are likely to benefit from the deepest rotation they've had since coming to Washington.
Their young starters are planting the seeds for that with the work they're doing this month.