After impressive April, what does May have in store for Nats?

Though they were far from perfect - hello, bullpen! - the Nationals did just wrap up an overwhelmingly successful opening month to the season.

At 17-8, they own the best record in the majors and the second-best 25-game start to any season in club history. (Only last year's 18-7 team got off to a better start.)

They lead the majors in just about every offensive category of significance, and their rotation continues to be a force. (Though their starters officially rank 16th in the majors with a 3.92 ERA, they jump all the way up to third place with a 3.35 ERA when you drop Jeremy Guthrie's disastrous spot start in Philadelphia. Don't worry, eventually they'll have played enough games for that one outing to stop skewering the stats so much.)

bryce-harper-love-sign-white.jpgBryce Harper looks like an MVP again. Unless he finishes second to Ryan Zimmerman, who has so far exceeded even his most optimistic supporters' wildest predictions. Daniel Murphy remains Daniel Murphy, and Trea Turner remains Trea Turner, and Anthony Rendon just had one of the greatest offensive single games in baseball history.

Jayson Werth is proving he still has plenty left in the tank as his 38th birthday approaches. Matt Wieters is proving he shouldn't have had to wait until late February to get a job. Gio Gonzalez looks like a new man, giving the Nationals a fearsome foursome in their rotation alongside Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark.

But that was April, and now it's May, and so it's time to turn the page.

The Nats dealt with a tough schedule in April, more so because of the actual travel schedule they faced than the competition. They had a 10-games-in-10 days trip that included two getaway night games and then a long flight home from Colorado with no off-day at the tail end of it all.

As far as the opponents they faced, the Nationals did benefit from going up against a Mets club ravaged by injuries, a Cardinals club that has gotten off to a ragged start and a Rockies club that (while leading the National League West Division) is fairly inexperienced and certainly not fully proven yet.

The Rockies actually are the only team the Nats faced in April that currently owns a winning record.

So, how does May look? Well, it looks a bit tougher.

First up are the Diamondbacks, who like the Rockies are off to a strong start. Arizona boasts the league's second-best rotation ERA to date, not to mention some fearsome hitters in its lineup.

After a quick weekend trip to Philadelphia, the Nats face their toughest test to date: the Orioles. The Battle of the Beltways comes early this year, but both teams are playing well and the four-game series (two at Camden Yards, then two at Nationals Park) should make for quite a challenge.

Things ease up somewhat after that, with the Phillies, Pirates, Braves, Mariners and Padres on the slate. But then the month wraps up with the start of another long road trip. The Nationals will be heading west and spending 10 days in California, beginning in San Francisco, continuing in nearby Oakland and then wrapping up in Los Angeles.

What will the state of the club be at that point? Will we still be talking about the majors' most productive lineup? A dominant rotation? A shaky bullpen, or perhaps a reinvigorated unit?

Will the loss of Adam Eaton prove devastating, or is this team deep enough to overcome it? What other maladies will befall the Nats in the next month and beyond?

The good news is that the Nationals put together a dynamite April. The sobering news is that there are five more months yet to play.

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