Nationals feasting on early-season competition

First, the optimistic view on the Nationals so far this season: They're 6-1, the best start in club history and one more victory shy of matching the best start in both franchise and D.C. baseball history.

Now, the skeptical view of that accomplishment: They've gone 6-1 against the Marlins and Braves, who are currently a collective 3-12.

Dusty-Baker-Nats-jacket-sidebar.jpgOK, so maybe it would be wise not to go overboard with praise for this team quite yet, given the less-than-overwhelming competition it has faced. But all they can do is the play the games on their schedule, and if they want to reach the promised land come autumn, they're going to need to pile up plenty of wins against these lesser opponents.

So why not take advantage of it? The Nationals have been presented a golden opportunity by the schedule makers. Their first 21 games come against the Braves, Marlins, Phillies and Twins. Two of those teams have yet to win a single game so far this season.

Baseball, unlike any other professional sport, has no such thing as gimmes. Any team can beat another team on any given day, which is why nobody ever goes 19-0 (or even 16-3) against a weaker division rival.

The Nationals sure look like they're trying to make a run at that against the Braves this year, though. They're now 5-0 against them in 2016, 19-5 against them over the last two seasons. They haven't lost a home game to Atlanta since September 2014, a span of 13 games.

The real tests will come soon enough. Following that 21-game stretch to open the season, the Nationals hit the road for a 10-game trip to face the Royals, Cardinals and Cubs. That trip will tell us more about this club than anything else that precedes it.

There also, of course, are 19 games still to be played against the Mets, who despite their shaky 3-5 start that has left half of Manhattan in full-on panic mode, ultimately will be the Nationals' biggest division challenger this season.

But there's plenty of time to worry about the main course down the road. For now, the Nats are feasting on some tasty appetizers.

And they're not leaving anything left on the plate except for the bones.

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