Tuesday, May 22

Time Capsule: On Winning Steaks and Sweeps

(Editor's note: this is the first of a series of three articles I wrote last week and didn't post until now. Still, since I put forth the effort I didn't want to have them go to waste.)

Winning fixes a lot of problems. Actually, "fix" is probably too strong a word - "glosses over" would be a better phrase. The Nats' recent 4-game winning streak (edit: May 11-14) sure didn't fix much - but it self pretty good. There's still plenty of dark cloud to this silver lining (is at a good sign you need to go on a run to break the .333 mark?), but they'll be plenty of time to talk about that dark cloud this season. Let's focus on some positives:

- Starting pitching. Jason Bergmann and Shawn Hill had two outstanding starts - and not just in the "oh, he got us into the 7th down by 1" way; they threw a combined 12 innings of no-hit ball. Heck, even Jason Simontacchi picked up his first win in 4 yeras. Matt Chico managed to not look totally lost out there, too. I wouldn't expect this every time out, but stringing together four decent starts in a row? I'll take it.

- Good bullpen work. Absent a true closer for most of the weekend, the Nats didn't do too bad without one. Yeah, they'll have bad weeks (too much use will cause everyone to implode at some point), but when they're on they seem to do well as a group. There's enough skill and - dare I say - talent to not be completely incendiary most of the time. This weekend, they weren't.

- Clutch hitting. Where has this been all year? I can't recall actually being confident that a runner on third with less than two outs will score until this weekend. To be fair, the Nats were bound to improve to the mean eventually; it was nice to see that happen in conjunction with good pitching. (Also, I dont know if an inside-the-park HR counts as clutch, but it was still a lot of fun!)

Of course, no team is as good as they are when they're winning, and I'm not so optimistic as to think they've turned some mythical corner and will proceed to challenge .400 (or - god forbid - .500). Still, it's fun to see everything mesh together neatly every once in a while. Probably more importantly, it's good to see that this team's individual components can be better than what we've seen before - and especially what we saw from them during the last road trip (edit: April 30 - May 9). It's not perfect, but you know what? I'll take it.