MLB Week 7 Preview: Why The Washington Nationals Aren't Dead Yet

Last week Corey Kluber showed there was a lot left in his tank. Some feared the 2014 Cy Young Award winner was a one-season wonder when he opened the season with a 0-5 record and a 5.04 ERA in seven starts. But when he took the pitcher’s mound last Wednesday at home against the Cincinnati Reds he emphatically proved otherwise, putting together a historically fantastic start. The right-hander went eight innings, allowing no runs and one hit, while striking out 18. He became only the second pitcher to whiff 18 batters in just eight innings of work in what was probably the most dominating non-complete game performance in Major League history. With Kluber seemingly back on track, let’s see what else we have to look forward to in MLB’s week 7: 

Toronto Blue Jays v Houston Astros : News Photo

      The curious case of the Houston Astros. No right-minded pundit would have told you that midway through May the Houston Astros would be at the top of the American League West. In fact, if you look at the team’s offensive number you’d be convinced that their win-loss record was a misprint. Astros batters rank last in the American League in batting average and first in strikeouts – by a large margin. So how are they doing it: home runs. The team leads the AL in longballs.

      While the offensive formula has generally worked, this approach is bad news for Houston when the visit the Detroit Tigers on Friday. Detroit’s Comerica Park ranks 26th out of 30 stadiums in home run production in the Major Leagues. Throw in the fact that Detroit’s scheduled pitcher that day is Alfredo Simon, a sinkerballer who has given up a stingy three home runs through his first seven starts, and you should look for an Astros loss in this Friday


      The return of the Washington Nationals. The demise of the Washington Nationals has been greatly exaggerated. Despite a slow start, the Nats are now cruising in the National League East (by the end of this week, they should be a top that division). More good news from them: They get a nice mismatch series against the Philadelphia Phillies this week. The game to pick them in this series is on Saturday. Max Scherzer gets the baseball for Washington that day. While there has been some serious inconsistency in the Washington pitching rotation (hello, Stephen Strasburg) and injury (see Doug Fister), Scherzer has been dominant as evidenced by his 1.75 ERA and his strikeout-to-walk ratio (66 strikeouts against just 8 walks). Considering Scherzer has held Philadelphia hitters to a combined .208 batting average in 128 lifetime plate appearances and this will be a good one for Washington.

     Milwaukee Brewers v New York Mets : News Photo 

          The demise of the New York Mets. One of baseball’s great early stories was the domination of the New York Mets in the season’s opening days. Alas, injuries and an inability to maintain an above-their-talent-level set of performances had them falling back to reality over the past couple of weeks. Most notably, the team went into last weekend with a five game losing streak. The offence has been notably scuffling. Since the start of May, New York has been shut out three times and scored a single run in three other contests. That’s important to note when they host the St. Louis Cardinals this week.

      Whether the Mets win or lose, look for a low scoring game on Tuesday. New York batters have the misfortune of facing Michael Wacha on that day. Wacha has been masterful so far this year, posting a 5-0 record and a 2.06 ERA. The Mets’ Jon Niese, who gets the assignment for New York, has been every bit as good. He carries a 2.49 ERA into this game. Most notable is the fact that he’s dominated at Citi Field, where he’s allowed just three runs in twenty innings thrown there this season. Considering that the Mets’ home has been slightly below average as a run scoring venue (even when bad pitchers are in the house), and this should be a game where hitters don’t fully produce.