Nats Finish Sweep in Grand Fashion, Kelley Looks Right for Closer’s Role

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Photo: @Nationals

By Matthew Jacobson

The Nationals helped complete the DC trifecta Wednesday night, using two grand slams to defeat the Atlanta Braves 14-4. Bryce Harper was the star of the show, hitting two home runs, including a grand slam in a 4-4 outing including 5 RBI.

Ryan Zimmerman hit the other Nats grand slam, and the 1-2 hitters Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon combined to go 5-11 while scoring four runs. Joe Ross looked impressive in his first start of the season, tossing seven quality innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits, striking out seven and only walking one. A large improvement on Jeremy Guthrie, who struggled mightily filling the number five starter’s role against the Phillies just last week. Enny Romero and Matt Albers finished the game off without there really being any danger of the Nationals losing the game. On a night where the Wizards and Capitals secured enormous playoff wins, the Nationals completed the trifecta with a good, old-fashioned butt-kicking of a not very good Atlanta team.

Last night was a completely different story; The Nats were without several regulars, including Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy (Murphy was a last-minute scratch). Stephen Strasburg continues to justify his monster contract extension, tossing another quality start. Strasburg went seven innings (that seems to be the case among National starters, who have been excellent so far this season), allowing six hits and two earned runs while striking out ten and walking two. R.A. Dickey, no slouch himself, also tossed a quality start, going seven innings, but allowing three runs on three hits while striking out just three with two walks. The Nationals offense did not put up 14 runs, but it did come up with some timely hitting.

In the top of the sixth with two outs, Bryce Harper drew a five pitch walk, and Ryan Zimmerman took a 1-0 pitch from the veteran knuckleballer deep to left-center and out, giving the Nationals a 3-2 lead that they would not relinquish. Oliver Perez came on in relief of Strasburg, and did his job, retiring the President of the Nationals killer club Freddie Freeman (who actually went 0-4, so be on the lookout for the apocalypse). He would be followed by Koda Glover, who retired the two batters he faced, and Shawn Kelley in his first game officially as closer, did his job, despite allowing a hit and a walk with two outs.

Some developing stories to keep an eye on: Kelley replacing Treinen as closer and how Treinen will handle it. Drew Storen handled it incredibly poorly two seasons ago, and while I don’t believe Treinen will handle it the same way. Zimmerman is having an incredible start to this season, producing in the middle of a dangerous National lineup. Trea Turner was placed on the 10 day disabled list. While his presence has not been overly missed considering how the team has performed during his absence, it is obviously better with him in than out.

Can the starting pitching continue at this rate, knowing the struggles of the bullpen? I believe they can considering the individual talent, but obviously they will regress to the mean sooner rather than later.

The Nats start a huge early-season series with the Mets this weekend. Tonight it’ll be Tanner Roark going against Jacob DeGrom. First pitch at 7:10 at Citi Field.

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