Getaway Day: The Nationals may be a bonafide powerhouse

Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman in the dugout after a home run in the seventh inning during a game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets on April 30, 2017. The Nationals defeated the Mets 23-5. Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It is hard to believe that there already is a month in the books for the Major League Baseball season. It seems like just yesterday that the rampant predictions that the spring brings were all we had, as we continue to temper those ideas with the fact that it is 'only the spring'.

Well, as the spring quickly evolves into the summer, there are a few things that we expected to see that have happened: Mike Trout is still really good, Bryce Harper is once again raising questions about if he is better, the Cubs and Indians are still looking the part of contenders and the American League East is a rat race.

At the same time, there are a few things happening we didn't expect, such as a hot NL West race between the Rockies and Diamondbacks, Eric Thames may be the best power hitter in the game, the White Sox are pushing the Indians for control of the AL Central and Ryan Zimmerman (instead of solely Harper) is leading a tour de force lineup in the nation's capital.

Every month, just as each week, brings something new. Here's how last week worked out around Major League Baseball, as month two prepares to take shape.

American League

Baltimore Orioles 

It was a half and half week for the O’s. They took care of business by taking down the Rays early on winning two of three, yet in the marquee matchup of the week in the AL East, the Orioles took a knee against the Yankees – a team who were hot on their heels for most of April. With their loss on Saturday, the O’s dropped out of control in the division and swapped places with the Yanks. The O’s were able to pull out an extra innings win on Sunday to even out a tie atop the AL East, but the damage has already been done. With a tough week ahead traveling to Boston to battle the Red Sox and the Yankees breathing down their necks, the O’s will learn who they really are in the early going.

Boston Red Sox 

It was a nasty stretch for the BoSox, who had to deal with the Yankees, Cubs and the elements in week where they could only salvage a handful of victories. They failed to capitalize on a chance to rise in the AL East as the Orioles and Yankees battled ahead of them in the AL East. Red Sox pitching continues to struggle to find its way and it shows in the box score. The good news is that even more Red Sox bats have come alive as it becomes increasingly clear that the offense will have to drive the ship for the Sox for the time being. Andrew Benintendi continues to live up to his billing, while Hanley Ramirez’ bat is beginning to get into the flow of things as well (over .350 average with a pair of homers on the week).

Chicago White Sox 

On the back of a sweep of the Royals and taking two of three against the Tigers, the White Sox have risen to the top of the pack in the division. Along the way, they put down the Royals 27-8, including posting double digit runs on back-to-back days. Jose Abreu fueled the way, hitting .556 with 10 hits over the last week. The question for the time being however will be ‘is it legit?’ They will continue along a 10-game road trip with a stop through Kansas City and a real test in Baltimore next weekend. Let’s see what these Sox are made out of soon, as they are chasing on the heels of the division-leading Indians as the new month begins.

Cleveland Indians

Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez, left, and second baseman Jason Kipnis, center and catcher Yan Gomes celebrate the Indians win over the Houston Astros at Progressive Field on April 27, 2017. Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

A marquee matchup pitted the Indians up against the Astros to start the week, a matchup in which the Tribe took two of three games from Houston. After rounding out the week by also taking two of three against the Mariners, the Indians are again becoming one of the steadiest teams in the game. The scheduling gods have smiled upon the Tribe to open up May. While it is always a grueling run to take to the road for 10 games, week and a half ahead holds a great chance for the Indians to create a huge amount of momentum, as they will open up with seven in-division contests against the Royals and Tigers, before landing in Canada to take on the lowly Blue Jays.

Detroit Tigers 

Life without Miguel Cabrera has remained an unsavory proposition for the Tigers, who dropped four in row after working out a win to stop the previous week’s skid on Tuesday. Overall, the Tigers have now run up a pair of four-game losing streaks in consecutive weeks. With the Indians and a West Coast trip following on the heels of that, Brad Ausmus’ squad is needing to sink their proverbial claws into ground to stop the skids they’re on far too often.

Houston Astros 

The Astros remain as the leaders of the pack in the AL West by a comfortable three games after a week that got off to a competitive, yet unsuccessful start, as they dropped two of three against the Indians. Only Dallas Keuchel was able to pull out a victory against the Tribe, as his strong bounce back year continues to have him towards the top of the American League pitching boards. The crafty lefty took home a pair of wins on the week, and is now the owner of an MLB-best 5-0 record. He’s the biggest difference maker in the 2017 Astros resembling more of who they were in 2015 (when he was 20-8), as opposed to last year (9-12).

Kansas City Royals

Eric Hosmer hits an RBI single during the third inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins Friday, April 28, 2017,. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The underlying theme of the entire Royals season has been when, not if, they will have their sell-off on the year. And with the way things have been going of late, it cannot come soon enough. Their losing skid has hit a brutal nine games at this point, the longest losing streak on the year, the type of spin out that gets managers fired, at the very least. The bright side of things says that team is likely to want to see an upturn in its prized trade chips before beginning to take the team apart. Eric Hosmer has begun to swing the bat better over the past week and the former championship core will get every chance possible to turn things around… before the increasingly inevitable takes place.

Los Angeles Angels 

Behind the blazing-hot effort of Mike Trout throughout the first month of the year, the Angels have maneuvered to the head of the mediocre class of teams in the AL West. On the back of a five-game winning streak against the Blue Jays, Athletics and Rangers, and have moved a game up of .500 on the year. They now have a chance to build on it further, with six divisional games against the last place Mariners and first place Astros in the week ahead. Opportunity knocks as month two rolls in.

Minnesota Twins 

After a tumultuous and heated weekend against the Tigers, the Twins came out with some fire in the new week, taking two of three from the Rangers, before winning a pair of games against the struggling Royals, which was split up by a postponement on Saturday due to the weather. The Twins are treading water in the division, behind a pair of veteran arms in Ervin Santana and Phil Hughes who are off to much needed solid starts. Santana stands undefeated in the early going, while Hughes gained his fourth win of the year on Sunday against the Royals.

New York Yankees 

This Yankee team is much more exciting than anybody anticipated they would be, and it is all based in the fact that they can flat-out rake. Starlin Castro, Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury have remained surprisingly hot to start the year, while Aaron Judge’s assault on the ball has seen him tie the AL rookie record of home runs in April already with 10. The Yanks have moved into a tie for first place in the AL East, after a big week against the Red Sox and Orioles, their chief competition within the division. They’ll enter the new week with a chance to build against the Blue Jays, before what should be a very, very interesting matchup with the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley next weekend.

Oakland Athletics 

The early going for the A’s continues to be a study in extreme ups, followed by extreme downs. After working up an encouraging five game win streak to get things going a week ago, they endured an equally long losing streak this week. The best part of the week however for the A’s was perhaps the play of the year thus far, courtesy of pitcher Kendall Graveman, who had the ultra-rare unassisted double play by tagging out one Angel runner while hurdling him and tagging out another… before the A’s ultimately lost the game 2-1. It was a highly representative moment of what the A’s season has been.

Seattle Mariners

Seattle Mariners pitcher James Paxton throws against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Wednesday, April 26, 2017.  AP Photo/Paul Sancya

After a sluggish start, the Mariners are beginning to level off. They’ve won five of their last seven, while still riding the breakout start of pitcher James Paxton. Paxton improved to 3-0 on the year after dealing seven shutout innings against the Detroit Tigers last Wednesday. The main issue facing the improving Mariners is making up for the lost ground thanks to a rocky star. They enter the week four games behind the Astros, and will now be faced with making up ground without the services of Felix Hernandez, who headed to the 10-day disabled list due to a dead arm.

Tampa Bay Rays 

The Rays spent the better part of the week alternating wins and losses with the Orioles and Blue Jays, as they have not strung together wins since mid-April. Road games have been a major issue for Tampa, where they have gone (3-9) on the season, and still have two games left on their current road trip. A good sign for the Rays is that after a pair of shaky outings, Chris Archer bounced back by issuing seven scoreless innings on Sunday.

Texas Rangers 

The Rangers winning streak came to a surprising end early in the week, after dropping a pair of games to the Twins. Texas is struggling to reach .500 yet again and has been hampered by an inconsistent starting pitching outside of Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. Darvish has now won three of his last four outings, while Hamels has won each of his last two outings. With a 10-game road stink ahead, the Rangers have a difficult, but excellent chance to distinguish themselves in a wide open AL West, where four teams are within 1.5 games of each other.

Toronto Blue Jays 

The hard times have continued for the Jays, who alternated winning and losing extra-inning games with the Cardinals early in the week, before dropping the final game of the series. The end of the week brought on a few welcomed signs of life for the Jays, although it was offset by even more bad news. As the club won their first series of the year over the weekend, Aaron Sanchez made his return to the rotation, only to leave the game after one inning due to further difficulties with the blistered finger that held him out action previously.

National League

Arizona Diamondbacks 

It was a tale of two very different halves for the D’Backs this week, as they won three of four from the lowly Padres, before struggling against the division-leading Rockies over the weekend. The Diamondbacks offense continues to thrive, as they carry the second largest run differential in the NL into the new week. This has been built up by a resurgent Paul Goldschmidt, who hovered around hitting .500 on the week. Mind you, this is an offense that has thrived thus far without a top-flight effort from Goldschmidt thus far this season, so the best could be yet to come – if they can figure out Colorado.

Atlanta Braves 

It has been completely bipolar year for the Braves, who have only experienced extreme streaks of wins or losses so far this season. Since April 6, they have alternated five and six game losing streaks around a five-game win streak and another five-game win streak, which came to an end on Sunday. The new week will show if they can get back into the winner’s circle sooner rather than later.

Chicago Cubs

Kris Bryant reacts to the fans after hitting a home run during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 28, 2017. Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs have been playing a more consistent brand of baseball lately, and took to properly handling their divisional opposites in the Pirates to start the week. The weekend held a predictably tougher matchup in what was seemingly billed as the ‘Theo Epstein Invitational’ in the Boston Red Sox. Kris Bryant got affairs started with a massive 447-foot home run, in leading the Cubs to a series opening victory. Business is prepared to pick up for the Cubbies as well, as they need to take full advantage of a return to Wrigley for four games against the Phillies because on the other side of that series, they will go on to see a string of tough foes in the form of the Yankees, Rockies and a trip to St. Louis to face the Cardinals.

Cincinnati Reds 

Reality has set in for the Reds, as they have come down from their hot start stumbling to a 3-8 stint as the month comes to a close. Reds pitching has fallen off the edge of the Earth lately, with four Reds starters carrying ERAs north of 8.00. Over the past week as a whole, the Reds staff is carrying a 7.10 ERA. Opportunity is ahead for the Reds however, who will head home for seven games against a pair of cellar dwellers in the Pirates and Giants. This is an opportunity to either pull back up in the standings or to be exposed as a fellow bottom feeder by their (potential) peers.

Colorado Rockies 

What can we say at this point? May is upon us, and the Rockies continue to impress with consistency this year. Despite the fact that they were blitzed by the Nationals, surrendering 42 runs in three straight midweek losses, they responded in strong fashion by taking two of three from their closest competition in the D’Backs over the weekend to maintain a half game lead in the NL West. The series loss to the Nationals was their first of the year, and lopsided scores made them the only divisional leader to have a negative run differential in the process. However, they received even more reinforcements, as Ian Desmond made his Rockies debut on Sunday, making the rich even richer.

Los Angeles Dodgers 

After splitting a four-game set with the Giants, the Dodger set their eyes on a sweep for their weekend activities, which they handily completed against the Phillies. It was a steady week for a team chasing a pair of hot clubs in the Rockies and Diamondbacks, and the Dodgers very much have a chance to make a move on in short order. Clayton Kershaw is set to make two starts in the upcoming week, as he’ll get the opening game of slate against the same Giants team he beat 2-1 last week, and then the Padres later on, whom he beat back on Opening Day.

Miami Marlins 

As the future of who will own the team made the club the talk of the league, the actual baseball activities of the Marlins were not very noteworthy. Before pulling off a 10-3 victory on Sunday, they had fallen in four straight against the Pirates and Phillies. Only one Marlin starter made it past five innings on the week, as an overworked bullpen had to carry too much of the load. On a bright note, J.T. Realmuto continues to solidify his place as one of the top hitting catchers in the game today. He is carrying a .342 average into the week, after posting three multi-hit games in the last week.

Milwaukee Brewers 

The Crew rebounded from dropping three of four against the Cardinals by decisively sweeping the Reds midweek to stay anchored at third place in the NL Central. However, they only salvaged the end of the week by defeating Braves on Sunday after dropping the first two games of the series. Amid it all, Eric Thames has been incredible at the plate and is rapidly becoming one of the most feared hitters in the game, sitting atop the Majors in home runs along with finding his way into the NL’s top 10 in six other categories as well. 

New York Mets

New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard walks off the field after an apparent injury against the Washington Nationals in the second inning on April 30, 2017. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The injury Grim Reaper has revisited the 2017 Mets in the same merciless fashion it did a year ago. After trying to play through it, Yoenis Cespedes headed to the disabled list with a hamstring injury, robbing the Mets lineup of its most vital component. As if that wasn’t enough, his counterpart in the Mets' staff, Noah Syndergaard, had to be removed early from a start on Sunday due to elbow discomfort that had caused him to have a handful of other starts pushed back through the week. The hope is that both can return in short order, because the Mets have suddenly stumbled into the bottom of the NL East. With a four-game trip to Atlanta on the horizon, the hopes should be that another swoon is on deck for the Braves so the Mets can take advantage of early in the week.

Philadelphia Phillies 

It’s hard to not feel sorry for the Phillies right now. Just as they had picked up the pace by sweeping the Braves and Marlins, they fell into the most brutal slate of scheduling that the National League is capable of. Now, not only are they coming out of a weekend sweep at the hands of the Dodgers, they now move into a run where seven of their next nine games are against the Cubs and Nationals. It is scheduling trips such as these that can either demoralize a young team such as this, or set them up for a couple majorly motivating wins.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh continues to be a 'hard to predict' proposition. In the past week, they lost to the Cubs by the score of 14-3 and 1-0 on back-to-back days, experiencing the full gamut of losing emotions within 24 hours. They rebounded from that by taking two of three from the Marlins and steadying themselves out some in the big picture, as they have gone 5-5 over their last 10 games and are still only 2.5 games behind in the wide-open NL Central. But if they are to capitalize on that situation, they’ll have to do so without their top hitter in David Freese, who hit the 10 day DL on Saturday due to hamstring difficulties.

San Diego Padres 

It's pretty easy to connect the dots with the Padres' issues: they don't have a very prolific offense and give up far too many runs far too often. Because of this, they own the worst run differential in baseball at -34 on the year. They have only won three times this year when having to outscore their opponent by four or more runs. The good news? Two of those times came in the past week, so maybe a turnaround is in the works.

San Francisco Giants 

Things did not go as bad as they potentially could have this week, as the Giants worked out a split against the Dodgers to open things up. They still failed to cash-in on a chance to really get things back on track, after a bad 12-4 loss at the hands of the Padres kept them from finishing off a sweep over the weekend. The most bittersweet news of the week came with the diagnosis of Madison Bumgarner's shoulder injury. He won’t require surgery, but will still be out of action until July at the earliest.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have been sneaky good of late, and possess a record that is not quite as indicative of the level they have played at recently. They have won their last three series, but much of it has been a device of: a) a downswing in level of competition, and b) a knack for overcoming self-created issues. The club leads the majors in multi-error games so far, but still are positioned just behind the Cubs in the NL Central. It is a temporary positive outcome, from a team that still needs to be more consistent not just day-to-day, but also moment-to-moment.

Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper gestures after his home run during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets, Sunday, April 30, 2017, in Washington.  AP Photo/Nick Wass

It is early on, but the Nationals look like something special. Bryce Harper is playing better than he did at any point during his MVP campaign two years ago, Trea Turner is a firecracker atop the lineup and Ryan Zimmerman is leading the NL in all Triple Crown categories. Anthony Rendon made his stamp on affairs Sunday, as he wrapped three home runs (and nearly a fourth), while driving in 10. So it is no surprise that they have an MLB-best +48 run differential, along with a comfortable 4.5 game lead in the NL East. Saturday brought forward a huge loss in the form of Adam Eaton, who will miss an indeterminate amount of time with a left knee strain. Considering the price that they paid to acquire him this offseason, and how much of a need area center field was (and now is again) in D.C., this could be a formidable issue for a team that has such potential.

2017 top MLB prospects
QUIZ: Name the youngest and oldest player on every team's 2017 Opening Day Roster

Young and old. Rookie and veteran. Two essential ingredients of every roster to help survive the 162 games out of the regular season wilderness and into the postseason and World Series glory.

Can you name the youngest and oldest player on the 2017 Opening Roster of all 30 MLB teams?

Clue: Team-Age-Position

Brandon Drury
Fernando Rodney
Dansby Swanson
Bartolo Colon
Dylan Bundy
J.J. Hardy
Andrew Benintendi
Chris Young
Albert Almora
Koji Uehara
Tim Anderson
James Shields
Jose Peraza
Scott Feldman
Francisco Lindor
Edwin Encarnacion
German Marquez
Mark Reynolds
Daniel Norris
Victor Martinez
Carlos Correa
Carlos Beltran
Raul Mondesi Jr.
Chris Young
Cam Bedrosian
Albert Pujols
Corey Seager
Chase Utley
Christian Yelich
Ichiro Suzuki
Orlando Arcia
Carlos Torres
Byron Buxton
Matt Belisle
Robert Gsellman
Curtis Granderson
Luis Severino
Matt Holliday
Frankie Montas
Santiago Casilla
Edubray Ramos
Joaquin Benoit
Tyler Glasnow
Chris Stewart
Luis Torrens
Jered Weaver
Joe Panik
Aaron Hill
Edwin Diaz
Carlos Ruiz
Sam Tuivailala
Adam Wainwright
Daniel Robertson
Rickie Weeks
Nomar Mazara
Mike Napoli
Aaron Sanchez
Jason Grilli
Trea Turner
Jayson Werth

Matt Whitener is St. Louis-based writer, radio host and 12-6 curveball enthusiast. He has been covering Major League Baseball since 2010, and dabbles in WWE, NBA and other odd jobs as well. Follow Matt on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.


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