The Washington Nationals have yet to play their best baseball, but after trailing the Atlanta Braves by several games when they were under .500 just a few weeks ago, they have rebounded to climb to within one game of the National League East leaders.
Now it’s time for starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg to join his teammates by returning to the ace status he displayed last season.
His 3.10 ERA isn’t horrible by any stretch — in fact, it’s better than the mark he posted last year — but his 1-5 record proves that he hasn’t yet regained the form that put him in Cy Young contention in 2012. Then again, if the Nationals don’t start giving him more run support — they’ve averaged just 2.3 runs over Strasburg’s first eight starts — then it may not matter how well the 24-year-old pitches.
Especially against the streaking San Diego Padres.
Sure, the Padres are still only 18-21, but they are now just 4.5 games behind the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants after 13 wins in their last 19 contests.
And although their roster isn’t stacked with any big-name stars, thanks to guys like third baseman Chase Headley, whose batting average currently sits at .286 with four home runs, 12 RBIs and a .389 on-base percentage, San Diego is starting to turn things around.
Nevertheless, both the Nationals and the Padres have been inconsistent during the early part of the season. Thus, it’s just as likely one or both teams will stink up the joint when they begin a four-game weekend series on Thursday in San Diego.
Washington or San Diego could dominate the other, but one or both could struggle mightily.