The Nationals eight-game winning streak ended Sunday evening thanks to an 8-5 loss in the second half of a doubleheader.  It was a true doubleheader–two games for one ticket–even though the Nats lineup has had a split-squad feel to it as of late.  Friday’s lineup card included Tyler Moore, Matt den Dekker, Clint Robinson and the quick substitution of Dan Uggla for an injured Yunel Escobar (nothing like replacing the replacement).  Anthony Rendon’s return to the disabled list smacks of 2014 when Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman combined to play 161 games.  Just last week Harper missed 3 games while Denard Span (who began the year on the DL) missed a pair as well.  This when added to the month-plus remaining on Jayson Werth’s stay on the Disabled List, it’s amazing they were able to put together 25 runs over their 6 games last week.  A total that ties the team with Cincinnati for 20th in the Majors.  Thank goodness the Nats’ highly touted rotation threw zeroes on the board for almost a week.

Dissecting the Division– the Nats lead the NL East by two and a half games over the New York Mets–who have gotten hot again (4 straight wins) after giving up the division lead last weekend.  Atlanta ended its five game losing streak with a win Sunday–and stands six games back.  Miami and Philadelphia now that both teams have new managers are officially looking forward to 2016.  And you thought the Presidential election cycle was drawn out…

Last Week’s Hero— Stephen Strasburg came off the Disabled List with a bang– striking out 6 over 5 innings against Atlanta Tuesday before notching a season-high 9 K’s over 7 frames Sunday at Philadelphia (his longest outing since April 19th against the Phillies).  He looks a lot more like the pitcher that lead the NL in strikeouts last year than the guy who had trouble reaching the 5th inning earlier this season.  The key to the new Strasburg might not be his throwing mechanics or his approach to hitters but the fact he shaved his goatee.  Do not underestimate the power of facial hair (or lack thereof).

Last Week’s Humbled– HISTORY IS MADE on the Nats Notebook!  The first non-National wins the award, and with just cause:  Philadelphia‘s a massive mess of a franchise.  Not only do they own the worst record in the majors, their manager jumped ship (will they replace Ryne Sandberg with Ivan DeJesus for nostalgia’s sake?  Would they have to send Sandberg to Chicago with Larry Bowa to complete the circle?) before the weekend (he must have a sweet cookout planned).  The team despite rain in the forecast for Saturday tried to play the 3:05 game (last week’s “Game to Miss”)–and burned Nats starter Gio Gonzalez’s turn in the rotation.  The lefthander pitched one inning before the game was called–creating Sunday’s doubleheader and rotation scramble.  After all, the Phillies were mad that the Nats played “soft rock” during their batting practice in DC this year…if “Holding Back the Years” puts you in a mindset to miscalculate rainouts, you’re missing the point of the power of Simply Red.  I’ll keep…holding on…

Game to Watch– Saturday at 11:05 am Stephen Strasburg pitches against San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner.  Fourth of July.  A morning gametime so you don’t have to skip the pool/bbq/cookout festivities.  Will Strasburg continue his post-DL resurgence?  Bumgarner comes to DC after striking out 8 over 7 and 2 thirds innings in a win over Colorado–and he’s also a beast with his bat:  since the start of 2014 he’s hitting .250 with 6 HR and 18 RBI over 50 games (19 and 58 projected over a 162 game season).  This should be a fun duel in the midday sun.

Game to Miss– so many intriguing matchups.  Every Max Scherzer start is must-see.  One can’t deny the excitement of Fister-Wisler II (“This time it’s Personal”) and the opportunity to enjoy seltzer and salsa at the same time.  I’m curious how Gio Gonzalez bounces back from essentially missing a start–even though Jake Peavy is a shell of what was once a shell of his former self (0-2 with a 9.39 ERA).  That leaves the reliable Jordan Zimmermann– and I’m not missing his duel with Shelby Miller and his 1.94 ERA Tuesday night.  That leaves Sunday’s matchup with San Francisco’s Ryan Vogelsong.  Looks like I’m hiking Teddy Roosevelt Island that day.