Baseball is a sport where a division leader loses two of three to a cellar dweller and nobody blinks.  Instead one is more focused on the cramping of Stephen Strasburg’s leg, the porous pitching on display Sunday and Trea Turner’s inability to merit another at-bat after going 3 for 3 with a walk Friday night.  Now that Ryan Zimmerman’s back from paternity leave (congrats to the new addition to #11’s lineup), Turner can go back to smoking AAA pitching on a daily basis.  To quote Jed Bartlet, “What’s next”?

Dissecting the Division- the Nats lead the Mets by two games in the NL East…and even though Matt Harvey has pitched much better in his last two starts, third baseman David Wright is done for the next 6-8 weeks with neck issues.  They were ranking 28th in the Majors in runs scored with a hobbled Wright–what now?  Miami is four games off the pace but their -16 run differential is the red mark that isn’t washing away anytime soon.  The Phillies are six back and slip under the .500 mark after dropping 8 of their last 10…one would not be surprised if they were to stay underwater for the rest of the season.  Atlanta?  They are trending, having won 7 of their last 19 after starting 9-28.  Baby steps.

Division to Watch- the NL Central is home to the juggernaut that is the Chicago Cubs. A 39-16 start may not be the exact equal of the Detroit Tigers of 1984 (35-5), but Joe Maddon’s crew is making the Barry Goldwater lookalike seem rather smart for batting his pitcher 8th (In your heart, you know he’s right).  But like the great lobster dinner that often dismisses the oyster appetizer and delicious beverages, the division also boasts two wildcard contenders in Pittsburgh and St Louis.  Both the Pirates and Cardinals are clubs are familiar with recent runs to the playoffs…and it wouldn’t be a shock to see the two teams playing in the Wildcard game.  With the victor providing a serious challenge for the Cubs.

Last Week’s Heroes-  Wilson Ramos hits .450 with 2 HR and 6 RBI to continue to be the best advertisement ever for Lasik surgery.  Nats catchers this season rank 3rd in MLB in OPS (on base percentage + slugging) and Ramos should be receiving serious consideration for the All Star team.  Daniel Murphy delivered another ho-hum .360 with 3 HR and 7 RBI week (getting so old).  Sammy Solis came out of the bullpen Sunday to stop the bleeding and toss three scoreless innings to help the team avoid getting swept by Cincinnati.  Sammy’s ERA for the weekend? 0.00.  The rest of the team?  9.41.  The kid stays in the picture.

Last Week’s Humbled- Ben Revere’s troubles continue as he hits .100 with just 2 runs scored.  The Nats’ leadoff position ranks last in the majors with a .184 batting average through 57 games.  That is a serious sore spot.  Reliever Felipe Rivero coughs up 5 earned runs over 3 innings of work out of the bullpen.  Thank goodness for him he’s a lefty.

Game to Watch- Wednesday in Chicago, Max Scherzer pitches against the White Sox.  Which Max will we get?  The one who posts double digits in strikeouts or the one who coughs up multiple home runs?  Sometimes we get both in the same outing.  The Pale Hose trot out recent pickup James Shields–who is 2-7 with a 4.28 ERA to start the season.  He wrapped up his tenure with San Diego by allowing 10 runs before being yanked in the 3rd inning.  That is how you make an ignominious exit. 

Game to Miss- Thursday Gio Gonzalez pitches against the White Sox’ Carlos Rodon.  Something has to give– Gio’s dropped three straight decisions while Rodon has lost five of six.  I’ll also be watching on-demand the season finale of the best show on television– “The Americans”.  If you don’t check out this show about a 1980’s Falls Church, Virginia couple who work in DuPont Circle but may have other things going on– you’re missing out.  If only for their teenage son who tries to imitate Eddie Murphy doing “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood” bits.

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