Something about the air in June.  Schools are getting out and the pools are open (although the water remains frigid).  After a May where the weather made one want to listen to “Baker Street”, June has us rocking to Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend”- which after Memorial Day often begins on Thursday.  At noon.  The endless summer ahead has the Nats’ bats blowing up as well this month:  2nd in the majors in batting and runs scored.  The lineup that took a while to gel is finally finding itself and getting hot as the weather does likewise.  Break out the sunglasses and sunscreen.  

Digesting the Division- the sweep of Philadelphia gives the Nats a 39-24 record (tied for second best in the majors) and a four and a half game lead over the Mets.  New York is the only other NL East team not to have a losing record over its last ten games (5-5).  Their pitching alone (second in the majors in staff ERA) gives them sticking power throughout the summer months, while their bats (28th in runs scored) leave a lot to be desired.  The other three clubs?  Miami’s dropped two straight and 6 of 10, Philadelphia’s lost four straight and 7 of 10 and Atlanta just completed another 2-8 lurch.  Although let the record show that after taking 37 games to post nine victories under Fredi Gonzalez, they’ve only taken 25 games to notch 9 games under interim skipper Brian Snitker (who sounds like a minor character from the latter seasons of 90210).

Division to Watch- the team the Nats are tied with for the second best record in the bigs?  Your former Washington Senators, the Texas Rangers.  Ranking 7th in the majors in runs scored and 10th in ERA, the defending division champs are beginning to pull away.  Their five game lead over second place Seattle is the largest in the American League;  for comparison both fourth place teams in the AL East and Central are within six games of the leaders.  Houston, the Angels and Oakland are all under five hundred and resemble swimmers with anvils tied to their bellies.  While Nomar Mazara leads the club in hitting and home runs, it’s former National Ian Desmond who paces the Rangers with 42 RBI.  When Ian and the Nats parted ways it was a tough but necessary break…and there are many of those in and around the beltway happy for his safe landing.

Last Week’s Heroes- Jayson werth hit .500 with a homer and 8 RBI, jumpstarted Friday’s rally with a 2-run double and drove in the game-winning run Sunday.  He also had a sweet catch in left field Friday night to avoid more bleeding for what was a staggering Stephen Strasburg at that moment.  Danny Espinosa hit .429 with 3 HR. Prime pitching performances came in the form of Tanner Roark (7 strikeouts over 7 innings Saturday in the heat) and Max Scherzer (6 K in 7 scoreless against the White Sox Wednesday).  Some weeks you almost run out of gold stars and smiley faces.

Last Week’s Humbled- Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos have been hitting 5th and 6th lately, with the two occasionally being flip-flopped.  Last week was not awesome for either:  Zim hit .111 while Ramos batted .176 in prime RBI spots.  Joe Ross (5.09 ERA in two no-decisions) had two rough outings after winning his two previous starts.  Felipe Rivero (allowing a 2-run HR Friday against the Phils) and Shawn Kelley (16.20 ERA in two appearances) were less than stellar over the last seven days.  Blame the heat.

Game to Watch- Wednesday it’s the series finale for the duel of division leaders:  Stephen Strasburg pitches against the Cubs against Jason Hammel (7-2, 2.36 ERA).  After getting broomed in the windy city earlier this month, will the Nats have the necessary answers this time in DC?  Can Strasburg continue his incredible start and turn his record up to 11-0?  And will Bryce Harper see a pitch within five feet of the strike zone?

Game to Miss- Sunday Gio Gonzalez (four straight losses) and the Nats wrap up a series in Milwaukee against Drew Pomeranz (one win in his last five starts).  As if that wasn’t inspirational enough, the 4:40 gametime also seriously conflicts with the final round of the US Open.  In the one major championship that Tiger Woods was never able to successfully defend, can Jordan Spieth win back to back titles?  On the five year anniversary of his tear through Congressional, will Rory McIlroy return to reclaim his crown?  Or will 2016 be the year we finally see Phil Mickelson celebrate a Father’s Day triumph?  Sorry, Gio…

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