May 5, 2016
After a disheartening loss like on Tuesday, when the Nationals let the Royals come from behind with a walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth inning, the rubber game on Wednesday was a true test of character. In fact, the Nats passed with flying colors, scoring six runs in the top of the first inning, with help from two K.C. infield errors to start the game. Three consecutive Nats had RBI doubles -- Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, and Jayson Werth -- and Royals pitcher Kris Medlen threw 38 pitches before getting his first out. Ouch! The Nats added four more runs in the third inning, and one in each of the three innings after that, until the final score reached 13-2. Along the way, Bryce Harper broke out of his slump, with an RBI single and a solo home run (#10), while Daniel Murphy went four for five, Ryan Zimmerman hit two doubles, and Wilson Ramos went 3 for 5. Stephen Strasburg raised his record to 4-0. (Full details at MLB.com and the Washington Post) So now Murphy's batting average is back up to nearly .400, while Ramos is batting .364 -- hot, hot, hot!
With a record of 19-8 (second only to the Cubs' record of 20-6), the Nats begin a four-game series tonight against the Cubs in Wrigley Field. The outcome of this HUGE matchup will set the tone for the rest of the month, at least.
I forget the exact numbers, but the Nationals have far more first-inning runs than any other MLB team this year. Tonight both the Blue Jays and the Reds did their best to catch up to the Nats, both scoring five runs in the first inning.
I should have previously mentioned that I updated the Washington Nationals page with data for the first full month of the 2016 season, including the head-to-head matchups. The Nats' 16-7 record (.696) was their best-ever win-loss percentage for the month of April. (Their best month ever was September 2014: 19-8, or .704.) That page also shows two new grand slams (both by Bryce Harper) and one new walk-off home run, by Clinton Robinson.
If the Nats keep flirting with the .700 mark, I'm going to have to recalibrate the winning percentage charts for each year on that page. That's the current upper limit, which few teams reach after April.