Gio Gonzalez got rocked Sunday as did the entire Nationals team this weekend (USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGE)
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Are the Atlanta Braves (11-1) better than the Washington Nationals (7-5) at this very moment? Absolutely. Danny Espinosa and most of the Nats players will disagree, but there's no denying Atlanta's mastery on the diamond this weekend.
They pounce on mistakes, mash extra base hits, boast an MVP candidate in Justin Upton and a Rookie of the Year contender in Evan Gattis. They take leads with sharp starting pitching and hand it off to their unhittable bullpen, who so far has been an impenetrable wall. Seriously though. It's like first and goal once closer Craig Kimbrel enters the game.
There's no reason to feel alarmed if you are a Washington Nationals player or an obsessive fan. Feeling embarrassed or down is allowed. Going forward there are three issues to keep an eye on.
1) Ryan Zimmerman is closer to 50 percent than he is to 100 percent
I don't care what he says, what Davey Johnson says, what Mike Rizzo says. Anyone who has watched the Nationals play for the last several seasons can tell that Zimmerman is ghastly uncomfortable making throws from third base. Even further, it's his power numbers at the plate that are also telling of his nagging shoulder injury -- 0 home runs, a team low .317 slugging percentage and just 13 total bases in 12 games played.
By no means am I suggesting he be replaced. And Zim has contended that this bothersome injury will only get better with time. But what about one of those magical cortisone shots which worked wonders in 2012? I'm obviously not a medical expert, but some type of remedy may be needed for Zimmerman if the struggles continue. And if they do persist, and he's hurting the team, he has to come forward and say' I need some rest.' Because it'll be impossible for Davey Johnson to judge how much pain Zimmerman really is dealing with.
2) Davey Johnson trusts his bullpen too much
Friday's game five NLDS flashback/meltdown/nightmare/torture might have been prevented if Johnson let his starter Ross Detwiler continue pitching. After six innings of one run baseball, Johnson pulled the plug on Detwiler after just 82 pitches. The 27-year-old is not your run-of-the-mill fifth starter -- he saved the Nats season in game four of the playoffs and would arguably be the Orioles ace. I've nicknamed him Dart-wiler. Right handed hitters are batting just .189 in 37 plate appearances. He could have lasted eight strong innings.
In fact not one Nationals starter has gone past the seventh inning so far this season. If more bullpen troubles arise, Johnson HAS to lengthen the strict leash he puts on his starting pitchers.
3) The Nationals lead the league in errors
Twelve errors! Twelve in 12 games. But check this out, the three teams closest to the Nats? The Angels (3-8) have 11, the Marlins (2-10) have 11 and the Cubs (4-7) have 10. Errors lose you games -- ask Ryan Zimmerman or Bill Buckner. Washington has gold glove caliber talent all around the diamond. Don't put stock into believing these defensive gaffes will continue.