Nats Show Their Worth in Show Me State

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Hot hitting Daniel Murphy had four hits, including his fourth home run, scored four runs and drove in three to pace the Nats to a 13-2 win over the Kansas City Royals in the rubber game of the teams’ three game series at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium.

The state of Missouri has more than its share of baseball tradition.  It is the home to the Negro League Hall of Fame,  the National League’s most successful franchise in the St. Louis Cardinals and to the Kansas City Royals who have represented the American League in the two World Series showdowns.  Over the past six days however, the best team playing Major League baseball in the state has been the team with the Curly Ws on its hats.

After sweeping the Cardinals in St. Louis over the weekend, the Nats journeyed to Kansas City and won two out of three games to improve their record to 19-8 and maintain a one and a half game lead over the New York Mets in the National League East.

Some notes coming out of the series include:

-Monday’s 2-0 shutout win over the Royals was the fourth of the season for the Nats.  That total, reached on the second day of the season’s second month, is one more than the 2006 and 2009 Nationals’ staffs registered in a full season.  The most team shutouts in Nats’ history is 19, set in 2014 by the National League East championship squad.

-Gio Gonzalez has started 216 Major Leagues and on Monday, he did something he’d not done before.  Gonzalez threw six shutout innings but fanned only one Royal, making the game the first one Gonzalez has earned a win while starting and striking out one or fewer batters.  His previous low was two strikeouts in 2010 when Gonzalez earned the win in Oakland’s 6-2 victory over Texas.

-Left-handed reliever Oliver Perez recorded two key outs in his appearance on Monday, continuing a trend of very solid pitching by the veteran hurler.  Left-handed batters are hitting only .071 on the season, and Perez has retired nine (six on strikeouts) of the first batters he’s faced when entering a contest.

-Daniel Murphy has been one of the best hitters in the National League so far in 2016, and he continued his success in Kansas City as he went 8 for 13 with two doubles, two home runs and five RBI in the three games.  Other Nats with very strong results in the series were Ryan Zimmerman (7 for 14, four doubles, two RBI) and Wilson Ramos (6 for 9, two doubles, two RBI).

-Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth all homered in the Nats’ 7-6 loss to the Royals on May 3rd. Rendon’s home run was his first since September 14th of last season when he went deep at Citizens Bank Park off of the Phillies’ Aaron Nola.  Werth’s home run was his fifth of the year.  Of his last 25 home runs, 16 have come on the road.

-Bryce Harper struggled for most of the series, but hit his 10th home run of the this afternoon. The blast off of Dillon Gee was the third of Harper’s career against the former Met. Only Tom Koehler of Miami (6) and Julio Teheran of Atlanta (5) have allowed more to the reigning National League MVP.

-Superb starting pitching efforts are becoming routine for Stephen Strasburg, who earned his fifth win in as many decisions on Wednesday as he allowed the Royals only two runs in six innings pitched.  Strasburg’s WHIP on the season is at 1.00.  His career best in a season where he’s qualified for the league’s ERA title was  the 1.05 mark that he put up in 2013.

ON DECK

The Nats and the Cubs face off on Thursday night at Wrigley Field in the first of four games between the National League’s best teams so far in 2016.  Harper is hitting .333 with a 1.174 OPS in his 27 career at bats at the home of the Cubs. Both Harper and Murphy have homered in their careers off of Thursday’s Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks, although the lanky righty is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his two career starts against the Nats.

Joe Ross takes the hill tomorrow against a powerful Cubs’ lineup. Perhaps his biggest challenge will come from all-star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who is coming off a series in Pittsburgh where he had seven hits in 14 at bats with five doubles, a home run and three RBI.

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