Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .230/.272/.443
Team ERA: 3.29
Runs per game: 3.8
Daniel Murphy, 2B: .435 AVG, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 1.197 OPS
So uh, what Murphy is doing these days is downright ridiculous. Not only has he continued to rake, but he's doing so at a record pace: The Nats second baseman tied the franchise mark with 47 hits in a single month, entering June with an MLB-best .397 average.
Per CSN reseacher Rich Goldberg, here are the only players since 1995 with to hit .397 or better through May 31:
|Name||Year||Avg. thru 5/31||Final avg.|
Not bad company that Murphy keeps. In fact, of the names listed above, Jones, Helton and Gwynn would go on to win the batting title.
It's easy to forget now that the former Met wasn't even the Nats' first choice when they were exploring options at second base last winter. After all, Washington went after Ben Zobrist and Brandon Phillips before eventually signing Murphy to a three-year, $37.5 million deal. A few months later, the 31-year-old not only appears to be an early shoe-in for the All-Star Game, but for plenty of other accolades down the road if he keeps this up.
Joe Ross, SP: 2-0, 14.0 IP, 2 ER, 9 K
Not many figured that Ross would be the starter in the Nats rotation with the lowest ERA at 2.32. Then again, exceeding expectations is what the 23-year-old right hander has done ever since he was called up to the big leagues last June.
After a four-game skid, Ross put together back-to-back quality outings to raise his record to 5-4. He not only notched wins on those starts, but he yielded just two runs runs over 14 innings. Perhaps the most impressive thing about him over the last week was his ability to work his way out of late-inning jams unscathed. Whether it was a big strikeout or a key double play ball, he showed a knack for wiggling out of trouble just as Dusty Baker pondered making an early call to the bullpen. That's another great sign for a young arm that continues to show promise with each and every time he takes the mound.
Felipe Rivero, RP: 4 GP, 3.2 IP, 0 ER, 5 K
Relievers don't always get mentioned here, but Rivero has carved out a niche as Baker's go-to bullpen choice of late. And for the most part, he's been getting the job done. He's allowed just two hits in his last seven outings while striking out nine and walking none. And in the last two weeks, he's dropped his season ERA from 5.09 to 3.60.
That said, the one concern regarding Rivero is that he's been called upon a bullpen-high 27 times — just over half of the games played this season. We'll see if his usage rate remains this way as the season progresses, but it's obvious that the hard-throwing lefty has already become an integral part of the Nats' relief corps.
Gio Gonzalez, SP: 0-1, 6 ER, 4.2 IP
For the first time this season, Gonzalez has found himself in a bit of a funk. In back-to-back starts against the Mets and Cardinals, he surrendered a combined 13 runs, raising his ERA from 1.86 to 3.57. In those outings, he looked strikingly similar to the Gio of previous years, battling pitch inefficiency and location issues. And against the Cards in particular, his biggest bugaboo was that he couldn't finish batters when he was ahead in the count, allowing three runs in two-out, two-strike situations.