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Nats are a model of consistency

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Nats are a model of consistency

Some 5 12 weeks ago, the Nationals opened what they knew would be as daunting a stretch of baseball as any team was likely to face this season: 33 consecutive games against opponents from only the NL East and AL East, all of them boasting winning records at some point.

Well, that stretch -- it wound up as only 32 games because of a rainout against the Braves -- finally came to an end yesterday in Baltimore. And what did we learn about the Nationals throughout it all?

If anything, we learned this club is remarkably consistent, and that should be a harbinger of things to come.

When the stretch began on May 18, the Nationals were 23-15, a half-game back of Atlanta in the NL East. Their pitching staff boasted a 2.94 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, best in the majors. Their lineup had produced a .243 batting average, .316 on-base percentage and .699 OPS, ranking in the bottom third of the league.

How did they do during this stretch? Well, their record was 18-14, which was good enough to catapult themselves into first place and a 3 12-game lead over the Mets. Their pitching staff, meanwhile, posted a 2.96 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, still best in the majors. And that lineup continued to struggle, hitting a collective .231 with a .288 on-base percentage and .680 OPS that still ranks among the lowest in the league.

Honestly, there's not that much difference between the way the Nationals performed during their first 38 games and during these latest 32 games. Which should be viewed as an encouraging sign.

Against tough competition every single night, they continue to pitch better than anyone else in the sport. Sure, it would be nice if that lineup produced just a bit more and gave the pitching staff a little bit of cushion -- that would've come in handy during yesterday's 2-1 loss at Camden Yards -- but this is a team that nearly halfway through the season has established it can win in spite of its sub-par offense.

If there's been one disturbing trend, it's probably the Nationals' overall struggles against baseball's other elite clubs. The three best teams they've played this season are the Yankees, Dodgers and Orioles. Their record against those three clubs is 2-10. Against everyone else in the sport, they're 39-19.

The good news is that they're beating the teams they're supposed to beat. The bad news is they're not beating the kind of teams that might stand in their way come October.

Then again, if the worst complaint Nationals fans have right now is that their team looks good enough to get to October (but perhaps not good to get through October), this franchise has made some gargantuan strides over the last 70 games.

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Rain knocks out another Phillies-Nationals game

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Rain knocks out another Phillies-Nationals game

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals and Phillies are 2-for-2.

Tuesday night's game was postponed following a two-hour rain delay. Monday's game was postponed after a three-hour rain delay.

Tuesday's game will be made up as part of a split day-night doubleheader Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., bumping a four-game series to a five-game series. The Nationals and Phillies are scheduled to also play a split day-night doubleheader Wednesday.

The day was not without news. Nationals ace Max Scherzer broke his nose in batting practice when a ball bounced off his bat and struck him in the face. Scherzer was attempting to bunt at the time.

Scherzer's injury and the multiple postponements throw the Nationals' pitching plans into disarray. They're not sure if Scherzer will pitch as expected Wednesday. It appears Austin Voth, who was scratched from his Thursday start for Triple-A Fresno, will be available to pitch in one of the Wednesday games -- should they be played. More rain is expected Wednesday.

The Nationals will bump Patrick Corbin, who was slated to pitch again Tuesday, into a Wednesday spot. Wednesday's other starter is TBA. It could be Scherzer if he is ready. It could be Erick Fedde, and Voth could be used in the bullpen as the 26th man. That would provide Scherzer a chance to pitch Thursday and Strasburg on Friday against Atlanta. 

Or, Scherzer could be provided more time off. There's a lot to sort out once again thanks to the rain.

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It's been 13 years since Ryan Zimmerman hit his first career walk-off HR

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It's been 13 years since Ryan Zimmerman hit his first career walk-off HR

On June 18, 2006, a 21-year-old Ryan Zimmerman beat the New York Yankees with one swing. The once rising star who would later be nicknamed 'Mr. Walk-Off' launched his first career game-winning home run 13 years ago today. 

The blast marked the 10th long-ball of his big league career and came on Father's Day with his dad, Keith, in the stands. 

Fast forward to 2019 and the now 34-year-old owns a .279 career batting average with 267 home runs. 

But 2019 hasn't given him much of a chance to add to those totals, seeing how he's played in just 22 games after being placed on the 10-day Injured List April 28 because of plantar fasciitis

His recovery, though, is well underway. NBC Sports Washington's Todd Dybas reported Tuesday that the first baseman ran the bases and will do so again Wednesday. If these drills go well, look for the veteran to begin a rehab assignment as part of his continued efforts to return to help the Nationals make a run in his 15th season. 

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