Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .253/.367/.474
Team ERA: 3.23
Runs per game: 5.3
Anthony Rendon, 2B: .333 AVG/ 2 HR/ 5 RBI
Ah, so this is the guy who finished fifth in NL MVP voting last year. For the first time all season, Rendon is finally showing what makes him one of the best infield bats in the NL. When he's on, it puts pitchers in serious conflict: Should they challenge Rendon, or deal with Bryce Harper, who hits right behind him? It's the scenario the Nats were hoping for much earlier in the season, but is only just coming to fruition right now.
Bryce Harper, RF: .375 AVG/ 1.153 OPS
Speaking of Harper, has he ever gone into a slump this season? It doesn't really feel like it, despite the rest of the lineup's struggles. At 22, he's been the steadying force for an offense that has had its issues for most of 2015. His NL MVP case might be hurt a bit by the team's decline, with voters typically gravitating towards players on playoff clubs. But Harper's numbers might be too good to deny, especially considering how they outpace other Nats hitters by a wide margin.
Wilson Ramos, C: .353 AVG/ 2 HR/ 1.215 OPS
The good news for Ramos this season? He's managed to stay healthy. The bad news? He's yet to establish himself as one of the best power-hitting catchers in the game as some thought he could be. Not that he hasn't been trying. He's been efforting to rediscover his power stroke from earlier in his career (particularly 2011 and 2013), trying to figure out what was working well in those years compared to what he's been doing lately. And if this past week is any indication, perhaps it's starting to pay off. He's hit home runs in back-to-back games -- the first time he's done that all season.
Gio Gonzalez, SP: 5.0 IP/ 0-1/ 7.20 ERA
It seemed like Gio had a solid run for a while where he was quietly establishing himself one of the more consistent starters in the rotation. But after a recent rough patch -- he's 0-2 in his last two starts and has allowed 10 earned runs combined -- he finds himself listed here. When Gonzalez is off, he exhibits the same old problems; he doesn't throw his curve ball for strikes, he struggles to command the zone and he's not particularly pitch efficient. As Nats fans know, this is not the time for anyone on the staff to have a hiccup. The margin for error for each game is razor thin, so the rotation has no choice but to be at its best the last few weeks of the season if the club hopes to play in October.