The Nationals currently hold the second-best run differential in the National League (plus-0.7 runs per game), trailing only the San Francisco Giants (plus-0.9 runs per game), who the Nats beat 2-1 last night with Doug Fister on the mound. The win brought their record to 7-2 in June and 9-3 since fans sacrificed a rubber chicken. Yes, you read that right.
We can agree that is as plausible an explanation you will find for the current win streak, but is there something else contributing to the Nats’ recent surge? Yes, pitching.
The starting rotation has been stellar. In June, the Nationals’ starters have pitched 65 innings, striking out 58 batters while walking only four for a sparkling 14.5-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio and eight strikeouts per nine innings pitched. They have also compiled a 7-1 record to go along with a 1.11 ERA.
The starters have certainly been buoyed by a plethora of groundballs. More than 53 percent of the balls put in play in June have been grounders, compared with 18.6 percent line drives and 27.5 percent flyballs. That’s help keep the home runs to a minimum (0.77 per nine innings pitched).
The bullpen has also improved, posting an ERA of 2.31 in June and 2.21 overall, an improvement of the 3.56 ERA from last season. Nats’ relievers are also doing a better job keeping inherited runners from scoring, stranding 80.2 percent in 2014 and 89 percent in June alone. That’s helped contain the damage despite having a higher than average batting average on balls in play (0.323 in June, 0.284 overall in 2014).
It’s unknown what the exact ratio of better pitching and chicken sacrificing can be contributed to the Nats’ hot streak, but I am not so sure we don’t have one without the other.