The Nationals' past week, at a glance:
Team slash: .298/.365/.450
Team ERA: 3.77
Runs per game: 5.0
Opponent runs per game: 4.4
Opponent slash: .262/.323/.375
Tanner Roark, RP: 0-0/1.69 ERA/1.31 WHIP/5.1 IP/5 K
Row-ark has emerged as quite the valuable bullpen piece, and while he isn't always called upon in the highest-leverage situations, the quality innings that he has been able to give manager Davey Johnson have been huge. The reliever has vultured four wins in his short time with the big club, but even more amazing is the fact that only one of his nine appearances has been for just a single inning. Relievers who can get four-plus outs are rare these days -- more rare than they should be, at least -- and Roark's ability to go 2, 3, and even four innings is a weapon for sure. Also encouraging: I called out Roark a few weeks ago for lacking swing-and-miss stuff, and he has promptly proven otherwise. All five of his strikeouts this week (all over 3.1 innings in the big loss to the Mets) were of the swinging variety.
Ian Desmond, SS: 12-29/1 HR/6 RBI/.433 OBP/.985 OPS
Desmond's dinger brought his season total to 20, leaving him just five short of last year's career-high total. With another two thefts on the basepaths, he'll have a second consecutive 20/20 season -- an impressive achievement still well within reach. Desi passed up an easy chance to pad those stats over the weekend: Standing on second after his career-high 34th double, he ignored the crowd's chants of "Take! Third!" despite the fact that the Mets, in a hard shift with Adam LaRoche at the plate, were leaving third base to its own devices. LaRoche grounded out, as he is wont to do, and the inning ended.
Jayson Werth, OF: 8-28/2 HR/7 RBI/.323 OBP/.894 OPS
I considered many for the final hot spot, and found several deserving candidates; Denard Span now has hits in 16 consecutive games (in which he has at least one plate appearance), and Ryan Zimmerman is swinging the bat well (.379 average in the past week), but neither is plating runs the way Werth is. The right fielder is the team's best player right now, and if it wasn't clear before that the Nats will go as far as he is able to take them, it is now. Werth actually went hitless in three games this week -- and the Nats dropped all three games, including a pair of one-run losses.
Dan Haren, SP: 0-1/27.00 ERA/3.86 WHIP/2.2 IP/3 K
Hotter than hot just two weeks ago, Haren has gone from the sauna to the ice bath since. After dominating for much of August, the big righty suffered through the worst start of his up-and-down season on Saturday, with the Mets tagging him for nine hits and seven earned runs over 2.2 innings. After the game, Johnson termed the loss "a thousand little paper cuts." Of the nine hits Haren surrendered, just one went for extra bases, but the Mets used aggressive baserunning to make sure their singles counted. Base hits don't have to hurt, but when allowed in bunches -- as they were Saturday -- they can be every bit as fatal as moonshots.
Adam LaRoche, 1B: 2-21/1 XBH/1 RBI/.240 OBP/.383 OPS
Oh, Adam. Such a key cog a year ago (33 HR, 100 RBI, .271 AVG), he just hasn't gotten it done this year, and is likely on pace to post the lowest full-season home run total in several years. Teams are shifting aggressively against him, which has no doubt contributed to his abhorrently low .118 BABIP, but which also means that that number isn't as due for a correction as would otherwise be assumed. He hasn't always hit for a high average, so it's his 105-point drop in slugging that is most concerning.
Ryan Mattheus, RP: 0-0/1 BSv/12.27 ERA/3.00 WHIP/3.2 IP/0 K
I don't want to pile on Mattheus, but it has become increasingly clear that he does not belong in a major league bullpen right now. It's not that he's making opponents look like Hall of Famers; it's that the .500/.524/.700 line he's currently allowing suggest hitters have some sort of otherworldly cheat code on him. One of the biggest problems is that he's not striking anyone out, and continuing to trot out a reliever who can't retire batters at home plate is a bit like putting a declawed cat outside. A reliever who can't strike guys out isn't a reliever, he's a batting practice pitcher -- and that's exactly what we're seeing right now with Mattheus.