The Nationals have been carried by their starting pitching. Stephen Strasburg looks like he hasn't lost a thing since his Tommy John surgery over a year ago, starting out 2-0 with a 1.43 ERA in 3 starts (3 ER in 19 IP). Ross Detwiler, who made the rotation in spite of being the 7th starter going into spring training, (trailing Chien-Ming Wang who is on the DL and John Lannan who is in AAA) is 2-0 with 0.56 ERA in 3 starts (1 ER in 16 IP). Gio Gonzalez has pitched like an ace, going 1-0, 2.04, 3, 4 ER in 17 2/3 IP with 21 Ks. Jordan Zimmermann, despite an 0-1 record, has an ERA of 1.29 in 3 starts (3 ER in 21 IP). Edwin Jackson, who has the team's only complete game, will give the team quality innings, if not flash.
The injury to closer Drew Storen has opened people's eyes to reliever Henry Rodriguez. I have said all along this guy was a closer in the making, but it was hard for him to stand out behind Storen, Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett and even Brad Lidge. He has become the closer and hasn't given up an earned run in 8 games, notching 4 saves after unseating the veteran Lidge. Even without Storen, this team has a deep bullpen and will be able to hold a lot of leads.
The only issue I have with the pitching staff is its youth and what MLB does now to its younger pitchers. Guys like Zimmermann, Strasburg and even Detwiler will be on innings limits which may put them without their services in September. It will be interesting to see what an old school manager like Davey Johnson does of the Nationals are leading the NL East or in a series pennant race in late August, early September. He normally would never go for this, but he may go the corporate route unless he changes his mind and wants to be the manager here long term.
The Nationals are winning also without the services of OF Michael Morse, who may be out longer than expected. The 30 year old hit a career high 31 HRs last year and will be needed to stablize the middle of the order. Though star 3B Ryan Zimmerman is off to a slow start (.224 (13-58), 1 HR, 7 RBI) after signing his long extension, and 2B Danny Espinosa (.216 (11-51), 1 HR, 2 RBI) and C Wilson Ramos (.216 (8-37), 1 HR, 4 RBI) have struggled, the Nationals are scoring enough runs for their pitchers to win games. Adam LaRoche is driving in runs (13 in 14 games) and SS Ian Desmond and RF Jayson Werth are off to solid starts. Morse needs to come back, though, since they need more of a power threat and they cannot win Championships with the players they are running out in CF and RF.
The pitching could very well stay hot. The main concern is when they pull the plug on the younger starters, if at all. You'd like to thing they will with Strasburg. Detwiler is young and hasn't pitched a full MLB season yet. Perhaps Zimmermann is on no limit for the first time in his career. A guy like Wang will be able to eat up innings if and when he comes back. I see the Nationals being in thins race all season, since their starting pitching is for real. The more the Phillies struggle, the more I start to believe this team could really take the NL East.