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With offense now surging, Nationals are downright dangerous

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

On this our nation's birthday, doesn't it seem patriotic to sing the praises of a team from our capital sporting the name Nationals, along with red, white and blue uniforms? I feel like it does. So let's do just that.

The Nationals have now taken the first two games in a series against the first-place Giants, who headed to D.C. having won seven of their last 10 games. Washington is now 47-32, sporting a 4.5-game lead in the NL East and the best record in the National League.

The most encouraging movement is that now the offense has become very dangerous.

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Heading to the thin air of Colorado did something to uncork the offensive prowess of these Nationals. In their past eight games -- the first three of which came in Colorado -- they have scored 69 runs. Not surprisingly, they've won six of those games, because the offense had previously been the weakness.

I say this because the Nationals entered Wednesday ranked 10th in the National League in runs scored and eighth in OPS. And this is after that recent surge, too. They were toward the bottom of the NL in most offensive categories throughout much of the first half. The recent surge isn't a fluke, though, because of the re-emergence of two sluggers: Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse.

Zimmerman had struggled through the early portion of the season. But in his past 10 games, he is hitting .370/.408/.739 with five doubles, four home runs, 11 runs and 16 RBI. We've seen what Zimmerman -- a two-time Silver Slugger winner -- can do with the bat before.

Morse spent most of the first half on the disabled list, and then had a slow start upon his return. In his last eight games, though, he's hitting .457/.486/.743 with three homers, nine RBI and 10 runs. Those three homers have come in the last six games, too, so he may be on the verge of a serious power surge.

With these two hitting well, the Nationals have a scary 2-6 in the order, which is Bryce Harper, Zimmerman, Morse, Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond. And that word, scary, is apt to describe how good the Nationals can be when teaming a good offense with that pitching staff.

Heading into Wednesday, the Nationals ranked first in the NL in ERA and WHIP. They were the only team in the NL holding opponents to an on-base percentage of lower than .300 and were allowing opponents to hit a meager .229 off them.

Keep in mind, the Nationals are getting back solid reliever Drew Storen soon, and it shouldn't be much longer before All-Star outfielder Jayson Werth returns.

So is it a special season in our nation's capital? I'd say a playoff berth from a ballclub that has never had a winning record or finished better than third in Washington would qualify. And the numbers say they're well on their way.

In the past five seasons, 14 teams have started 47-32 or better in Major League Baseball. Of those 14, only the 2010 Red Sox failed to make the playoffs, finishing third in the mighty AL East behind the Rays and Yankees. With a second wild card this season, don't count on the Nats falling that far.

The Washington Nationals are for real. And they appear to have the staying power to make the playoffs this season.

What better time than Independence Day to hammer home the point.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.

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