Nationals successful during pivotal week, Mike Trout is better than ever and everything else we learned this week in MLB

We'll be taking a look at the most interesting takeaways every week this MLB season so check back every Sunday for our recap. Now, here's what we learned from Week 13 in MLB:


Nationals successful in pivotal week

Everything is finally clicking for the surging Washington Nationals, who needed a successful week (series against division rival Phillies and Braves) if they hoped to stay within shouting distance of the playoff picture. I was at Citi Field last month when the Mets completed a sweep of the Nats, and let's just say that things did not look good. They dropped to 19-31 on the season after getting swept and at that time, the team batting average was .243 while the team ERA was 4.94. Since then, Washington has turned it around, going 18-8. The team's hitting better, scoring more runs per game and they're getting more out of their pitching, especially the bullpen, which was a serious liability early on this season.

This past week, they swept the Phillies and took a game from the Braves. The Nationals are just three games back of the NL Wild Card spot, currently held by the Brewers. With this past week's recent success, Sportsline has the Nationals at a 47.1 percent chance of making the postseason while the Phillies are at 21.5 percent. The first-place Braves have a 78.3 percent chance. Entering Sunday, here's how the NL East standings shake out:

1. Atlanta Braves (45-32)

2. Philadelphia Phillies (39-37)

3. Washington Nationals (37-39)

4. New York Mets (37-40)

5. Miami Marlins (29-46)

The Nats will wrap up their homestand on Sunday with the series finale against the Braves, then the team will hit the road for three games against the Marlins, visit the Tigers for three games, and then host the Marlins and Kansas City Royals. It's a relatively easy schedule for Washington, so if they can continue to keep the momentum going, they can close in on the NL Wild Card spot and overtake the Phillies for second place in the NL East. 

Trout is somehow better than ever

We have already highlighted Dodgers' Cody Bellinger and Brewers' Christian Yelich in previous 'What We Learned' columns, and while the two continue to battle it out in what seems to be this year's National League MVP race, it's time to shine the spotlight on another MLB superstar: Mike Trout.

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Mike Trout LAA • CF • 27
BA.307
R61
HR22
RBI56
SB8

During a five-game span this past week (June 17-21), Trout went 11 for 20 with six runs, two doubles, three home runs, 10 RBI and three walks. Trout slashed .550/.625/1.100 in that span, and he currently has the best on-base percentage, slugging percentage, walk rate, strikeout rate, extra-base rate, homer rate, hard hit rate, and line drive rate of his career. He's also the AL leader in runs (tied with Mookie Betts, 61), walks (68), OBP (.468), SLG (.649), OPS (1.118) and ranked second best for RBI (tied with Eddie Rosario, 56).

Let's break down some of the milestones Trout set this past week:

June 17 vs. Blue Jays: Trout hits his 20th home run of the season. He went 4 for 5 with three RBI and two runs in the win. With his two-run double and home run, Trout, who will turn 28 on Aug. 7, passed Joe DiMaggio for the fifth most career extra base hits (546) by a player in American League history before turning 28.

June 19 vs. Blue Jays: Trout goes 3 for 6 with two runs scored, two home runs and a career-high 7 RBI. Trout was responsible for more runs than the Blue Jays scored the entire night.

Trout is on his way to his eighth All-Star Game appearance this summer, and he deservedly received the most votes (3.4 million) in the American League.

Reds suddenly in postseason conversation

The Cincinnati Reds are another NL team trending up. Throughout the Reds' longest winning streak of the season of six games, Cincinnati swept the reigning AL West champion Astros (first time Houston had been swept all season) and beat the Brewers in two straight games. During the win streak, the Reds won three one-run games. Entering Saturday, the Reds were 12-15 in one-run games but won six of their last eight.

The sudden spurt can be attributed to the recent success of this team's rotation. The Reds five starters --  Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani and Tyler Mahle along with the offseason additions of starters Tanner Roark and Sonny Gray -- unlocked their potential this past week and they're a big reason why the team was able to claw its way out of last place in the NL Central for the first time in four years. 

Unlike the Nationals, their current odds to make the postseason (5.1 percent) are obviously not as hopeful but it's the Reds' quick improvement that's impressive. Just last season, this team ranked 24th in MLB with a 4.63 ERA, the second-worst mark in the National League. They allowed an NL-leading 228 home runs. The starting rotation had a combined 5.02 ERA. Now, the Reds' pitching staff, which has the third-lowest ERA in all of MLB behind the Dodgers and Rays, gave up just seven runs in the three-game sweep over the Astros. 

Now, a spot where the Reds could definitely improve is at the plate. They hit much better during their winning streak this past week, but that only raised the team' season average to .234, the second worst in the league behind only the San Francisco Giants. On a positive note, the team does have a +50 run differential, for third best in the National League. On Thursday, MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported that the Reds front office is open to adding a controllable hitter at the July 31 trade deadline. If true, and if the Reds commit to be buyers at the deadline, the team could go after someone like Clint FrazierHunter Renfroe or Whit Merrifield, who are each controlled through 2023.

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