Starting pitchers spark Nationals hot start

April, 19, 2012
4/19/12
1:05
PM ET

US Presswire
Edwin Jackson (left and starting tonight) and Gio Gonzalez (right) are part of a pitching staff that leads all starting units in ERA.
The 10-3 Washington Nationals are in first place in the NL East, the latest into a season that this franchise has been in first place since July 2005, the first season in Washington. That team would up finishing last in the NL East.

And they are 10-3 despite hitting just .249 and averaging 3.8 runs per game. In addition, the Nationals are 3-1 when trailing to start the eighth inning this season. Last year, they were 7-64 under those circumstances.

So what has been one of the main reasons the Nationals are an early-season surprise? The starting pitching staff sports a 1.65 ERA, the lowest by any starting unit in the majors.

In addition, here are some other reasons the Nationals are off to a hot start.

• Opponents are hitting .181 at Nationals Park

• Opponents are hitting .168 with RISP

• Opposing cleanup hitters are hitting .151 with a .367 OPS.

• In 13 games, the Nationals have allowed two HR. By contrast, the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays have allowed 18.

Derek Jeter’s Resurgence
Derek Jeter hit his fourth home run of the season on Wednesday. He hit just six home runs in 2011, and didn’t hit his fourth until July 25 (his 79th game of the season).

It’s been a far different April for Jeter this season, who had a .272 slugging percentage in April 2011. So what changed?

Jeter is also hitting to the opposite field with authority. Already this season, Jeter has 11 hits to the opposite field, the most in the majors (David Ortiz is second with nine).

One more look back at Pudge’s career
On April 23, Ivan Rodriguez will announce his retirement at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He’s the all-time leader at catcher in hits, runs and games played. Let’s take a look at some other Pudge facts.

• Pudge caught Nolan Ryan (born in 1947) and Stephen Strasburg (born in 1988)

• Pudge has more hits (2,844) than the two active hits leaders at catcher COMBINED. A.J. Pierzynski and Ramon Hernandez have 2,829 between the two of them

• All active catchers have combined for nine Gold Gloves. Rodriguez won 13

• Among catchers to debut in 1991, the last other than Rodriguez to appear in a game was Tony Eusebio in 2001

• Pitchers who threw to both Rodriguez and Johnny Bench: Charlie Leibrandt, Jeff Russell, Jay Howell

• His first manager was Bobby Valentine, who was the same age then (40) that Pudge is now

• Ironically, he was closer in age to his first manager (21 years younger than Bobby Valentine) than his last manager (28 years younger than Davey Johnson)

• 2011 will go down as the final season for Pudge, Jason Varitek and Jorge Posada. Those three combined to catch 5,489 games

Matchup of the Day - Joey Votto vs Adam Wainwright
The best hitter in the NL Central will face arguably the division's best pitcher.

Votto is just 1-for-12 with four strikeouts in his career against Wainwright. That includes 0-for-6 with three strikeouts on at-bats ending in Wainwright's curve.

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