Nationals report

Bullpen deserves some credit

The Nationals' starting rotation gets most of the credit for leading the team into first place in the NL East -- and for good reason. Washington's starters have the best ERA in the majors -- and it's not even close.

But the arms in the bullpen deserve some recognition as well. Despite being without closer Drew Storen and having the Brad Lidge experiment fail, the Nationals' bullpen has the third-best ERA in the NL.

Tyler Clippard, the Nationals' lone All-Star last year, has flourished moving from the setup role to closer. He has not allowed a home run in 331Ú3 innings and entered Saturday with a 1.89 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 13 saves.

Left-hander Sean Burnett, who leads the team in holds, right-hander Craig Stammen and righty Ryan Mattheus all have ERAs under 2.00.

Left-hander Mike Gonzalez, who signed as a free agent in May, adds some veteran presence.

Storen continues to make progress coming back from an elbow injury. Once he returns, it will be interesting to see where he fits in to this deep bullpen. But adding a guy that had 43 saves last year can't hurt.

1 A Giant pitching stand » After shutting out the then-NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers for an entire three-game series, the San Francisco Giants didn't allow a run in their first game against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday. The Giants have two former Cy Young winners in their rotation -- Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum -- and it's the other three starters -- Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelson -- that have made a strong case for the NL All-Star team. Cain, who threw a perfect game on June 13, is an NL Cy Young front-runner.

2 Wanting to be like Mike » Angels center fielder Mike Trout is having a historic rookie season. Entering Saturday, he was hitting an AL-best .342 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs while also leading the league with 22 stolen bases. The last rookie to lead the AL in batting average was Ichiro Suzuki, and he won rookie of the year and MVP in 2001. Since Trout was called up, the Angels went from 7-14 and in last place in the AL West on April 28 to 43-34 and owning the third-best record in the AL entering Saturday.

3 Thinking outside the box » The Rockies' pitching has struggled so much this season they decided to make a major change -- implementing a 75-pitch limit for a four-man rotation. Well, that doesn't seem to be working either. Entering a series in Colorado, the Nationals failed to score more than nine runs in their first 70 games of the season. But Washington erupted for three straight games with 10 or more runs scored to end the series. The Rockies have the worst ERA in the majors, nearly a half run higher than every other team.

Who's hot?

1. Carlos Ruiz » Could the Phillies catcher actually win a batting title?

2. Albert Pujols » After a slow start, the Angels slugger is hitting .341 in June.

3. A.J. Burnett » The Pirates right-hander has won eight straight starts.

Who's not?

1. Colby Lewis » After allowing eight runs in his last start, Lewis went on the DL.

2. Jeff Samardzija » The Cubs right-hander has allowed 25 runs in losing four straight games.

3. B.J. Upton » The Rays outfielder has more strikeouts than hits this season.