The Baseball Page: May 5, 2013

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

Nationals report

Injuries a test to team's depth

It isn't quite like 2012 yet for the Nationals. The first three months of last season featured a litany of injuries that the team shook off en route to 98 wins. Slugger Michael Morse was out until early June. Closer Drew Storen had elbow surgery in March and didn't return until after the All-Star break. Jayson Werth broke his wrist in early May and missed three months. Catcher Wilson Ramos tore his ACL a week later and was done for the season. Plus, Ryan Zimmerman went on the disabled list with a shoulder injury and wasn't healthy until late June.

But things aren't exactly going smoothly in 2013. Ramos just returned from a stint on the disabled list because of a hamstring injury. Zimmerman was just activated from the disabled list on Friday for the same issue. Meanwhile, Werth sat out Friday's game in Pittsburgh with his own hamstring strain. Danny Espinosa has been an on-and-off scratch at second base after getting hit by a pitch on the wrist last month and the team is still hoping there are no recurring shoulder issues after a small rotator cuff tear last summer. So far, so good on that front. But Washington's depth is again being tested.

MLB storylines

1A Royal surprise » It shouldn't be a surprise at this point. We saw Oakland and Baltimore shake off long losing stretches last season to reach the playoffs. If the Kansas City Royals did the same in 2013, would it really be a shock? Well, maybe. The Royals haven't made the postseason since 1985. But they entered Saturday 15-10 and fighting for the AL Central lead. There's still five months to go and the rotation is still a patchwork led by James Shields but featuring Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie. Can that trio continue its strong start all summer?

2Something in the air » So what happened to the humidifier? Remember when it finally seemed like baseball had tamed the offense at Coors Field? Well, maybe the old Rockies are back in Denver. The team had scored an NL-best 152 runs heading into play Saturday. Five of the top 12 National Leaguers in OPS coming into the weekend were Rockies -- Troy Tulowitzki, Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, Wilin Rosario and Michael Cuddyer. The team record is 968 runs scored in 2000. They're not on a record pace, but the Rockies entered May in first place in the NL West, which is better.

3Falling back to the pack » The worry before the season was that the Phillies' window to contend in the NL East had closed. The Nationals were ascending and the Braves seemed to have rebuilt on the fly by adding young stars. Those fears are gaining traction in Philadelphia, where the aging Phillies sit under .500 and were outscored 20-2 in a pair of losses at Cleveland. The schedule hasn't been easy with series against Atlanta, Cincinnati and St. Louis. But so far the offense and bullpen are performing in the bottom third of the league. That won't cut it in a tough division.

Who's hot?

1. Kevin Slowey » No wins yet, but the Marlins starter has allowed one run or fewer in four of six starts.

2. Clay Buchholz » The Boston righty has gone at least seven innings and allowed two runs or fewer in every start.

3. Ryan Raburn » The Tigers utility man went 7-for-8 with four home runs in a two-day span this week.

Who's not?

1. Matt Cain » The Giants ace is allowing more than a hit per inning, leading to an ugly 6.49 ERA.

2. Matt Kemp » The Dodgers slugger entered Saturday with one homer and six extra-base hits on the season.

3. B.J. Upton » O Brother, Where Art Thou? Four hits in 35 at-bats entering Saturday for Justin's brother.

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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