Nationals Notebook: Resurgent against the Reds, Gangbusters for Garcia

Sometimes a change of venue is just what a struggling team needs — especially when that place is Cincinnati.

After getting swept by the first-place New York Mets (to the tune of 23-5), the Nationals faced the Reds in a showdown of last-place teams and took three of four.

This week also saw the highly-anticipated Luis Garcia (. 254 with eight homers and 38 RBI over 110 games from 2020-21, .314 with 39 runs and 32 RBI IN AAA Rochester this year) arrive in Washington with Alcides Escobar (. 220 with five walks and 30 strikeouts plus five errors in the field) on the Injured List with hamstring issues.

So far he’s hit .333 with two doubles and four RBI over four games.

There was a concern of rushing the converted shortstop to the majors (90 of his 98 starts from 2020-21 came at second base) in light of previous promotions (Carter Kieboom in 2020) gone awry. And he very well could find his way back in Rochester when Escobar’s hamstring heals.

But in a season where we’re waiting for Strasburg (four strikeouts over six scoreless innings Friday in Rochester) to arrive and hearing about Soto’s potential departure (the trade rumors refuse to go away), it’ll be nice to see what’s here in Washington.

Digesting the Division — It took a while, but the New York Mets (37-19) have company in the over-. 500 club with Atlanta (28-27) winning its fifth straight. Philadelphia (25-29) has won four in a row with three of those coming after the firing of Manager Joe Girardi.

In two-plus years at the helm, the former Yankee skipper went 132-141 with less than ideal finishes: 28-32 in 2020 thanks to a 1-7 closing kick that pulled them out of the expanded playoffs, and 82-80 in 2021 despite the presence of MVP Bryce Harper.

Interim Manager Rob Thomson may be 3-0 to start his stint but the Phils have NL-Central leading Milwaukee on deck. The post-fire surge may flame out quicker than one thought. Miami (22-30) is within striking distance of the last-place Nationals (21-35) and is next on the Nats’ slate.

O’s Woes — The Birds celebrated after taking three of five from fourth-place Boston before dropping back to back series against Seattle and Cleveland at Camden Yards.

And with the Red Sox continuing to surge (17-8 since May 9) the Orioles are now the only team in the AL East with a losing record. Sunday’s loss to the Guardians dropped them to 10 games under .500-last year at this time they were 18 games under. So there’s progress.

Last Week’s Heroes — Lane Thomas made the case for being in the lineup everyday by hitting .412 with three homers and five RBI (his three homers Friday puts him in the company of former Nats Alfonso Soriano, Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Kyle Schwarber).

Nelson Cruz batted .368 while Josh Bell hit .379 with a team-high six RBI. Josiah Gray allowed two runs over six innings while winning his start while relievers Paolo Espino (5.0 innings over three appearances) and Carl Edwards Jr. (3.0 over three) posted 0.00 ERA’s out of the bullpen.

Last Week’s Humbled — Erick Fedde followed up his great outing against the Dodgers (six scoreless innings) with a disaster against the Mets (10 runs over six frames). Jordan Weems (22.50 ERA) didn’t do himself any favors while Andres Machado (20.25 ERA) was briefly sent down to Triple-A Rochester and Austin Voth (20.25) was designated for assignment.

Batting average may not be the perfect barometer in the 21st century, but hitting under .100 is not good: Yadiel Hernandez (. 091), Victor Robles (. 071) and Keibert Ruiz (. 056) did not do themselves any favors even in this world of advanced metrics.

Game to Watch — Thursday the Nats wrap up their series in Miami as Josiah Gray tries to win his third straight start for the first time in his Major League career.

The Marlins have tweaked their rotation and instead of Sandy Alcantra (6-2, 1.81 ERA and 3rd in the NL in strikeouts) Gray squares off against the rather human Travis Rogers (5.80 ERA). Washington has also won five of six series finales.

Game to Miss — Milwaukee drops by the district this weekend and they’ll likely be wearing their Cub Scout uniforms from the 1980s. Sunday afternoon the series concludes with rookie Evan Lee (0-1, 4.91) on the mound against a Brewers starter to be named later.

I will use this opportunity to head out Interstate 66 for some “research” for this fall’s “Kippy & Buffy Selection” segment of “Presto’s Picks.”

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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