During a week that involved a sweep on the road and an offensive explosion at home, the Nationals saw the return of Stephen Strasburg to the rotation.
The 2019 World Series MVP had been limited to 26.2 innings over seven starts in 2020 (carpal tunnel syndrome) and 2021 (Thoracic outlet syndrome surgery).
Thursday against Miami the right-hander allowed seven runs on two hits and eight walks over 4.2 innings in his 2022 debut, almost to be expected after being on the shelf for over a calendar year.
Conventional wisdom says he’s going to be better with more work and while nobody’s thinking he’ll turn back the clock to 2019 (when he posted career highs in wins and strikeouts while leading the league in innings pitched), Strasburg’s presence in the rotation makes Nationals Park a little more of a destination every fifth day.
Digesting the Division — the New York Mets (40-22) own the best record in the league but from out of nowhere Atlanta (34-27) is the team to beat in the NL East with 11 straight wins to start the month of June. The Braves rank third in runs scored this month and own the second-best June ERA in the majors. They also drop by the District for a three-game series this week. Philadelphia (30-30) has won eight of nine and the Phillies visit Washington after the Braves leave. Miami (27-31) is in fourth place because they’re 8-1 against the Nationals (23-39) this year.
Break up the Birds — the O’s (26-35) split their four-game series in Kansas City and even though they’re improved from 2021, find themselves trailing four teams that are currently on track to make the playoffs. The New York Yankees own the best record in baseball while Toronto and Tampa Bay own the first two Wild Card spots. And then there’s Boston who’s won 22 of 32 games to go from last place in the division to the last playoff spot in the American League. Rough neighborhood.
Last Week’s Heroes — Nelson Cruz hit .421 with two homers and seven RBI while Josh Bell batted .350 with two homers and six RBI. Juan Soto added seven RBI while Lane Thomas hit 320 with seven runs scored primarily from the leadoff spot. And Luis Garcia is still hitting (.375) in his first full week back in the majors. Josiah Gray tossed five scoreless innings in his lone start while relievers Steve Cishek (three scoreless innings over two outings) and Kyle Finnegan (2.1 over two) held their own. And Patrick Corbin has now won three of his last four decisions.
Last Week’s Humbled — Joan Adon was sent down to AAA Rochester after allowing eight runs over three innings, running up his tab for the season to 1-10 with a 6.95 ERA. Ehire Adrianza hit .200 with six strikeouts in 15 at-bats while Victor Robles batted .200 and Maikel Franco hit .167.
Game to Watch — Saturday the Nats host Philadelphia at 4:35 and it’s not Josiah Gray’s next start I’m looking forward to. Ryan Zimmerman has his number 11 retired as the team honors the face of the franchise who was the best player on some really bad teams before helping the club get to and win the World Series during the sunset of his career. Every team needs a hero for people to tell their kids about and say “I saw him play.” Saturday we get to honor Zim one final time.
Game to Miss — the Nats begin their series with Atlanta by facing Ian Anderson (5-3, 4.53 ERA) who looks a little too much like the Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson for my comfort. Bungle in the Jungle, indeed.