Nationals Notebook: Avoiding a sweep but not rumors

Enjoy the next four days. After the previous 94 games, Manager Davey Martinez and company could certainly use it.

The last-place Nationals are 30+ games under .500, and even with Sunday’s 7-3 sweep-averting victory over Atlanta, whatever sunshine a victory can provide will be tempered by the clouds of Juan Soto potentially being dealt.

The rejection of the Nats’ latest offer — 15 years and $440 million — keeps that cloud in the sky, and it will stay in the team’s forecast until they either sign the 23-year-old, trade the generational player or let him leave via free agency.

Not exactly like baseball’s three “automatic outcomes” (homer, strikeout, walk).

Numbers Game — one reason why Soto’s camp likely opted not to swing at the most recent pitch was the average annual value of $29.3 million. If the Nats just come down two years the AAV increases to 33.8. But I have the feeling that if he’s going to take an extension (unlike hitting free agency as most of his clients do), it’s going to take a big number like $500 million.

Feeling the Draft — the next Nationals era began Sunday night with the selection of center fielder Elijah Green. The Florida prep prospect is the son of former NFL tight end Eric Green (two Pro Bowls made with Pittsburgh). While there is no guarantee Green will be wearing Washington’s red, white and blue anytime soon, the track record of top 10 picks includes everybody from Ryan Zimmerman (4th in 2005) to Anthony Rendon (6th in 2011). The road back to contention continues.

Digesting the Division — the top two teams dueled this past week and the New York Mets (58-35) took two of three from Atlanta (56-38), outscoring the Braves 12-8 to take a 4-3 season series lead. They’ll meet 12 more times this year and the balance of the NL East will surely be affected by those meetings. Philadelphia (49-43) got swept by Toronto but bounced back to sweep Miami (43-48). The Marlins actually own the second-best fourth place record in the Majors (Boston is 48-43), and no, you don’t get a banner for that. The 31-64 Nationals remain in the East, National League, and MLB cellar.

Break up the Birds … or is this 1989 all over again? The O’s had a ten-game winning streak to move over .500 after the midway point of the regular season for the first time since 2017. Now that year ended poorly (from 71-68 to 75-87) but we are not here to pour cold water on our Baltimore brethren. And they have lost two of three to slip to 46-46 at the intermission. The player heating up in July has been third baseman Ramon Urias (. 385 with seven runs scored, three homers and 13 RBI). Coming out of the break, the Orioles will play three against the New York Yankees (big league best .689 winning percentage) and four against Tampa Bay (first second in the AL Wild Card race). Buckle up.

Last Week’s Heroes — Juan Soto hit .350 with three homers and six RBI, while Josh Bell batted .400 with a homer and three RBI. Victor Robles belted a two-run homer Sunday against the Braves. Steve Cishek tossed three scoreless innings over three games and earned the win in Sunday’s triumph over Atlanta. Erasmo Ramirez tossed three scoreless innings to begin the “bullpen game.”

Last Week’s Humbled — Patrick Corbin and Josiah Gray each allowed five earned runs over five innings in their starts, while Jordan Weems allowed three runs in 2.1 innings over three games (11.57 ERA). Yadiel Hernandez hit .077 with six strikeouts, while Keibert Ruiz batted .150 and grounded into a pair of double plays in Saturday’s loss.

Game to Watch — I’m going to enjoy the midsummer classic. Fans of a certain age recall going to bed in the fifth inning with the American League ahead only to wake up the following morning with the National League winning (21 of 23 from 1963-85), just like kids today can’t remember the NL coming out on top (the last win for the senior circuit was in 2012).

Game to Miss — the Nats begin the second half of the season in Arizona with three games against the Diamondbacks. The two last-place teams are a combined 69-115 (. 375). Not exactly a lot of high-leverage games in play here. Meanwhile we are down to five weekends before Labor Day pulls the curtain on the summer. Go to the beach, a winery, gallery or museum. Crush the crossword or that book by the pool. Because the rest of the season might feel like forever (98 games), but the summer is going to vanish before you know it.

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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