Nationals Notebook: The least of the East

Perhaps the NL East isn’t the best place for the Nationals to be competing this season.

The cellar-dwelling Nats are 7-33 inside the division (meaning they’re a robust 23-25 against the rest of the world). This past week they lost consecutive series to Miami, Philadelphia and Atlanta (I know — couldn’t they have fit the Mets in there somewhere?).

The Nats are 24 games out of first place and 12 games out of fourth place, with a third straight last-place finish likely after finishing first or second every season from 2012 to 2019.

Thank goodness they have just 36 games remaining against division foes this year.

All Star Soto — Juan Soto has reached base in thirteen straight games and after batting .195 in June is hitting .476 in July. The outfielder has also been named as an All Star reserve for the second time in his career. No such luck for Josh Bell (team-high .318 batting average and 47 RBI, second-best 44 runs scored and 12 home runs) at this time unless somebody has to pull out due to injury.

Digesting the Division — the New York Mets (53-33) may have seen their once-double digit lead shrink, but they’ve got Max Scherzer back in the rotation and he struck out 11 over six scoreless innings (naturally his lineup gave Max the deGrom treatment and were shut out). The Mets also retired Keith Hernandez’ No. 17 without helping the Mets TV announcer move furniture or pick him up at the airport. But they should be worried about Atlanta (52-35) who has sliced what was once a 10.5 game deficit to 1.5 games, and the Braves also boast a better run differential (+72 to +70). Philadelphia (46-40) is proving that some midseason managerial moves are money as they’re 24-11 since firing Joe Girardi. And the Marlins (41-43) may be under .500, but you can’t play the Nationals (30-58) all the time.

Break up the Birds — the Orioles (43-44) have now won eight straight and have not been at .500 this late in the season since 2017. They’re not hanging any banners but last year the O’s didn’t post win number 42 until September 4. And while the likes of Cedric Mullins, Trey Mancini, Ryan Mountcastle, and Anthony Santander make the big hits it’s the pitching that been the difference in 2022: the team ERA of 3.96 ranks 17th in MLB and is almost two runs better than the 2021 staff (5.84) that ranked last in the majors.

Last Week’s Heroes — Juan Soto batted .500 with two homers and four RBI. Yadiel Hernandez hit .304 with a home run and Lane Thomas bounced out of a rough stretch by belting a three-run homer Sunday. Josiah Gray struck out 11 in his win over the Phillies Wednesday. Andres Machado and Carl Edwards Jr. tossed 2.1 scoreless innings (Machado over three appearances and Machado over two outings) while Mason Thompson threw two scoreless frames over two games.

Last Week’s Humbled — Erick Fedde allowed eight earned runs over three innings in his start. Erasmo Ramirez posted an ERA of 10.80 while Reed Garrett allowed five runs over 0.2 innings (for those scoring at home that comes to a 67.50 ERA). Cesar Hernandez hit .043 with five strikeouts and one walk while Maikel Franco hit .118.

Game to Watch — Patrick Corbin pitches Friday, and even though he is 4-11 with a 5.70 ERA, he’s gotten better each month. The lefthander’s ERA by the month: 8.69 in April, 5.97 in May, 4.28 in June and 3.46 in two July starts (watch out for this guy in September!). The Braves pitch Ian Anderson, and my dad saw Jethro Tull in 1978. WTOP’s Jason Fraley once had a phone interview with the Tull frontman, and after the call was mis-transferred twice the rocker said something to the effect of “This is embarrassing!” to which my reaction in the newsroom was “The dude used to wear a derby and a codpiece while playing the jazz flute.” Bungle in the jungle.

Game to Miss — Can you get any more low-leverage than an interleague miniseries with a team from the opposite coast? Seattle comes to town this week and while I’ll be at the ballpark Tuesday to see Josiah Gray pitch, Wednesday’s 12:05 start has Erick Fedde (ERA of 10.00 in July) on the hill.

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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