The post-Juan Soto era began with a bang for the Nationals, who beat the NL-East leading New York Mets and two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom 5-1 Tuesday night.
After the “post-trading deadline bounce,” the bang became the whimper of five straight losses by the combined score of 45-17.
Last year after dealing Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Daniel Hudson, Kyle Schwarber, Yan Gomes, and John Lester (forgive us if we’ve left anyone out-that week is still a blur), they took two of three from the Chicago Cubs before going 16-40 the rest of the way. The 36-74 Nats would welcome 16 more wins at this time as that would keep them from posting fewer than 50 victories for the first time in a full season.
They’d need to finish 27-25 to avoid a 100-loss campaign (unlikely since they have 27 wins in their last 85 games). And the “tragic number” of elimination is now 20 games for the NL East and 28 games for the postseason in general. So who’s ready for the final two months of 2022?
Ain’t Missing You — Juan Soto went 5-for 16 over five games with the Padres (walking five times and scoring three runs), while Josh Bell hit 3-for-15 at the plate (but walked four times and scored five runs). Note the bases on balls between the duo: they not only hit for the Nats while they were here (first and second in homers, first and third in RBI), but they also walked a ton (140 combined walks of the team’s 319 free passes before the trade). It’s going to be one dry Aug./Sept. in D.C.
Digesting the Division — the New York Mets (70-39) took four of five games from second-place Atlanta (64-46) to expand their lead to six and a half games. They’ll play four next week in Atlanta and meet three more times during the final weekend of the regular season. Philadelphia (60-48) leads San Diego by one half game for the second Wild Card in the NL and Miami (49-59) remains on track to compete in 2025. The Nationals (36-74) are in last place thanks to a 9-42 record against division foes.
Break up the Birds — the hard-charging Baltimore Orioles (56-52) may have had a six-game winning streak snapped Sunday, but the O’s have already passed 2021’s win total (52) with almost two months to spare. They’re two games out of the final playoff spot in the American League despite dealing Trey Mancini and Jorge Lopez for prospects at the deadline. Now after going 6-3 against sub-. 500 teams Pittsburgh, Texas, and Cincinnati the Birds battle contenders Toronto and Tampa Bay this week.
Last Week’s Heroes — thank goodness one of the pickups from the Padres is paying off immediately. Luke Voit hit .462 with a homer and two RBI. Luis Garcia batted .360 with a team-high six RBI, while Lane Thomas went .316 with a homer and two RBI. Kyle Finnegan tossed 2.2 scoreless innings over two appearances, while Erasmo Ramirez (5.2 scoreless frames over four games) and Andres Machado (4.1 over four) also pitched well. And Rookie Cory Abbott tossed five scoreless innings against the New York Mets in a victory Wednesday.
Last Week’s Humbled — Abbott would go on to allow seven runs over 3.2 innings in his next start Sunday. But his 7.27 ERA for the week was the best of the rotation: Anibal Sanchez (8.31), Paolo Espino (11.25) and Josiah Gray (13.50) also struggled, while Patrick Corbin (10 runs allowed in five innings over two starts) saw his ERA for the season climb over seven. At the plate, rookie Josh Pacios went 2-for-14 (. 143) while Maikel Franco hit .154. This team doesn’t have the offense to overcome six-run deficits, and sadly they also don’t have the rotation to avoid them.
Game to Watch — Friday, Juan Soto (and Josh Bell) return to D.C. to play their first games in Washington as Padres. There will be a bit of a buzz in the ballpark as well as heartbroken fans’ feelings. Starting for the Nats on the mound is … Patrick Corbin? Ugh …
Game to Miss — I was early to the Josiah Gray party this year. The pitcher who came here as part of the Scherzer/Turner package had more than a few hiccups in April and May before posting a 1.13 ERA in June. With Stephen Strasburg absent and Patrick Corbin having a nightmare season, I dubbed Gray as the guy to watch. And then I did. The right-hander’s had a rough go lately (posting an 8.53 ERA over the last month), and although I have faith he’ll find his way again, I’m going to give Josiah some space by not tuning in to Wednesday’s game at the Chicago Cubs. The wind blows out in Wrigley, right?