Nationals Notebook: A less than ideal start to the season

At least they’re playing games.

After the Nationals’ first weekend was wiped off the schedule due to multiple players testing positive for COVID-19, the Nats won their season opener in fantastic fashion (nothing like a walk-off hit by Juan Soto) before dropping five straight games.

For my Dodgers fan friend, also known in some circles as “Irrational Marc,” getting broomed in a battle of the last two World Series winners was sweet retribution. And a 1-5 start to the season is decidedly not awesome.

But let’s remind ourselves that is it still April, and freaking out over one loss is akin to getting nervous about a six-minute stretch in an NFL game. And even with the rough start to 2021, one has to remember that a year ago, for “content” I was posting “#ShirtBros at Six” on Twitter and writing about Beatles albums if they hadn’t broken up in “Fab Four Fracture at Fifty.” So let’s enjoy what we have.

Still on the shelf: Offseason acquisitions Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber remain on the injured list with undisclosed injuries, and their absence in the lineup was felt last week with Juan Soto getting walked in crucial situations. Their return can help the offense get out of the early funk that has been shut out three times already.

Slowwww starts: In manager Davey Martinez’s tenure as Nats skipper, the team has started slow each year, whether they go on to win the World Series, finish around .500 or place last in the NL East. To avoid a losing April, they need to win 14 of their next 24 games.

Dissecting the division: Philadelphia leads the NL East at 6-3 while second-place Atlanta saw its winning streak end at four Sunday night. The 2-3 New York Mets own third place in the division while leading the world in squandering fantastic pitching performances by Jakob deGrom. Miami’s 2-6 start is not good by any stretch of the imagination, but still better than the 1-5 Nationals.

O’s woes: So much for that unbeaten start. Baltimore finds itself under .500, and while dropping two of three at the New York Yankees was somewhat understandable, losing three in a row at home to Boston has to hurt the Camden Yards faithful — even if they didn’t put a ton of stock in last weekend’s sweep at Fenway Park. Getting outscored 27-16 by the Red Sox over three games was not the way the Birds wanted to begin their home schedule.

Don’t I know you?: Two pieces in last year’s outfield puzzle are in different locales this year, and while Michael A. Taylor didn’t tear things up like he did opening weekend, the ex-National did hit .286. Adam Eaton hit .267 with a homer and four RBI for the Chicago White Sox. Former reliever Sean Doolittle tossed 1.1 scoreless innings for Cincinnati last week, winning his only decision. There are those of a certain age who hopes Doolittle does a turkey giveaway this November.

Last week’s heroes: Juan Soto hit .300 with a team-high six runs scored and four RBI, while also drawing five walks in 25 plate appearances. Ryan Zimmerman hit .381 after being pressed into more activity than expected, with Josh Bell on the injured list. Stephen Strasburg shined in his 2021 debut, striking out eight over six scoreless innings while also belting a double. Joe Ross tossed four scoreless frames in his 2021 debut, and Max Scherzer has 14 strikeouts over 12 innings of work.

Last week’s humbled: Patrick Corbin allowed six runs over 4.1 innings in his 2021 debut, while Erick Fedde was unable to get out of the second inning in his spot-start Wednesday (five earned runs over 1.2 frames). Tanner Rainey allowed a pair of two-run homers in his two innings of work. At the plate, Andrew Stevenson is hitting .176 while Hernan Perez is batting .083.

Game to watch: Friday, Max Scherzer pitches against Arizona, the organization that drafted him in the first round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He’s 7-0 in nine starts with a 2.50 ERA in his career against the Diamondbacks. He’s already had two solid outings this year. Arizona counters with Riley Smith, who won his first decision of 2021 and went 2-0 over six appearances last year.

Game to miss: Thursday, the team tangles with Diamondbacks, but a few friends of the Notebook will be otherwise occupied — as a good friend is getting married. Instead of blocking the plate, one is blocking the path of servers carrying appetizer trays. I’m hoping lamb chop lollipops are in the mix. It’s like nothing else to be covering a game live at the ballpark, but it’s very special to be present on special days.

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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