Nationals Notebook: April anguish

Perhaps April just isn’t the month for the Washington Nationals under Manager Davey Martinez.

After Sunday’s 4-0 loss at the New York Mets, the team slips to 30-41 in April since he took over in 2018 (they went 3-4 in July of last year). The series with the Mets saw the Nats get shut out twice, meaning they’ve been blanked five times this year (or twice more than in all of the 2020’s sixty game slate) in 19 games (over 25% of the time).

The bats continue the quantity over quality as the lineup ranks 11th in the majors in batting average and 29th in runs scored. The consistently uneven rotation’s 5.04 ERA is the sixth highest in the league and the team’s -24 run differential is the second-highest in the MLB.

Sometimes, April clouds pass and we can enjoy the rest of the day, while other times they double down and continue to pour until weekend plans are ruined. The absence of Juan Soto in the lineup and Stephen Strasburg in the rotation have certainly hurt, and it’s still early (not even one eighth of the season has been played). But anxiety in April can be magnified with a messy May.

Digesting the division: Two games separate first from last place in the topsy-turvy NL East. The New York Mets (9-8) own a one-game lead over Philadelphia (10-11) while Atlanta (9-12) and Miami (9-12) are both percentage points out of last place with the Nationals (8-11) bringing up the rear. This sets the Nats-Marlins matchup next weekend as one that may determine who sits in the division cellar, or if the Mets forget how to score again while the Phillies continue their fold, there’s an outside chance it could be for first.

O’s woes: Baltimore (9-12) avoids getting swept by Oakland and ends the A’s 13-game winning streak (longest in the big leagues this year) thanks to another solid outing by John Means (the lefthander owns an April ERA of 1.50 and has posted a pair of scoreless performances). Meanwhile, Trey Mancini is the classic case of quality versus quantity: he may be hitting .215 but the slugger has four homers with 15 RBI.

Say isn’t that: Michael A. Taylor is hitting .288 for Kansas City but doesn’t have a homer or RBI since the season’s opening weekend. Adam Eaton has 18 RBI in 19 games with the Chicago White Sox. Sean Doolittle is 2-0 with a hold and a blown save for Cincinnati.

Last week’s heroes: Brad Hand notched a pair saves while Daniel Hudson tallied a win and a hold. Max Scherzer struck out nine over six scoreless innings in a 1-0 game where they needed him to be sharp. Joe Ross bounced back from allowing 10 runs Monday to scatter five hits over six innings in the team’s lone win at New York. Alex Avila hit a pair of doubles Wednesday, one of which brought home the game’s lone run and the other which surprisingly didn’t earn him the nickname, “Wheels”.

Last week’s humbled: After tossing six shutout innings Tuesday, Patrick Corbin coughed up four runs over four innings against the Mets. Trea Turner hit .190 and left Sunday’s game after getting hit by a pitch. Kyle Schwarber, despite plenty of big plays recently in leftfield and a hard hit shot to centerfield in Sunday’s loss hit .091. Yan Gomes hit .077 and Victor Robles made a baserunning blunder to help end a rally before it began Sunday when he tried to take third on a double.

Game to watch: This week wraps up with Max Scherzer on the mound Sunday against Miami. He’s 13-5 in his career against the Marlins with an ERA of 3.11 and has also homered against this NL East foe. And after posting a dominant April, Max is ready to become Mr. May.

Game to miss: Saturday Patrick Corbin (0-3 with a 10.47 ERA this year) pitches against the Marlins, and even though Virginia Gold Cup has been postponed to May 29, the Kentucky Derby will still be held on the first Saturday of May. The famed Madras jacket (not to be confused with the infamous red suit) will be worn along with the breathable fedora (major game-changer in the spring heat).

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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