One week ago, the Washington Nationals were armed with the momentum of a three-game sweep during which they scored 22 runs. And with series against sub-.500 Cincinnati and playing-tag-with-.500 Milwaukee, one thought that last week might be their chance to make a move up the standings.
I know the weather this past week was not ideal (my thumbs were numb Sunday in the press box on South Capitol Street), but sadly the bats were even colder as the lineup generated just nine runs during a stretch in which they lost five of six games.
They’ve been shut out six times in 49 games after being blanked only three times during last year’s 60-game sprint season. The lack of offense forced Manager Davey Martinez’ hand in Sunday’s loss to the Brewers by pulling Max Scherzer for a pinch-hitter an inning earlier than he would have liked to.
The anemic attack is now 28th in the majors in runs scored, despite having the fifth best batting average in the big leagues. Juan Soto is dealing with one rough start (hitting .273 on pace for 13 HR and 53 RBI, all career lows) and the team is already assured of another losing month (11-17 in May) and a fifth straight nonwinning one.
When will it warm up around here?
Digesting the Division: The New York Mets (25-20) won four straight games in a week when they outscored foes 21-5 while dealing with two rainouts and a growing Injured List that now includes center fielder Johneshwy Fargas and pitcher Jordan Yamamoto. Atlanta (24-26) is three and a half games back and has to deal with off the field issues involving outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who’s now facing a felony assault charge stemming from a domestic incident. Philadelphia (25-28) is four games off the pace dealing with Bryce Harper on the Injured List with a bruised wrist and Roman Quinn out two months with an Achilles tendon injury. Miami (24-28) is four and a half back after dropping two in Boston before Sunday’s rainout and the last-place Nationals have dropped from two and half to six games off the pace in the last week. And it’s one slippery slope with games in Atlanta and Philly this week.
O’s Woes: Not only did the Nats sweep the Baltimore Orioles last weekend, but the Birds haven’t won a game since the week before they left D.C. That means an unlucky 13 straight losses (longest slide since 2009) after getting swept out of the South Side of Chicago. They’ve been outscored 93-46 in that stretch and even John Means can’t put the team on his back like he did in April. The O’s seem to have caught the virus bothering the Nats’ bats, scoring six runs in losing three straight to the Chicago White Sox. At least they’re back home.
Say isn’t that? Michael A. Taylor went 4-14 for Kansas City raise his batting average to .248. He’s roughly on pace to hit 15 homers 51 RBI this year. Adam Eaton dipped to .199 for the season after hitting 1-for-8 with two walks, but he’s still on pace to drive in 65-70 runs for the Chicago White Sox (his career high is 59 set with the Pale Hose the year before he was traded to D.C.). Wilmer Difo is hitting .237 in Pittsburgh primarily in a part-time role, although he didn’t pitch this past week. Wil Crowe (5.67 ERA) is also enduring a less than ideal first season in the Steel City. Sean Doolittle returned to Washington last week with Cincinnati and received a hero’s welcome. While he didn’t pitch against the Nats, the lefthander did toss 1.1 scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs on Friday and is now 3-0 with an ERA of 3.86 with the Reds.
This Week’s Heroes: Despite going 0-2, Max Scherzer struck out 19 over 13 innings, posting an ERA of 2.77. Wander Suero made four appearances to return to his pre-Injured List pace. During a week where the offense wasn’t producing, Trea Turner stole four bases and was tied with Josh Bell for runs scored and driven in. Problem was, each team-leading number was two.
This Week’s Humbled: Juan Soto and Yan Gomes both hit .167, and Soto’s week burns a hole in the top of a lineup that is unable to score in bunches. Josh Harrison hit .125. Reliever Tanner Rainey allowed three runs without getting an out in his one appearance. The combination of Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin allowed 8 runs in 10 innings pitched.
Game to Watch: Thursday afternoon the Nats wrap up their series with Atlanta as Jon Lester pitches. I’m curious to see how he’s throwing because he’s been a little uneven this spring, and for this rotation to work this summer Lester has to provide quality innings. I also can’t wait to see Braves starter Ian Anderson, who may be 4-2 with a 3.27 ERA but has more than a passing resemblance to his namesake and Jethro Tull frontman. Break out the derby hats, codpieces and jazz flutes. Let’s bungle in the jungle.
Game to Miss: Monday the Nats begin a series in Atlanta, and as part of ESPN’s daylong coverage they have a 5:10 start-time. Right in that sweet spot between the last swim in the pool and the first burger off the grill. I’ll also probably be recovering from watching Maryland meet Virginia for the Men’s Lacrosse National Championship. Will we see a repeat winner or an unbeaten champion?