Nationals Notebook: Fantastic in Philly, ‘meh’ in Miami

The Nationals’ series in Philadelphia was technically only two games, but it felt like an entire week of intrigue was bottled up in the miniseries.

First, Phillies Manager Joe Girardi’s obsession with having Max Scherzer checked for illegal substances on his person while tossing five solid innings in Tuesday’s 3-2 win was at best out-of-control gamesmanship and at worst obnoxious pettiness. But at least nobody in Philly is discussing how this team is under .500 almost half way through the season. The second half of last week’s two-step offered up drama on the field as the Nats rallied from 5-0, 9-5, and 12-11 deficits to prevail 13-12.

Unfortunately they weren’t able to maintain their momentum at Miami, dropping two of four to the last place Marlins (who, despite owning the 11th best record in the league, are tied for the fifth best run differential). Midseason mojo has a crazy way of taking weekends off, and it’s all too easy to convince oneself that a series split marks the start of a slide. This week the Nationals will have to up their game: seven straight games against clubs with winning records, with five against first place teams and the other two coming against a Tampa Bay club that’s just one half game out in baseball’s best division. At least they won’t face Philadelphia again for four more weeks, giving Girardi ample time to figure how he can mess with the Nats’ pitchers.

Digesting the division: The Mets (40-33) remain four games in front of the pack after splitting a four game set with Philadelphia. The Nats (37-38) also split their four game series with Miami, just like Atlanta (37-40) did with Cincinnati. Logically, the Phillies (36-39) and Marlins (35-44) also split to give the NL East an even-steven sort of feel. The Nats have another chance to climb closer Monday when the Mets come to D.C. (they’re going to eventually make up the entire first weekend series that was postponed).

O’s woes: At least their team-record road losing streak ended at 20. But after snapping that slide Friday, the Birds lost two more to Toronto and have now dropped 16 of 18 overall. In that stretch, they’ve allowed 10 or more runs six times. At 24-54 they’re 23 games back in the AL East and 16.5 games out of fourth place in the division. At least Trey Mancini will represent the team in the Home Run Derby.

Say, isn’t that? Former Nats pitcher Wil Crowe posted his first career win Friday when Pittsburgh beat St. Louis, but the right-hander allowed four runs over five innings as his ERA climbed from 6.42 to 6.50. Sean Doolittle IS 3-0 with an ERA of 4.73, after allowing one run over 1.1 innings. Michael A. Taylor is hitting .179 this month and .229 for the year for Kansas City. Adam Eaton is still on the injured list instead of playing for the White Sox, and Wilmer Difo is with Pittsburgh’s AAA team in Indianapolis.

Last week’s heroes: Max Scherzer went 2-0 while striking out 15 over 11 innings in two starts while passing multiple searches. Joe Ross tossed seven scoreless innings in his outing while Brad Hand notched another save and threw 2.1 scoreless frames. Kyle Schwarber hit .292 with four homers and eight RBIs while tying Trea Turner with seven runs scored. Josh Bell hit .313 with two HRs and seven RBIs while recovering from oblique issues that sidelined him briefly.

Last week’s humbled: Victor Robles hit .133 while taking a pitch on the knee, while Ryan Zimmerman hit .083. Jon Lester allowed seven runs over 2.1 innings while Erick Fedde allowed five over four frames and landed on the injured list with an oblique strain. Justin Miller gave up three runs over two innings while Kyle McGowin allowed four runs over 0.2 frames.

Game to watch: Friday night Max Scherzer pitches against Julio Urias (9-3, 3.95) as the last two World Series champs continue their four-game series. Max against the best is always fun to watch.

Game to miss: Wednesday the Nats and Tampa Bay wrap up their two-game miniseries at 4:05  in the late afternoon D.C. heat. It’s not as bad as if it were a 1:05 p.m. start, but still …

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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