Nationals Notebook: California nightmare

The Washington Nationals went from cruising to bruising Thursday night.

One moment they were leading San Diego 8-0 in the fourth inning and Max Scherzer was getting ready to put the Padres to sleep and help the team win three of four in the series to give them major momentum entering their series at San Francisco.

But instead, Scherzer was unable to get out of the fourth inning while allowing seven earned runs and the Nats were on their way to a 9-8 walk-off loss. The ensuing sweep by the Giants drops the team into fourth place (they were in second place Thursday afternoon) entering the All Star Break.

Might this turn the perpetual contender (minus last year’s anomaly) from a buyer into a seller at the trading deadline? And if they become sellers, which pieces become available?

Additional all-star: Max Scherzer was ticked for the midsummer classic even after his less-than-ideal outing. But Max has been money for the most part this season and is a deserving pick. He still ranks sixth in league in strikeouts and his ERA is his best since 2018. Juan Soto’s participation is increased to now include the Home Run Derby.

Sick bay: Add Yan Gomes to the walking wounded as the catcher is dealing with an oblique strain. This means Tres Barrera is now the team’s primary backstop and Jakson Reetz is the backup. The duo have combined to play in seven career Major League games. Kyle McGowin joins Gomes and the others on the IL due to right biceps tendinitis.

Digesting the division: The New York Mets (47-40) have been in first place for 82 days this season, and while their three and a half game cushion is far from impregnable, the longer nobody is knocking on the division lead door the more it looks like this will wind up being the good-pitch, no-hit, often-injured Mets’ year. Philadelphia (44-44) has won seven of 10 to reach .500 and while Bryce Harper only has 34 RBI, Rhys Hoskins is enjoying a career year (20 HR and 55 RBI put him on pace to notch career highs in each category). Atlanta (44-45) is now minus Ronald Acuna Jr. for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. He was leading the team in batting average and home runs while ranking second on the Braves in runs batted in. The Nationals (42-47) are now closer to last place Miami (39-50) than the top of the division. And don’t sleep on the Marlins who somehow took three of four from the Los Angeles Dodgers last week.

O’s woes: The Birds enter the break at 28-61 which is the worst record in the American League (they’re still three and a half games ahead of woeful Arizona). They’re currently 26 games back in the AL East and the tragic number (losses + division leader wins before they’re eliminated) will be the late-July/early-August focus. It’s 47 at this time. Aug. 20 feels like a reasonable projection for Elimination Day 2021.

Say, isn’t that? Former Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton is now a former Chicago White Sox outfielder after being designated for assignment. The veteran was hitting .201 and 18 of his 28 RBI came in April. Michael A. Taylor is hitting .248 with eight homers and 32 RBI with Kansas City, but is batting .345 in July. Wilmer Difo is also heating up by hitting .381 this month to improve his batting average to .272. Wil Crowe allowed two runs over 4.2 innings to decrease his ERA to 6.05. And Sean Doolittle has tossed three scoreless innings over three outings to post a pair of holds this month.

This week’s heroes: Starlin Castro hit .481 while Trea Turner batted 313 with three home runs. Juan Soto hit .333 with a team-high 8 runs scored and Josh Harrison notched a team-high 8 RBI. Rookie catcher Jakson Reetz recorded his first Major League hit, while Joe Ross’ dad Dr. Willie Ross successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver on a fan that was choking on a hot dog at Saturday’s game in San Francisco.

This week’s humbled: Max Scherzer not only allowed seven runs in 3.2 innings, but he also gave up a grand slam to a relief pitcher. Jon Lester allowed 13 runs over six innings in two starts. Victor Robles batted .182 while Ryan Zimmerman remains hitless in July (0-for-13 over seven games).

Game to watch: Thursday the Nats return from the All Star Break. Right now we have no idea who will be pitching although it would make sense for Max Scherzer to return to the mound unless he pitches in the midsummer classic. After how the last time these two teams played wrapped up, I’m all eyes here.

Game to miss: Sunday afternoon the club wraps up its series with San Diego at 1:05 p.m. in the D.C. heat. There’s also the Final Round of the British Open winding down. Do yourself a favor and watch golf in the morning before hitting the pool in the afternoon.

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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