The Nationals were thinking sweep after scoring 24 runs in their first two games against Miami, only to be held to one run on six hits in a 3-1 loss.
They went from thinking sweep in that series, to getting swept up the road by the last-place Orioles. The team that was about to put pressure on the New York Mets in the NL East has now lost 15 of 20 games. And the pitching problems now include a Max Scherzer scratched from a start with triceps issues.
Who knows when he’ll return to a rotation already minus Stephen Strasburg? Not what you want as you enter the final week of July, with the trading deadline looming. The Nats might become sellers after all.
Digesting the division: Not only do the New York Mets (52-44) own a five-game lead, but they’ve made the first late July move to bolster their roster for the stretch run with a trade for veteran starter Rich Hill (6-4, 3.87 ERA). Philadelphia (49-49) won two of three over the weekend against Atlanta behind solid starts from Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. The Braves (48-50) after 98 games have still yet to be over .500 this season, while the Nationals (45-53) are as close to third place as they are to last place Miami (43-57).
Break up the Birds: Three straight wins by the Orioles over the weekend give those in Baltimore a bit of a spring to their step as they get an opportunity to look down on D.C. And they’re now within 30 games of .500! Cedric Mullins and Trey Mancini each went 5-for-12 against the Nats, and although eventually the O’s will be eliminated, those two are fun to watch every time the Birds take to the field. Neither will be dealt at the deadline for prospects, right?
Say, Isn’t That? Perhaps a few former Nationals will find new homes between now and July 31. Adam Eaton is already with his second team of the season, and although the Los Angeles Angels outfielder is hitting .208 on the season, he’s batting .267 this month. Also getting hot in July is Michael A. Taylor (. 280 this month) for Kansas City, while Pittsburgh’s Wil Crowe struck out nine over 5.1 innings in a win over San Francisco. Wilmer Difo was hitless in five at bats for the Pirates last week and Cincinnati’s Sean Doolittle tossed 1.1 scoreless innings over two outings.
Last week’s heroes: Juan Soto hit .300 with three homers and 7 RBI, while Trea Turner batted .346 with 7 RBI. Daniel Hudson tossed 4.1 scoreless innings over four relief appearances while Jon Lester went 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA over 12 innings and belted a two-run homer Tuesday night.
Last week’s humbled: Patrick Corbin’s rough 2021 continues with his Friday start in Baltimore, where he allowed four earned runs over five innings. Austin Voth posted a 22.50 ERA for the week and Brad Hand lost a pair of games, including Sunday’s sweep-securing defeat against the Orioles. Andrew Stevenson hit .167 while leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar batted .238.
Game to watch: With Max Scherzer’s triceps the latest ill bothering the banged up starting rotation, there hasn’t been a ton to get excited about this summer. But Paolo Espino has been inspiring this year for the Nats, and Friday, he pitches against the Chicago Cubs in what might be the final game for a few players who might find themselves elsewhere the following day when the trading deadline hits.
Game to miss: Patrick Corbin is 1-3 with a 7.17 ERA in July. He pitches Wednesday against Philadelphia and Zack Wheeler (8-5 with a 2.37 ERA this year). The Olympics are going on, right?