Nationals Notebook: Not-so-summery start for new-look Nats

There’s a saying that even a dead cat bounces once.

Perhaps for the Washington Nationals that was last weekend when after the deadline deals sent four pitchers and four position players elsewhere.

Perhaps we’ve been underrating underachieving Philadelphia and Atlanta, but whatever the case the Nats dropped six of seven — including four straight at home to the now first place Phillies.

The sweep-clinching four runs allowed in the ninth inning Thursday probably would have hurt more if this fan base wasn’t so numb after 100-plus games of miscues, missteps and misplays. Unlike many of the Septembers from 2012-19, and much like last year, we’ll be charting when this team will officially be eliminated from contention.

But in the ashes of 2020 there is the promise of a brighter future, as we are going to see much more of pitcher Josiah Gray and catcher Riley Adams, as well as others who will be key parts of eventual contenders — we hope.

I want to say it was a former Burgundy and Gold offensive lineman, Mark Schlereth, who said that “August is the Sunday of Summer.” The Nationals’ Sunday afternoon of their 2021 season is well underway. Hope you enjoyed the weekend.

Digesting the Division — Last week we looked at the July records, so it’s only fair to check out the post-All Star break marks as there is a change atop the standings. Philadelphia (59-53) is 15-9 since the hiatus and has won eight of 10 to take over first place in the NL East.

Atlanta (57-55) is two games back in second and is 13-10 since the break, and won’t face the first place Phillies until Aug. 28.

The slumping New York Mets (56-55) are two and a half games back, while their 9-15 record since the midsummer classic has my pal Freddy from Flushing extremely nervous.

Washington (50-62) is 8-15 since the break and is 10-24 since the end of June. To reach .500, they’d need to finish 31-19 with the current roster. Miami (47-65) is 8-15 since the All Star Game and amazingly isn’t completely out of contention.

O’s Woes — Getting swept by Tampa Bay means the Birds’ tragic number is now 23.

And the play of center fielder Cedric Mullins (.320 with 20 homers) needs to be noted again. The 26-year-old might be a better fit (39 walks to 86 strikeouts this year) deeper in the lineup, and one is tempted to wonder what sort of pitching he can yield in a trade for a staff that owns the highest ERA in the Majors.

Say Isn’t That? — This is where things get painful. Max Scherzer struck out 10 in his Dodgers debut. And I wish I could have been in the stands.

As for other Nats dealt at the deadline, Yan Gomes hit .250 with a homer and 5 RBI for Oakland while Josh Harrison batted .300 with a home run and 2 RBI for the A’s.

Brad Hand went 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA over three games with Toronto (at least there weren’t any blown saves).

Jon Lester allowed 6 runs over 5 innings in a St. Louis loss to Atlanta while Kyle Schwarber and Daniel Hudson have yet to play for Boston or San Diego.

Trea Turner went from a shortstop wearing #7 to a second baseman wearing #6 and went 2-for-8 with two walks while scoring three runs for the Dodgers.

He also added that the Nats never tried to sign him to a long-term extension, which if true is the most depressing part about the team’s fire sale.

Last Week’s Heroes — Carter Kieboom hit .308 with 2 homers and 6 RBI and we’ll forget his throwing error that led to Thursday’s loss in this space.

Josh Bell and Luis Garcia also homered twice while Riley Adams’ home run in the ninth Saturday night ended a five-game losing streak.

Ryan Zimmerman hit .556 with 4 RBI over five games played. Rookie Josiah Gray struck out 12 over 10 innings in his first two starts with the team.

Andres Machado went 1-0 while tossing 3.2 scoreless innings over 4 appearances.

Last Week’s Humbled — Kyle Finnegan’s ERA for the week may read “0.00,” but the reliever allowed four runs on three hits in Thursday’s loss to the Phillies. Relievers Javy Guerra, Wander Suero and Sam Clay each posted ERAs in the double digits.

Starter Patrick Corbin went 0-2 while allowing 9 runs in 13 innings. Nobody is expecting Corbin to be Max Scherzer, but it’d be nice to see him be better than Anibal Sanchez.

At the plate, the center field duo of Andrew Stevenson and Victor Robles combined for an ugly 6-for-33 that buries a lineup in the National League.

Game to Watch — He’s only pitched two games, but Josiah Gray has looked sharp since coming over in the trade from the Dodgers. Friday, he starts in Atlanta against Charlie Morton (10-4, 3.52 ERA). I’m looking forward to seeing what the future might be in the present.

Game to Miss — Thursday they wrap up their series at the New York Mets. The two teams are a combined 17-30 since the All Star break entering the week and the Nats pitch Erick Fedde (5.91 ERA in August after posting an 8.02 in July).

Meanwhile the Washington Football Team plays its first preseason game, and although it’s an evening kickoff, one will use that excuse to avoid this matinee.

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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