Every great run ends in pro sports.
The Washington Nationals entered 2021 only 60 regular season games removed from their World Series triumph, but apart from an 18-9 June, they looked like a team struggling to reach .500.
So instead of patching the house here and there, General Manager Mike Rizzo elected to avoid half-measures in his revamping of the roster and restocked a farm system that had been purged over the last decade seemingly every late-July.
Last week had the “Everything Must Go!” feel to it. Two-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and All Star Trea Turner? Gone to the Los Angeles Dodgers for prospects (including Josiah Gray, who will start Monday against Philadelphia). Relievers Brad Hand and Daniel Hudson? Gone to Toronto and San Diego for prospects. Former Cubs Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester? Off to Boston and St. Louis, respectively, for prospects. Josh Harrison and Yan Gomes? Gone to Oakland for — you guessed it — prospects.
The team that was the oldest in baseball two years ago needed an infusion of youth and talent, but that doesn’t make it easy to stomach.
The deal that is the toughest to take is the one that sent Scherzer and Turner to L.A. Max was the rare free agent signing that was worth every penny and his presence in the Nats’ clubhouse allowed others not comfortable with the glare of the spotlight (Stephen Strasburg, for example) to thrive. He gave Washington six and a half great seasons, from the no-hitters to 20-strikeout games to stealing bases and pitching with a broken nose. The Dodgers are lucky to have him.
The trading of Turner is a disappointment because one thought he would have been, along with Juan Soto, one of the building blocks of this franchise moving forward. A great bat at a defensive position doesn’t happen every day (witness Victor Robles in center field) and it’s a bummer Trea isn’t in the Nats’ future plans. But this is the life they have chosen — and let’s get on with the remaining 57 regular season games.
Digesting the Division — Wouldn’t you know the New York Mets (55-49) lost two of three over the weekend? The Mets did go 14-13 in July to keep its cushion above the rest of the NL East. Second place Philadelphia (52-53) went 14-12 last month as did third place Atlanta (52-54). The Nationals (49-56) went 8-18 in July and despite that disaster they’re still just six and a half games back in the East. Last place Miami (44-61) remains focused on 2025.
Break up the Birds — If only they awarded second-half finishes. The O’s are 9-6 since the All Star break and although they wrapped up their series in Detroit with a loss, they’re avoiding elimination in grand fashion (the tragic number is now 32).
Say, isn’t that? — We’ll be tracking Max, Trea and everyone else dealt by the Nats once they have a full week under their belts in their new homes. Yan Gomes didn’t even need that long to have an impact for Oakland; his two-run homer put the A’s up to stay against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.
*Yan Gomes has entered the chat* pic.twitter.com/UgaqERonH9
— Oakland A’s (@Athletics) August 1, 2021
Meanwhile, Adam Eaton is hitting .212 for the aforementioned Angels and the outfielder tossed a scoreless inning of relief. Michael A. Taylor is hitting .237 for Kansas City and needs to play in 40 of the remaining 58 games to set a career mark in games played (set in 2018). Wilmer Difo had a pair of hits Sunday after batting .304 in July for Pittsburgh while Wil Crowe struck out four over six scoreless innings to finish 2-1 with a 3.46 ERA in July. Sean Doolittle made two appearances last week, one of which was a blown save.
Last Week’s Heroes — Yadiel Hernandez hit .667 and homered twice Sunday, including belting the game-winner to leadoff the bottom of the ninth inning.
See you later!
Yadiel Hernández walks it off with his 2nd HR of the day. pic.twitter.com/FN1vzb1540
— MLB (@MLB) August 1, 2021
Juan Soto hit .348 and scored a team-high seven runs while Josh Bell tallied a team-high nine RBI. Josh Harrison and Yan Gomes each batted .500 in their final week with the team. Max Scherzer struck out five over six innings in his final outing Thursday, while Kyle Finnegan tossed five scoreless innings over five games, going 1-0 with two saves.
Last Week’s Humbled — Patrick Corbin allowed four runs in five innings to see his ERA for the year rise to 5.78 while relievers Tanner Rainey, Sam Clay, Brad Hand and Austin Voth each posted double digit ERA’s for the week. The center field duo of Victor Robles (.154) and Andrew Stevenson (.125) is giving the back end of the lineup a vacuum.
Game to Watch — The future is now! Or at least we get a peek Monday evening when Josiah Gray pitches against Philadelphia. The 23-year old is 14-5 with an ERA of 2.41 over three Minor League seasons and made a pair of starts for the Dodgers in July. Let’s see what we have here.
Game to Miss — The way the rotation works out this week means we get two Patrick Corbin starts to choose from. I’m going to take his Tuesday night appearance against Zack Wheeler (8-6, 2.45 ERA) over Sunday’s showdown with Max Fried (1-1 with an ERA of 8.44 against the Nats this year). You’ve been warned.