Nats Notebook: And away we go

Some things can’t be delayed.

Rain can push back the start of the season, while lighting issues at the stadium can postpone a game’s first pitch, but eventually you’ve got to face the music. The Washington Nationals began their first non-playoffs-or-bust season since 2011 with three losses in four games to the National League East Division favorite New York Mets, rallying Sunday to avoid a sweep at home. The journey is underway, and even though the destination might not be ideal, let’s enjoy the upcoming twists and turns of 2022 as best as we can.

Members of the Washington Nationals wave as they stands on the first base line during pregame festivities in an opening day baseball game against the New York Mets at Nationals Park, Thursday, April 7, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Max-terful: His different-colored eyes no longer stare at us from right field like the cover of “The Great Gatsby,” but the former ace of the pitching staff and one of the top five players I’ve covered in my lifetime was back on the mound Friday to deliver defeat to his former team. Scherzer was decent (six strikeouts while allowing three runs over six innings) in his Mets regular season debut, and he also received a standing ovation when he reached the mound in the first inning, just like he saw cheers the night before when he took his place alongside his new teammates for the Opening Night National Anthem. And there were cheers during the tribute video as well that played before Thursday’s game. We’ll not see anything like him on the mound for the Nats for some time.

O’s Woes: The Nats’ win Sunday means the Birds are the only winless team in MLB after one weekend. The four runs scored over three games matched the Nationals start. Will we see a second straight (and fifth time in six years) last place finish in the American League East and are they going wire to wire in that regard? I have heard how the Orioles have the best farm system in baseball, so hopefully we’ll see some of those prospects make their debuts in the bigs to distract us from another potential 100-loss season.

Digesting the Division: Four games into 2022, it’s basically a look at how teams fared in their opening series of the season. The Mets (3-1) are a half game better than the Phillies for first. The Phillies are a half game better than defending world champion Atlanta, which is one half game better than Miami, which at least no longer has Derek Jeter running the team into the ground. Then there are the Nationals, a team you could consider the new Marlins with back-to-back last place finishes in 2020 and 2021. Again, we’re only four games into the season.

Last Week’s Heroes: Nelson Cruz’s bat woke up at the right time Sunday, delivering a homer and then a two-run single for the DH. His three RBI pace the team, while Josh Bell and Keibert Ruiz are tied for the team lead with four hits apiece. Erick Fedde tossed five innings in his first start of the season while relievers Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey and Kyle Finnegan each posted two scoreless innings of relief in the series with the Mets.

Last Week’s Humbled: Starting pitchers Patrick Corbin and Josiah Gray failed to get outs in the fifth inning of their starts. That’s not “failed to get out of the fifth,” but “failed to get outs in” — putting additional pressure on a bullpen that is in danger of being fried by the end of May if things continue at this pace. Austin Voth notched the highest ERA of the week at 13.50. Maikel Franco hit 1-13 with four strikeouts while leadoff hitter Cesar Hernandez batted .188 with no walks.

Game to Watch: From the division favorite to the defending champs. Monday the Nats visit Atlanta with former fourth starter Anibal Sanchez (15-13 with a 4.52 ERA with the team in 2019-20) who is supposed to make his return to the rotation after a year away. Given what we’ve seen so far from the starters (average outing of four and a third innings), I’m not expecting much, but in a year where we’ve already seen Max as a Met one month before seeing Trea Turner as a Dodger, it’s nice to have somebody from 2019 still suiting up for Washington.

Game to Miss: After three games with the Braves, a trip to Pittsburgh may be just what the doctor ordered. But even though they begin their series with the Pirates Thursday, I’ll be focused on a Capitals team that begins a five-game road trip that night by visiting Toronto. It’s amazing that even though the Caps won their Stanley Cup a year before the Nats won their World Series, the nucleus of Ovechkin and others is still skating in D.C. while the next baseball era is already here. I’m going to enjoy these Caps while I still can.

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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