Nats Notebook: Plenty of pressure on pitching

It’s been said that the Major League Baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint, but the key to staying sharp during a long race is plenty of water breaks along the way (especially in D.C.).

The Washington Nationals are one of a handful of teams that has yet to have a day off (days off were baked into the late March-early April schedule eaten up by the lockout), and that puts extra pressure on a pitching staff that is still finding its regular season arms.



Seventeen different players have pitched so far this month, including utility man Dee Strange-Gordon. The staff currently owns the third-highest ERA in MLB, and their 51 walks issued lead the big leagues. The Nats have seven more games before their first “day off” April 25. We’ll all exhale then …

Digesting the Division: The New York Mets (7-3) remain on top of the division thanks to a rotation that has an ERA of 1.07 so far this season. Even with their late-inning issues, handcuffing foes for the first 4-6 innings is a heck of a way to start games. Miami (4-5) has moved up to second place thanks to three wins in four games against Philadelphia where they scored 25 runs. Atlanta (5-6) slipped into third with Sunday night’s loss and may not have Freddie Freeman in the lineup, but his replacement Matt Olson is hitting .421 with 11 walks. Philadelphia (4-6) is in fourth place as the reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper is hitting .216 with two homers and nine RBI-no doubt hit bat will heat up by the time they make their first trip to D.C. in mid-June. And in last place are the Nationals (4-7) who have yet to post a winning April under Manager Davey Martinez.

O’s Woes: The Birds took the series finale against the New York Yankees to take two of three from the Pinstripes. But they’re still in last place of the AL East, and to make things worse, John Means goes on the 60-day Injured List with elbow issues. That’s bad news for a leaky rotation that was hoping to rely on the guy who in 2021 led the team in innings pitched, tied for the lead in wins and had the best starter’s ERA.

Last Week’s Heroes: Juan Soto hit .333 with two homers and his nine walks give him an MLB-best 12 for the young season. Josh Bell and Maikel Franco each hit .370 with eight RBI while Cesar Hernandez hit .333 and scored seven runs atop the batting order. Josiah Gray tossed five scoreless innings in his start while Erick Fedde also notched his first win of the year by scattering two runs over five frames. Sean Doolittle threw 2.2 hitless innings over three games (he’s yet to allow a baserunner this season).

Last Week’s Humbled: Franco made three errors in Sunday’s loss at Pittsburgh, two on the same play. While none of them resulted in Pirates runs, the first two extended the second inning for starter Patrick Corbin, and the third put the leadoff runner on base in the sixth that Corbin did not survive. Rough outings on the mound this week came in the form of double-digit ERA’s for Kyle Finnegan (16.20) and Patrick Murphy (13.50). Victor Robles finally got his first hit of the season Sunday while Keibert Ruiz (.148) and Nelson Cruz (.190) had less than ideal weeks at the plate.

Game to Watch: This week, the Nationals host Arizona and San Francisco, beginning their series with the Diamondbacks by facing former Giants staff ace Madison Bumgarner. The 2014 NLCS and World Series MVP hasn’t posted a winning record since the 2016 season and has only pitched eight innings over two starts in 2022, but I want to see what he has left in the tank. And … I’m curious to see if Josiah Gray can put together a second straight solid start.

Game to Miss: Tuesday the Nats pitch Joan Adon, who has a 10.00 ERA after two starts, and even though it’s only April, his opposing starter (Merrill Kelly) hasn’t allowed a run in his two outings. Plus, if I’m watching Monday’s game that means I can’t catch the season premiere of “Better Call Saul.” Don’t spoil it for me — I’ll catch up on it a night later.

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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