Nationals Notebook: Spitting up a sweep

We’ve had some interesting opportunities for metaphors regarding the Nationals over the years. We had the tarp-rolling fiasco a few years ago when the defending World Series champs were stumbling on their way to a last place finish and, before the 2019 turnaround, the team charter got stuck on a runway in Philadelphia.

Sunday, San Francisco completed a sweep on South Capitol Street where they outscored the home team 24-6, and two pitches into the afternoon rookie infielder Lucius Fox got sick on the infield grass. One of those weekends.

According to Manager Davey Martinez, Fox had been fighting a stomach flu that’s been going around the clubhouse. Unfortunately, the flu won Sunday afternoon and the Nats have not won since they swept a day-night doubleheader last Tuesday. It was a rough week for a rotation that allowed 27 runs over 17.2 innings during the five-game slide, a lineup that was averaging 2.2 runs in those games, and a roster that seems to lose a player a day with a minor bump or a major bruise. The Nats were one win away from reaching .500 for the first time this season last Wednesday, but now a third straight losing April is assured. Meanwhile, load up on ginger ale and saltines. There may be some more weekends like this one that will be tough to stomach.

Sick Bay: Relief pitchers Sean Doolittle and Hunter Harvey went on the Injured List last week, sapping bullpen depth at a time when starters are having trouble reaching the fifth inning, let alone getting through the midway point of a regulation game. Josh Bell was lifted from two games for knee and hamstring issues, which is bad news because he’s boasting the best bat this month (tops on the team in on-base as well as slugging percentage). And Victor Robles was unavailable for Sunday’s game due to a tight groin. With the amount of relievers needed on the roster this year, the bench is razor-thin and if things continue to trend this way, perhaps we’ll see a pitcher at a position if somebody gets hurt midgame.

Digesting the Division: Right now, everybody’s chasing the New York Mets (12-5), who rank third in the Majors in scoring and are fourth in team ERA. Miami (7-8) took two of three from Atlanta to move past the Braves for second place while a certain fan base can say they started 7-10 last year only to win the World Series. Atlanta stays in second place because Philadelphia (6-10) lost to Milwaukee Sunday night. The Nationals (6-12) bring up the rear although they were tied for second in the division as recently as this past Tuesday.

O’s Woes: The Birds broke out the brooms Sunday in Anaheim but wound up losing to the Angels 7-6. And just to show that starting pitching isn’t just a Nationals problem, Chris Ellis failed to get an out in his start Sunday while being charged with five earned runs. And John Means announced that he’ll be undergoing Tommy John surgery. Good thing local product Bruce Zimmerman is having one incredible April: his 1.20 ERA leads the rotation and he’s increased his innings in each successive outing this month.

Last Week’s Heroes: Josh Bell and Kiebert Ruiz each hit .333 while Cesar Hernandez belted four doubles. Riley Adams belted his first homer of the season. Josiah Gray tossed five strong innings (allowing one earned run) in his start while Andres Machado and Kyle Finnegan each tossed three scoreless innings over three games.

Last Week’s Humbled: Patrick Corbin allowed seven runs over 1.2 innings while Erick Fedde coughed up seven over 3.1 frames. Steve Cishek (11.57) and Sam Clay (12.00) posted double-digit ERA’s out of the bullpen. Juan Soto draws walks like nobody else (his 16 lead MLB) but hit just .167. Alcides Escobar hit 2-for-21 (. 095).

Game to Watch: Tuesday, the Nats begin a series with Miami and start Josiah Gray. He’s won consecutive starts and his first outing wasn’t that bad either. The Marlins counter with Sandy Alcantra (1.86 ERA).

Game to Miss: Friday in San Francisco they begin their road trip with a game at the Giants. Unfortunately, the game will be broadcast on Apple TV +, which I do not have at this time. As of Sunday night, we also don’t know who will be starting for the Nationals, which is never ideal.

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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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