Nationals Notebook: Rotation giving reason to believe

The Nationals may be more than 20 games under .500 with the midway mark of the season one week away, but there is still a reason to watch this team as we close in on the All Star break. And that reason is a rotation that has had plenty of good moments as of late.

Erick Fedde started the strong week for the staff by tossing six scoreless innings in Baltimore and Jackson Tetreault wrapped things up by allowing just one run over six frames in a series-clinching victory at Texas.

In the middle, the Nats received solid outings from Paolo Espino (one run allowed over 5.1 innings Friday) and Josiah Gray (nine strikeouts over seven frames Saturday). They may rank 31st in the majors in team ERA, but for at least one week, the starters aren’t getting shelled.

And during a season where the number one pitcher (Stephen Strasburg) is once again on the shelf indefinitely and the number two starter (Patrick Corbin) has had issues, momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. And after this past week, the rotation is giving us reason to believe.

Digesting the Division — The New York Mets (47-27) have lost four of seven, but remain in front of the pack almost 50% of the way through the regular season. Atlanta (42-32) currently occupies the second Wildcard spot and is 19-5 this month. This is thanks, in part, to the hot bat of Dansby Swanson (.383 with seven homers and 19 RBI in June).

Philadelphia (39-35) is on the fringe of the playoff pack (1.5 games back) thanks to Kyle Schwarber’s June (nine homers with 19 RBI — not as hot as last year with the Nats, but still …). Miami (33-38) is in fourth but owns an 8-1 record against the Nats this year. They come to D.C. this week for a four-game series. The Nationals (27-48) have already clinched a losing record for the third straight month to start the season.

Break up the Birds — They may still be in last place of the AL East at 34-40, but the Orioles won four of six games last week and are closer to .500 at this point of the season for the first time since 2017. Austin Hays was a rookie on that team and is having one heck of a 2021 by hitting .269 with 10 homers and 44 RBI. Last week he hit for the cycle in a rain-shortened win over the Nats and 22 of his 44 RBI have come in June.

Last Week’s Heroes — Josh Bell hit .500 while Nelson Cruz drove in six. Erick Fedde tossed six scoreless innings while Jackson Tetreault allowed one run over six frames. Relievers Carl Edwards (3.2 scoreless innings over three games) and Tanner Rainey (two saves tossing two scoreless innings over two games).

Last Week’s Humbled — Víctor Robles and Riley Adams each went 0-5 at the plate while Maikel Franco went hitless in 11 at-bats. Steve Cishek allowed four runs over 1.2 innings and Francisco Perez allowed three hits and three runs without allowing an out in his only outing.

Game to Watch — Josiah Gray has a team-high six wins this year and a 1.13 ERA over four starts this month. He pitches Friday’s series opener against Miami and is the only Nats pitcher to beat the Marlins this season.

Game to Miss — Tuesday the Nationals play Pittsburgh as Patrick Corbin (3-10, 6.60 ERA) tries to climb out of what has been a nightmare season. He has pitched better in June, but not by much (5.59 ERA to the 8.69 in April and 5.97 in May). And with the excitement surrounding the other four-fifths of the rotation, I’m going to wait until July to see how the lefthander is progressing.

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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