The Nationals’ lost summer has the team teetering toward the precipice of elimination.
After Sunday’s loss to San Diego, their “tragic number” is down to 14. They’re going to have to get “hot” (hey, 25-21 is tougher than it seems with some teams) to avoid a 100-loss season and they have a good chance to post their worst record since relocating to Washington.
They could very well have a 20-game loser in Patrick Corbin, and the team’s home run leader for 2022 might just be a guy who was on another team for the final two months of the regular season: Juan Soto. He had 21 before being traded, while the current leader entering Sunday was Lane Thomas with 10. Do you think he has 12 homers in him over the final 56 games?
The question raised since the trade of the two big bats (don’t discount Josh Bell, who scored eight runs over his first eight games with the Padres) is can this team win…50?
No club in the modern era has won fewer than 40, and those1962 Mets were an expansion team at the time. Fifty wins in MLB is the SAT equivalent for getting 400 points just for signing your name (I know standardized testing is passé, just work with me here).
After Sunday’s defeat, the Nats need to finish 12-34 in order to reach the midcentury mark: they’re 14-32 over their previous 46 games.
Ain’t Missing You — Juan Soto told the press in Washington that he cried the morning he learned he was going to be traded by the Nationals. We know how you feel, Juan. Soto is hitting .350 with a homer and three RBI for his new team, and he went 3-for-9 with two RBI against the Nats over the weekend.
Josh Bell went 0-for-9 in D.C. after scoring eight runs in his previous eight games with the Padres. They’ll get four more cracks at the Nats this upcoming weekend out west.
Digesting the Division — The New York Mets (75-40) lead Atlanta (70-46) by five and a half games and they entered Sunday with an 11 game advantage over Central Division leading St. Louis.
The Braves, who rallied to beat Miami, boast the best record in the Wild Card race while Philadelphia (63-51) drops from the second to the third Wildcard spot, one half game behind San Diego and a game and a half ahead of Milwaukee for the final playoff berth.
Miami remains in the wilderness at 50-65 but the Marlins remain double digits in games ahead of the last-place Nationals.
Break up the Birds! — The Orioles improbably postseason drive took a bit of a hit when they lost two of three to Tampa Bay (you can call them Rays, but you can also call them in the final Wild Card spot). At 59-55, the Birds may trail Tampa Bay by a game and a half, but they have won 24 of 35.
No longer a spurt or a surge, this is a lengthy kick. They’re done with the Rays for the season (dropping the series to Tampa 10-9) and will face No. 1 Wild Card contender Toronto 13 times over the final 48 games (they’re 4-2 against the Blue Jays) beginning Monday.
Last Week’s Heroes — Thirty-year-old rookie Joe Meneses hit .550 with four homers and, yes, MASN’s Mark Zuckerman is calling him “Joey Four-bags” on Twitter.
Also, Keibert Ruiz homered twice while driving in five; Nelson Cruz batted .357; Carl Edwards Jr. tossed 2.2 scoreless innings over three appearances and notched a pair of saves; Josiah Gray had the best week of the starters, allowing two runs over 6.1 innings (before the bullpen blew up); and, even though he blew his only save opportunity, Kyle Finnegan went 2-0 in relief.
Last Week’s Humbled — The rest of the rotation averaged fewer than five innings per start as Paolo Espino, Anibal Sanchez and Cory Abbott each took their respective lumps. Tyler Clippard posted an ERA of 18.00. The outfield and first base traditionally power up the offensive engine, and Victor Robles batted .133 while Lane Thomas hit .150. Luke Voit batted .130 with one walk and 12 strikeouts.
Game to Watch — On Friday, the Nationals begin a series in San Diego and we get to see Blake Snell again. Remember him? As we mourn the decline of Patrick Corbin, realize that the lefthander won the American League Cy Young while posting a 21-5 record in 2018. In the three-plus years since, he’s won a total of 22 games, including last Sunday’s victory over the Nationals in D.C.
Game to Miss — Monday night, the Nationals begin a series with another recent World Series champion that is in the middle of a reboot/revamp/rebuild/cratering: the Chicago Cubs.
Josiah Gray (whom I’m already trying to give space to after going all-in on his starts a month ago) is on the mound after allowing two runs over 6 innings at Wrigley Field, while Marcus Stroman (3-5, 4.20 ERA) pitches for the Cubs.
But Monday night is also the evening where “Better Call Saul” airs its series finale.
Just like one hopes (but doesn’t expect), the next Nats run will be comparable to the 2012-19 edition, where one hoped BCS wouldn’t drag down “Breaking Bad.” And with Slippin Jimmy’s scams, Howard’s Hamlindigo Blue, Mike retrieving baseball cards and Kim turning Mesa Verde into a regional banking dynamo, we were pleasantly surprised.
Toasting a great run with the necessary Cinnabon and Zafiro Añejo. It’s showtime.