Twenty-one games remain in the 2022 season for the Washington Nationals. The team was officially eliminated from Wild Card contention last week and needs a 14-7 finish to avoid a 100-loss campaign.
And while the Nats haven’t locked up the NL East cellar just yet, they’re nine games back with three weeks remaining. But while the season may have gone sideways (and that was even before the sell-off) there is reason to watch this team this month because the pieces of a future contender are being assembled on South Capitol Street. The middle-infield combination of C.J. Abrams and Luis Garcia plus outfielder Lane Thomas and catcher Keibert Ruiz are all in their 20s. After two seasons of summer sell-offs, there are seeds being planted again.
Ain’t Missing You: Juan Soto and Josh Bell continue to struggle in San Diego. Soto batted 1-20 last week while an article reported that the new Padre wasn’t dealing well with playing for a contender. Hey, Padres- this guy was a part of multiple contending clubs in D.C. before things went belly-up last summer. Josh Bell hit .318 last week but is still batting .205 with 21 runs scored and three homers with 11 RBI over 35 games. Soto’s not much better, hitting .218 with 22 runs and three homers with six RBI over 32 games.
Digesting the Division: The New York Mets (89-52) own a game and a half lead over Atlanta (87-53) after the two were tied for first place earlier in the week. They meet for one three-game series at the end of the month. The Braves own the top Wild Card spot while Philadelphia (78-62) owns the second Wild Card spot (and is three and a half games clear of Milwaukee for the final playoff spot) while Miami (57-82) has wrapped up another losing season (now 12 straight full campaigns under .500). The Nationals (49-92) still have a shot to get out of the cellar but time is running out.
O’s Woes: The Orioles dropped two of three to Boston to slip to 73-67 and five and a half games out of the final playoff spot in the American League Wild Card race. The Birds have six games remaining with Toronto, four with Houston and three with the New York Yankees. Of the teams they’re chasing, Toronto and Tampa Bay play nine times. The Rays play nine other games with division leaders (Cleveland and Houston) while the Blue Jays battle playoff contenders in eleven other games (Philadelphia, Yankees, and Orioles). It’s not over yet …
Last Week’s Heroes: Alex Call hit .400 with two homers and six RBI while Cesar Hernandez batted .364 with four runs scored and five RBI. Lane Thomas hit .375 with five RBI and the summer of Joey Meneses continues with the 30-year old rookie batting .323 with seven RBI. Anibal Sanchez allowed one run over seven innings while posting a victory. Mason Thompson tossed five scoreless innings over three outings while Andres Machado tossed four scoreless frames over three games.
Last Week’s Humbled: Erick Fedde (four runs over 3.2 innings) and Josiah Gray (four over 3.1) didn’t inspire anyone, while Kyle Finnegan went 0-2 while allowing seven runs over 2.2 innings. Josh Palacios batted .125 while Luis Garcia hit .208. Keibert Ruiz took a foul ball to the “nether regions” and is on the shelf for some time.
Games to Watch: Tuesday and Wednesday the Nats host the Orioles. The Birds are battling for a Wild Card spot and one must remember a year ago when the O’s swept Washington to set up the summer sell-off. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Nationals could return the favor one year later?
Game to Miss: They face fourth place Miami this weekend. With Maryland meeting SMU Saturday and the Commanders visiting Detroit Sunday, that leaves Friday open-and closed. I can skip another Josiah Gray (10.80 ERA over two starts this month) outing.