Nationals Notebook: Braves’ dominance over Nats, NL East continues

Washington Nationals' Jeimer Candelario (9) celebrates in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Sunday, June 11, 2023, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)(AP/Brynn Anderson)

The Washington Nationals may have taken Sunday’s series finale against the Atlanta Braves, but the victory was a brief and temporary one.

Remember 1995-2005? When Atlanta won eleven straight National League East titles? Those days aren’t just back, but they’ve been back for some time.

Forget that the Nationals won the 2019 World Series or that Philadelphia advanced to the World Series last October. The Braves have won the NL East five straight years, and despite the offseason signings by Philadelphia and the New York Mets, they’re in control once more.

This past weekend’s series win over the Nationals gives them a three-and-a-half game cushion over an overachiever, two underachievers and the last place Nats. Seven of their nine everyday players are under 30 years old.

History students know about Pax Romana and Pax Britannica; the NL East knows only Pax Atlanta.

Digesting the Division: Atlanta (40-25) has been in first place for 73 straight days (they trailed by half a game on April 2). Second-place Miami (37-29) has won 12 of 15 games to become more than a simple curiosity, and the Marlins’ Luis Arráez’s .400 batting average flirtation is over 40% of the way into the season (he’s batting .397 after going 1 for 5 Sunday). Third-place Philadelphia (32-33) will tell you that last year’s team made the World Series after a slow start, but while the 2022 team was 21-29, they were 34-31 after 65 games.

At least they’re getting top RBI man Alec Bohm back from the “Injured List.” The New York Mets (31-35) are following up a 15-12 April and 14-15 May with a 2-8 June … who’s worrying? Washington (26-38) remains in last place thanks to a 2-6 June.

Break up the Birds: The Baltimore Orioles’ sweep of Kansas City puts the team at 41-24. More importantly, not giving up a game in a home series with a last place team further cements this club as a contender. The hot bat this month belongs to Gunnar Henderson, who’s hitting .458 with four homers and seven RBI this month.

Last Week’s Heroes: Stone Garrett led the team with two homers and six RBI, while Lane Thomas batted .300 with a team-high six runs scored. Mason Thompson tossed two scoreless innings over two outings, while Trevor Williams struck out six over five innings to help snap the Nats’ six game losing streak.

Last Week’s Humbled: Relievers Andrés Machado and Erasmo Ramírez were each designated for assignment, while Chad Kuhl allowed four runs in four innings over two games and MacKenzie Gore surrendered five runs over five innings in his lone start. CJ Abrams batted 1 for 15, Jeimer Candelario hit .125 and Corey Dickerson batted .167.

Game to Watch: Josiah Gray followed up a 2.67 April ERA by posting a 2.89 ERA in May. He’s coughed up five runs over 10.1 innings (4.35 ERA) over his first two June starts. I’m curious to see if this is more of a hiccup or a harbinger as the Nats visit Houston on Tuesday.

Game to Miss: On Sunday, rookie Jake Irvin (1-3, 5.81 ERA) pitches against the plucky Marlins with Jesús Luzardo (5-4, 3.79) on the hill for the visitors. It’s a 1:35 p.m. start … in the June heat. Give dad a day inside near air conditioning and away from the Nats.

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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