Nationals Notebook: Fighting for fourth and foiled by Philly

For one brief shining moment, the Washington Nationals climbed out of fifth place thanks to their 8-7 win Friday night against Philadelphia, only to slide back into the cellar with losses in the next two games.

Sunday’s 11-3 drubbing highlighted how far the Nats have to go before they leave the NL East basement behind for good.

“You know, I think we have a very competitive team on this side,” Joey Meneses said through an interpreter after the series finale. “Unfortunately, there was one big inning for them that just kind of opened the game and the floodgates but I think that compared to them we’re a very good team as well.”

The Phillies pounded five home runs, with their leadoff hitter Kyle Schwarber (remember him?) and their number nine batter Drew Ellis each blasting a pair.

The Nats currently rank 29th in the majors with 46 homers, meaning they have to grind offensively, and scored 13 runs on 28 hits over the weekend.

“It’s not very easy to drive in runs and get your RBIs,” Meneses said. “We’ve just got to focus more on those at-bats and try get as many runs as we can in.”

Digesting the Division: Atlanta (35-24) owns a three and a half-game lead thanks to their dominance on the road. The Braves are 20-10 away from Truist Park.

Miami (32-28) get fat off a sweep of last place Oakland, while the New York Mets (30-30) come back to Earth after getting swept by Toronto (they get a crack at the Braves this week with Max Scherzer pitching Tuesday and Justin Verlander starting Wednesday).

Philadelphia (27-32) suffers from the same quality/quantity batting that haunts the Nats, ranking 23rd in runs scored despite ranking 11th in batting average. The Nationals (25-34) offer a wider variance, ranking fourth in hitting and 22nd in scoring.

Break up the Birds: After dropping consecutive series to Texas and Cleveland, the Baltimore Orioles (37-22) took two of three in San Francisco and remain within striking distance of first place Tampa Bay in the AL East. Just like the Braves, the O’s are also 20-10 on the road this season. They’ll be tested this week at NL Central-leading Milwaukee before coming home to face AL Central cellar-dwelling Kansas City (9-18 on the road-second worst in MLB) at Camden Yards.

Last Week’s Heroes: Keibert Ruiz belted three homers with five RBI while Jeimer Candelario drove in a team-high six. Joey Meneses hit .391 with a team-high five runs scored. Hunter Harvey tossed 2.2 scoreless innings over two outings while recording a save, while Chad Kuhl tossed two scoreless frames. Trevor Williams posted the best ERA of the starters (3.38).

Last Week’s Humbled: Jake Irvin allowed four runs over five innings in his start, while Andres Machado coughed up three homers and six earned runs over three innings (18.00 ERA). Carl Edwards Jr. and Thaddeus Ward also posted 9.00 ERA’s in relief. First baseman Dominic Smith hit 4-24 (. 167) while leadoff hitter Lane Thomas was held to .200 at the plate.

Game to Watch: On Thursday, the Nats wrap up their homestand by hosting Arizona. Josiah Gray (4-5, 3.09 ERA) has tossed just 14.1 innings over his last three starts, while the Diamondbacks counter with Merrill Kelly (7-3, 2.80 ERA). With an early forecast of 80 degrees and 10% chance of rain, I’m looking forward to this getaway day (1:05 p.m. first pitch) game.

Game to Miss: On Friday, the team begins a road trip in Atlanta with MacKenzie Gore looking for his first win since April 26. The Braves scheduled starter Michael Soroka owns an ERA of 8.38 over his two 2023 appearances. Add this to the 7:20 p.m. game time (can’t they go back to TBS?) and given the mound matchup, one might expect a late night. Enjoy the evening with friends.

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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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