Nationals Notebook: Winning weekend not in the cards

C.J. Abrams hit .462 with a team-high seven runs batting in the leadoff spot (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The All Star break gave us a little of everything: a Home Run Derby (Vlad Guerrero Jr. hitting 72 round-trippers to join his dad Vlad Sr. as winners of the contest) with plenty of fireworks as well as a close game (unlike my childhood, this year saw the NL take the lead only to lose it in the late innings).

The hiatus also gave us the announcement of the 2024 regular season schedules. Honestly, the current season is barely halfway complete and I can think of a half-dozen more important baseball topics to discuss rather than who the Nats will open up with (at Cincinnati March 28) or when they’ll face the Orioles (May 7-8 at Nationals Park, Aug. 13-14 at Camden Yards).

This couldn’t wait until Nov. 1? While we’re discussing schedules didn’t MLB do it right on two counts by giving us a battle of last place teams (Nationals-St. Louis) as well the Wild Card leaders (Orioles-Miami) facing off coming out of the break?

Meanwhile, the clock begins to tick in earnest as teams have to decide if they are buyers or sellers with the trading deadline a little over two weeks away.

Digesting the Division: The NL East went 6-9 over the weekend with four of the five clubs dropping their respective series. Atlanta (61-31) beat the Chicago White Sox 9-0 Friday before getting outscored 14-6 in their next two games by the Pale Hose. Miami (53-42) was swept by AL Wild Card leader Baltimore to see their lead for second place over Philadelphia (51-42) fall to just one game (and zero in the loss column). The Phillies took three of four from San Diego (the SD on their hats stand not for the city but “Severely Disappointed”). The New York Mets (43-50) scored just three runs while dropping two of three to the Los Angeles Dodgers (the NY on their caps no doubts standing for “Negligible Yield”). The Nationals (37-56) remain six games out of fourth place with a little over 40% of the season remaining.

Break up the Birds: The Orioles (57-35) not only swept NL Wild Card leader Miami but they took two one-run games against a Marlins team that was 21-6 in those games entering the weekend. The O’s (16-9 in one-run games) begin the week one game behind a Tampa Bay (14-16 those games) team that’s dropped seven of 10. They’ll get four shots at the Rays this week but after the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers come to Camden Yards. Both teams could be weary for the series opener Thursday as Tampa Bay faces AL West-leading Texas to begin the week.

Last Week’s Heroes: Even with the “small sample size” (three games) caveat C.J. Abrams is hitting .462 with seven runs scored (41% of the team’s runs) since the break while the catching combo of Keibert Ruiz & Riley Adams batted .364 with three RBI. Trevor Williams tossed 2.2 scoreless innings Friday before rain ended his start while Kyle Finnegan posted two scoreless frames of relief to earn the win over the Cardinals. Josiah Gray threw one scoreless inning in the All Star Game.

Last Week’s Humbled: Gray allowed four runs on 10 hits over five innings in Sunday’s start at St. Louis. Jose Ferrer and Jordan Weems each posted ERA’s of 18.00 while Jake Irvin allowed four runs over three innings in his start Saturday. Ildemaro Vargas hit 2-12 while Stone Garrett batted 1-8 and Luis Garcia went 0-7 against the Cardinals.

Game to Watch: Washington begins a series with the Chicago Cubs Monday night and Mackenzie Gore (4-7, 4.42 ERA) starts. Since the beginning of July, he’s tossed just four innings: 2.2 in a blowout loss at Philadelphia and 1.1 in a rain-delayed game with Cincinnati. The 24-year-old made just 13 starts last year for San Diego and this will be his 19th outing of 2023. So I’m concerned where he is coming out of the break.

Game to Miss: Wednesday night they wrap up their series at Wrigley Field. That’s right, they won’t play a day game at the very ballpark that is the poster child for afternoon baseball. Not even on the getaway day. As of Sunday night, the Nats didn’t have a starter listed, which makes this game a non-starter for me.

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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