Nationals Notebook: The final days

Washington Nationals' CJ Abrams, left, celebrates with teammate Lane Thomas, right, after both score on a double hit in by Nationals' Keibert Ruiz during the third inning of the second game of a baseball doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)(AP/Stephanie Scarbrough)
Five games remain in the Washington Nationals’ 2023 season. And while there’s a decent chance they’d be locking up last place on the very night Baltimore celebrates clinching the AL East at Camden Yards, there are still a few magic numbers within striking distance of a few players.

Lane Thomas is two runs shy of 100 for the season, while he and Joey Meneses are in a duel for the team lead in hits (Thomas has 163 while Meneses has 164). Meneses might not be in position to reach 100 RBI, but the slugger is three shy of 90. C.J. Abrams is three doubles away from 30 and two home runs shy of 20 (he also has a 6-4 lead in the race for the team lead in triples with Luis Garcia).

You might be surprised to learn that Alex Call has the team lead in walks (52). On the mound, Patrick Corbin’s 10 wins lead the staff, as do his 31 starts and 175.1 innings. MacKenzie Gore paces the team with 151 strikeouts, while Josiah Gray’s 4.00 ERA is the best of the starters. Kyle Finnegan is three saves shy of 30 (he’s also three wins away from 10 for the season).

Make your notations accordingly …

Digesting the Division: Atlanta (100-56) has a magic number of three for home-field advantage in the NLCS. The Braves battle the Chicago Cubs and the Nationals this week. Philadelphia (87-69) owns a magic number of one to capture the Wild Card, while Miami (81-75) remains one game out of the final playoff spot after taking two of three from Milwaukee. Both teams meet the New York Mets and Pittsburgh over the final week of the season. The New York Mets (71-85) own a two-and-a-half game lead over Washington (69-88) and also hold the tiebreaker, so the Nats’ cellar reservation number is three.

Break up the Birds: Baltimore (97-59) owns a magic number of three games to capture the AL East. The Birds play two games against the Nats and four against Boston, while second-place Tampa Bay faces the Red Sox and Toronto this week.

Winning the division means home-field advantage through the ALCS, and right now, the O’s are three games behind Atlanta for the best record in baseball.

Last Week’s Heroes: Luis Garcia hit .407 with a team-high nine runs scored, while C.J. Abrams batted .333 with four runs scored and six driven in. Lane Thomas and Joey Meneses each recorded two home runs with a combined 8 RBI. Jackson Rutledge allowed three runs in 11.1 innings over two starts and posted his first Major League win Sunday. Josiah Gray allowed one run over five innings in his lone start, while Robert Garcia tossed 3.2 scoreless innings over three outings.

Last Week’s Humbled: Keibert Ruiz batted .222, while Dominic Smith hit .154. Patrick Corbin allowed five runs over 4.1 innings, and Jake Irvin coughed up five runs over 2.2 frames. Jose A. Ferrer also posted an ERA of 16.88 while Jordan Weems’ ERA was 13.50.

Game to Watch: On Tuesday and Wednesday, Washington visits Baltimore, and if I had to choose, I’d rather see Wednesday’s game with Josiah Gray making his final start of 2023.

Will the All-Star be able to return to form next year or was the first half of this year the outlier?

Game to Miss: On Saturday, the Nats face Atlanta with Patrick Corbin on the mound. I’m going to take a pass here on a full day of college football that includes Navy-South Florida, Virginia-Boston College, Virginia Tech-Pitt, Maryland-Indiana and James Madison-South Alabama.

See ya next year!

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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