Nationals Notebook: One rough road

Nationals manager Davey Martinez says theres a lot of baseball left but the club may have to sell off some pieces within the week.(Courtesy NBC Washington)

Washington Nationals manager Davey Martinez said during the 2019 World Series season that “bumpy roads lead to beautiful places.” It’s even on the team’s World Series rings, as well as the commemorative ones handed out earlier this year in celebration of the five-year anniversary of that campaign.

“Bumpy” would be a kind way to describe the recent road trip for these Nats, who, after moving over .500 for the first time in almost three years, dropped three straight series away from Washington to slip into fourth place of the NL East.

And they’ve found different classes of teams to lose to, from Philadelphia (best record in MLB) to the Chicago White Sox (worst record in the majors) to Boston (a middling 23-24). And the offense that was doing “just enough” during its surge (17-12 from April 6 to May 10) went dormant, scoring 10 runs during the current five game slide while going 5-43 with runners in scoring position.

The journey from the cellar to contention is not a straight line. But they need to get their act in gear quickly because a season can go from middling to a disaster in a hurry.

Digesting the Division: Philadelphia (34-14), as mentioned, owns the best record in the big leagues while outscoring the Nats 19-10 over their weekend sweep. Alec Bohm is the best bat in their lineup with 42 RBI on the season, putting him on pace to post 100 in a season for the first time in his career.

Atlanta (26-16) dropped two straight at San Diego, but the Braves are seeing one offseason pickup pay dividends in Chris Sale (6-1, 2.54 ERA) who’s having his best season since 2018. The New York Mets (21-25) are playing just well enough to slink by the slumping Nats thanks to a pair of sweep-averting wins against the Phillies and Marlins.

Washington (20-25) may be in fourth place but has more wins at this point than the previous two seasons (18 and 15). Miami (15-33) won consecutive series against Detroit and the Mets. Should we be hearing the Marlins’ footsteps?

Break up the Birds: Thank goodness for the Wildcard, because at 29-15, the O’s enjoy the positive vibe of boasting the second-best record in the American League while avoiding the pessimism of being two games behind the New York Yankees in the East Division.

Gunnar Henderson’s MLB-best 15th homer of the year has one wondering why they don’t bat him further down in the lineup. Yes, “First Wildcard Problems” indeed.

Diamonds Direct Diamond King of the Week: On a team that’s hit the skids offensively, Trey Lipscomb hit .400 while scoring and driving in a run.

Unfortunately he was sent down to AAA Rochester to make room for Joey Gallo, who’s hitting .129 with 48 strikeouts in 85 at bats and is primarily a first baseman-outfielder-designated hitter (where one expects offensive production) unlike Lipscomb who has played multiple infield positions this year.

One hopes to see Trey again at the MLB level sooner rather than later.

Last Week’s Heroes: Eddie Rosario led the team with four RBI and homered again (giving him five in May) while C.J. Abrams scored a team-high three runs.

Derek Law tossed 2.1 scoreless innings over three outings while posting the team’s lone win of the week and Kyle Finnegan recorded his 13th save of the season (he’s tied for the MLB lead).

Last Week’s Humbled: Tanner Rainey allowed three runs over an inning of relief, while Jake Irvin surrendered four runs in five innings during his start. Jesse Winker hit .133 while Luis Garcia Jr. batted and Victor Robles went 0-11 at the plate.

Game to Watch: Sunday, the Nats wrap up their series with Seattle as Mitchell Parker (2-2, 3.09 ERA) gets another opportunity to make his case for retainment when Josiah Gray comes off the Injured List. After a strong start (1.69 ERA in April) the rookie has been less than marvelous (4.50 in three May starts) this month.

And his counterpart Bryan Woo (0.93 ERA over 9.2 innings) has been sharp in his two starts this season.

Game to Miss: Saturday, the team meets the Mariners at 4:05, meaning one must cut their first Saturday at the pool short to see what in any other circumstance would be a decent pitching matchup (Trevor Williams-Logan Gilbert). But when the pool is only open for 101 days (yes, we counted) one can’t afford to burn days carelessly. Cannonball!

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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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