Normally this is a weekly installment, but Washington has a couple off-days now before having a loaded schedule in the coming weeks.
The Nationals kicked off a three-game series in Atlanta on Monday. They fell just short in the opener (7-6), but rebounded to win the following night (8-5). Erick Fedde was set to start the rubber match on Wednesday, but the game was postponed due to inclement weather. The Nationals, who could’ve benefited tremendously by taking two out of three from the Braves, had to settle for a two-game split.
Following a one-run win over the Orioles to close out last week, the Nationals were looking to keep their positive momentum. Early in Game One, they seemed on track to accomplish that mission. Anibal Sanchez had a fairly average start – three runs on seven hits in five innings – but the offense made up for his slight shortcomings.
Luis Garcia and Eric Thames each homered in the second inning, Asdrubal Cabrera added a solo blast in the fifth, and Juan Soto muscled a long ball that sparked some controversy.
The problem was the bullpen. Although Dakota Bacus, Tanner Rainey and Will Harris threw a scoreless inning apiece, Daniel Hudson surrendered a pair of two-run homers in the bottom of the ninth, including a walk-off dagger to Dansby Swanson.
Initially, it looked like the Nationals were allowing the meltdown to affect them the following day. The bats were relatively quiet early, and Austin Voth scuffled – allowing 12 Braves to reach base and five to score in four innings.
The bullpen arguably saved the day this time around. Wander Suero was dominant in the fifth inning, rookies Seth Romero and Dakota Bacus combined for a scoreless sixth, Harris escaped the seventh unharmed, Kyle Finnegan cleaned up an imperfect eighth inning that Javy Guerra started, and Hudson bounced back from Monday’s miscues to pick up the save.
Every starter had at least one hit, and the only men who failed to get two were Kurt Suzuki and Victor Robles (who walked twice). Luis Garcia also became the first player born in the 2000s to hit a major league home run.
For better or worse, the season finale was postponed.
The layoff could mess with the rhythm of some players, but it’s also much-needed rest for others.
Howie Kendrick hasn’t played since last Friday night due to hamstring tightness. He also wasn’t in Wednesday’s lineup, but this Friday seems reasonable – if not probable. However, an IL stint is likely if he still isn’t ready by game time.
Sean Doolittle is nearing his return to the field, but it won’t be on a big league mound right away. He is expected to pitch at the Alternate Training Site in Fredericksburg on Friday.
Starlin Castro will be undergoing surgery on his wrist on Friday, but he hopes that doing so will make him available if/when the Nationals get to the postseason.
The status of Stephen Strasburg is a bit less clear, but he will likely also be out for an extended period.
Because of the postponement of games from earlier in the season, the Nationals have a tough schedule ahead of them. They don’t have a scheduled off-day until Wednesday, September 9, and they have a five-game series over the next four days against the Marlins.
- Friday: LHP Patrick Corbin (official) vs. LHP Daniel Castano (unofficial), 6:05 p.m. on MASN2/MLB Network and 106.7 WJFK-FM
- Saturday (Game 1): RHP Max Scherzer (official) vs. RHP Elieser Hernandez/Jordan Yamamoto (unofficial), 4:05 p.m. on MASN2/MLB Network and 106.7 WJFK-FM
- Saturday (Game 2): RHP Erick Fedde/spot starter (unofficial) vs. Hernandez/Yamamoto (unofficial), on MASN2 and 106.7 WJFK-FM
- Sunday: RHP Anibal Sanchez (unofficial) vs. RHP Humberto Mejia (unofficial), 12:35 p.m. on MASN2 and 106.7 WJFK-FM
- Monday: RHP Austin Voth (unofficial) vs. RHP Pablo Lopez (unofficial), 6:05 p.m. on MASN2 and 106.7 WJFK-FM
A troubling variable has emerged, though. The Marlins’ finale against the Mets has been postponed, which could adversely affect the beginning – at least – of this series, depending upon whether there are substantial health concerns about Miami’s players.
Washington will look to keep its hitters as hot as they were against Atlanta. Starting off this series with Corbin and Scherzer should also reset the pitching staff, and the bullpen has been nearly perfect recently – aside from Hudson’s ninth inning on Monday.
At 9-12, the Nationals trail the Braves for the NL East lead by three games, and they’re 1.5 games behind the Marlins – who currently hold the final Wild Card berth.