In a big game in a spot where his team needed him, the Nationals’ best position player came through.
Anthony Rendon slugged a tie-breaking grand slam with two outs in the sixth inning off of reliever Chad Sobotka to propel the Nats to a 6-3 victory over the visiting Braves on Monday. It was the third grand slam in the career of Rendon, who also singled in the game.
The Nationals now sit just 4.5 games behind the Braves in the National League East after Monday’s win. They hold the top NL Wild Card spot. This is the same club that went 19-31 in their first 50 games and was already 10 games out of first place before the end of May.
Rendon obviously has had a major hand in the team’s turnaround, but he’s been beasting since day one for them this season. The third baseman’s OPS – which currently sits at 1.020 – has been below 1.000 for just four days since the beginning of April, and the lowest it’s been during that stretch is .997. The impending free agent’s low OPS for a month was in May, at .966.
The news wasn’t all good for the Nationals on Monday, however. Max Scherzer went back on the injured list for the second time this month with his nagging back issue, which is officially being called a mild rhomboid strain.
“He’s not a happy camper,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He wants to be out there competing. So, this is kind of a tough deal for him, but I told him, ‘We’ll get you right, you’ve got to stay positive. We’ll get you right, get you back out there and you’ll be right in the thick of things once again.’”
Scherzer has not thrown since he received a stem cell injection last Friday and he’s not expected to throw for another few days, at least. Instead, he will be focusing on strengthening the muscles in his back in hopes that he can put the back injury behind him for good. The three-time Cy Young winner will be eligible to return on August 5, but Martinez stressed that the team isn’t looking at that as a target date for Scherzer. Erick Fedde will fill in for him on Tuesday.
The 35-year-old has made just two starts this month but still holds a sizable lead in the NL in strikeouts with 189 (Robbie Ray is second with 173). Scherzer still has plenty of time to get healthy and make a push for a fourth Cy Young award. Only Roger Clemens (seven), Randy Johnson (five), Greg Maddux (four) and Steve Carlton (four) have won that many.
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Brews, Phils Supplement Rotation
They didn’t have as much pizazz as the Mets’ trade for Marcus Stroman on Sunday, but a couple more notable deals went down Monday as two National League playoff contenders looked to bolster their rotations.
First it was the Brewers acquiring old friend Jordan Lyles, who finished last season with them. The Pirates picked up pitching prospect Cody Ponce in the deal.
Lyles got off to a fantastic start this season, putting up a 1.89 ERA and 52/16 K/BB ratio over his first 47 2/3 innings, culminating in a 12-strikeout gem versus the Padres back on May 17. Unfortunately, he’s managed one quality start in nine tries since then, posting a 9.57 ERA over that stretch. He had one start this month where he failed to make it out of the first inning and another (his last one) where he failed to make it out of the second.
The Brewers were desperate for rotation help with Brandon Woodruff (oblique) and Jhoulys Chacin (lat) recently going down, and with a poorly-rated farm system they figured Lyles was worth a shot at a low cost. The righty has struck out over a batter per inning even during his poor stretch and his velocity has remained steady, so perhaps Milwaukee will be able to coax his early-season performance back out of him. For fantasy purposes, Lyles is definitely a wait-and-see option.
Also on the move is Jason Vargas, who will switch NL East clubs in going from the Mets to the Phillies. Catching prospect Austin Bossart landed with the Mets in the trade.
Vargas’ season has been on the opposite end of the spectrum to Lyles’. The veteran left-hander really struggled early on with a 5.92 ERA in his first seven outings before he went on the injured list with a hamstring ailment. Since returning, Vargas has held a 3.34 ERA and 61/27 K/BB ratio over 70 frames covering his last 12 starts. He even mixed in a shutout last month.
The soft-tossing lefty can be susceptible to the long ball, which makes him a risky bet for Citizens Bank Park. Frankly, he would be a risky bet wherever he landed, but Philly was willing to take a shot in hopes of reinforcing the back-end of their rotation. General manager Matt Klentak wasn’t ready to say whose spot in the rotation Vargas would take, but Zach Eflin has fallen apart over the last five weeks and would seem to be the most likely candidate.
Giles Still Down
Ken Giles is still hurting, and that’s really hurting the Blue Jays’ efforts to trade him prior to Wednesday’s deadline.
Giles was unavailable to pitch Monday for the second straight day due to what manager Charlie Montoyo said after the game was right elbow inflammation. Montoyo had indicated earlier this month that it was a nerve issue the reliever was dealing with that was brought about by a massage. Giles had a minimum stay on the injured list last month with what was termed elbow inflammation.
Regardless of the exact terminology of Giles’ ailment, the timing couldn’t be worse. Montoyo wasn’t sure whether his closer would be available to pitch Tuesday on the eve of the trade deadline. If Toronto still is set on shopping Giles now, they’d almost surely have to accept a lesser offer than they had planned. He is under team control next season, so the Jays could always hold off on a deal.
Daniel Hudson and Joe Biagini are the next two guys in line for saves behind Giles, but they could also be traded this week. Perhaps David Phelps – who has a little closing experience – would be next up after that. Phelps has pitched well overall since coming back from Tommy John surgery, although he was knocked around and saddled with a blown save in his last appearance on Sunday.
National League Quick Hits: Eric Hosmer homered twice and drove in five runs Monday versus the Orioles. … Jon Gray hurled eight innings and allowed just one run on three hits in the Rockies' victory on Monday over the Dodgers. … Charlie Blackmon was not in the Rockies' lineup Monday after his back locked up on him during a postgame workout Sunday. … Jose Iglesias and Colin Moran both clubbed grand slams in the Reds’ win over the Pirates on Monday. … Miguel Rojas homered in a third straight game Monday as the Marlins topped the Diamondbacks … Ian Desmond doubled and tripled while going 3-for-3 on Monday against the Dodgers. … Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune has reported that trade talk involving Franmil Reyes "has become more focused". … The Cardinals optioned Harrison Bader to Triple-A Memphis on Monday … Dansby Swanson (foot) is expected to return from the injured list on Saturday, the first day he's eligible.
American League Quick Hits: Cavan Biggio went 3-for-5 with a homer, two RBI and three runs scored in a win over the Royals on Monday … Miguel Cabrera went deep and plated three runs Monday as the Tigers took down the Angels. … Randal Grichuk went 3-for-5 with a homer, triple and three RBI on Monday to help the Blue Jays to a win over the Royals. … Blake Snell underwent arthroscopic surgery Monday to remove loose bodies from his left elbow. … The Tigers will call up catching prospect Jake Rogers prior to Tuesday's game versus the Angels. ... Dwight Smith Jr. was lifted from Monday's game against the Padres after aggravating his left calf injury.