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Around the NL East: Where everyone is struggling

Around the NL East: Where everyone is struggling

Welcome to a new series on NBC Sports Washington, that will take a weekly look around the National League East. There shouldn’t be much to keep track of though because we all know the New York Mets and Miami Marlins are going to stay in the basement, and the Washington Nationals will eventually pull away from the pack.

Still, these pesky division rivals are the only reason the Nationals are in a tie for first place. The Braves are +14 in the win column when it comes to NL East contests as opposed to the Nationals.

Now to delve into this week…

The past seven days were not a good one to say the least around the NL (l)East. During that span, all five teams were a combined 11-17. Only Washington (3-2) broke above .500.

Thank goodness no one else in the National League is pulling that far away either.

Washington Nationals

Record: 36-27
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: @ New York Yankees (2), @ Toronto Blue Jays (4)

Things just are not clicking when Max Scherzer (10-2) can get you through seven innings, only allow two runs, and the team cannot pull it together for a victory. They also have Bryce Harper tripping on his own helmet, which is never a good sign. Although the Nationals battled to get back to atop the NL East Standings, by no means are they comfortable.

Two of their starting pitchers got sent the disabled list. Of course Stephen Strasburg to the 10-day DL is of the most concern. Although it is just simply shoulder inflammation on his throwing arm, it is something that has to be moderated with his history. The No. 5 starter, Jeremy Hellickson is also on the mend and their setup man, Brandon Kintzler is taking a 10-day rest after some terrible outings.

The good news? There is an offensive reinforcement back in the lineup, Adam Eaton and Lord Stanley’s Cup took a visit to the park on Saturday afternoon.

Does anyone know if Alex Ovechkin is allowed to DH? We already know he can’t pitch.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 37-28
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. New York Mets (2), vs. San Diego Padres (4)

Taking two out of three against the Nationals did nothing for the Atlanta Braves to gain momentum in the division. Since their home series against the Nats, they only have won two of their six games, all coming on the West Coast.

For the moment they are continuing to rotate a reliever into the No. 5 slot in the pitching rotation, but help is on the way. 20-year-old, former First Round pick in 2015, Mike Soroka just completed his rehab stint and should start Wednesday against the Mets. Lauded for his high ceiling, he’s only seen three games of MLB action.

Freddie Freeman is keeping Atlanta’s bats alive for the time being. During their past six games, he has 10 hits, six of them for extra bases as he is making a huge push in the All-Star voting.

Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 33-30
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: vs. Colorado Rockies (3), @ Milwaukee Brewers (3)

Aside from Aaron Nola (7-2) starts, there is not much consistency from the Phillies. Yet, while the Phillies are slumping they are not going anywhere in the standings. Still three games back from the Nationals and the Braves, Philadelphia remains in striking range as they try and put together their offense.

As it stands they currently are tied for the fourth-worst batting average in the majors (.230). Even worse is that they aren’t even getting quality hits. Heck as a team, they’ve only scrounged together 11 extra base hits in the past week.

New York Mets

Record: 28-34
Last 10: 2-8
Upcoming Series: @ Atlanta Braves (3), @ Arizona Diamondbacks (4)

On Sunday Night Baseball, the Mets managed to get their first win since May 30.

Hard to imagine that 12-day break in victories is for a team that started the year 10-1, their best start in franchise history.

Then after their victory, they let go of veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

Things are still not going smoothly for New York and more holes continue to pop up.

Miami Marlins

Record: 23-42
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: vs. San Francisco Giants (4), @ Baltimore Orioles (3)

In the midst of 16 games, in 16 days, the Marlins are no closer to getting out of the basement of the NL East.

However, it has been quite the hot streak for Derek Dietrich and Brian Anderson over the last 30 days. Both hitting over .350, these two helped power the Marlins to 19 runs in their three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Pair that with Justin Bour and Starlin Castro one would think that lineup would be a more than formidable offense.

Now if only they could find a starting pitcher to go at least six innings without giving up more than three runs to compliment it.

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Mike Rizzo provides an injury update on Max Scherzer

Mike Rizzo provides an injury update on Max Scherzer

After being placed on the 10-day injured list with a mid-back strain, Max Scherzer is supposed to come off of the IL by Saturday in time for the Nationals' third game of their series against the Atlanta Braves.

When he will actually pitch, is another question.

On Tuesday, Scherzer reportedly told manager Davey Martinez he's feeling "a lot better." Nationals GM Mike Rizzo followed up those comments during his spot on The Sports Junkies Wednesday.

"If he’s capable of pitching he will," Rizzo said.

Rizzo told the Junkies that he will find out more information about Scherzer's status prior to Wednesday's final game against the Baltimore Orioles. He said he, in conjunction with the Nationals' medical personnel, made the decision to place Scherzer on the 10-day IL.

“He was incapable of pitching the way Max Scherzer pitches so we all decided to put him on the IL," Rizzo said.

Scherzer was scheduled to start against the Braves this weekend, but the decision will depend on how Scherzer feels.

‘We’re still in July," Rizzo said. "Guarantee you this: If this is September and we needed this win, you couldn’t keep Max off the mound. Sometimes I have to be the adult in the room and just say, ‘sorry, buddy, not this time.”


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Mike Rizzo on how the Nationals plan to approach the nearing trade deadline

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Mike Rizzo on how the Nationals plan to approach the nearing trade deadline

With the MLB trade deadline only two weeks away, Nationals' general manager Mike Rizzo expects the team to be more focused on acquiring players than trading away any - and that includes third baseman Anthony Rendon, whose contract expires at the end of season.

"Obviously, we’re always listening and we’re always talking to people," Rizzo said on The Sports Junkies Wednesday. "But I don’t anticipate moving Anthony Rendon, no."

Rendon's contract extension of $18.8 million going into the 2018 season will expire at the end of this season, and while Rizzo and the Nationals have made it clear they are actively working to re-sign him, a deal has yet to be made.

Rendon's agent Scott Boras told NBC Sports Washington's Todd Dybas during the All-Star Break that he and the [Nationals team owners] Lerners have "always worked out things -- usually."

“There are times that they make decisions and we make decisions, and I think they’ve been very good decisions for all parties involved," Boras added at the time. "When they sit down and look at where their franchise is going, that’s a direction they have to give us. Obviously, they have to make those decisions. Rendon is a superstar and that is a major decision in their franchise. I don’t ask. I just go and prepare for our meetings and we talk and kind of listen to what they tell us they want to do. It’s really in their corner as to how we go from there.”

Rizzo told the Junkies that the Nationals plan to keep Rendon, though acknowledged the calls for him from other teams do keep coming in.

‘’[An offer] would have to be something that wouldn’t make sense for us to turn down and probably wouldn’t make sense for them to acquire," Rizzo said on trading Rendon.

Rizzo said the Nationals' front office is prepared to add some players to the roster.

"We’ve been most recently in acquire mode, because, you know, we’ve had the chance to win the last eight seasons and I think we're in that mode again," Rizzo said.

Though, of course, he wouldn't actually rule out making any trades that send some players out of DC.

"We're an aggressive front office, we're an aggressive ownership group, and if there’s a deal to be made that would help us prepare for meaningful games in September and beyond, we’ve shown in the past that we’re capable of doing that and we're not afraid to make a trade," he said.

The Nationals take on the Orioles for game 2 of the Battle of the Beltways Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.