Nationals remain in dire straits despite splitting doubleheader


The Nationals played two games Friday, both pockmarked by their ongoing problems in what is progressively becoming a lost oddball season.

They are 13-24 after barely splitting a doubleheader with the supple Atlanta Braves. Atlanta is in first by such a wide margin, it used a position player to finish the top of the seventh inning in Game 2 despite being down just three runs. It was good news for those watching because infielder Charlie Culberson became the game’s most efficient pitcher: two pitches, one out.

The night was an otherwise brutish display of baseball. All told, 303 pitches were thrown during a 3:12-minute, seven-inning game. Calling it or the Nationals’ season a slog would be generous.

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But, they won. Hanging on for a 10-9 victory meant the Nationals snapped an eight-game losing streak, moved to within 9 ½ games of Atlanta in the National League East and raised their chances of the postseason to six percent, according to Fivethirtyeight’s projection models.

Wil Crowe pitched in the evening. He lasted 2 ⅓ innings and walked four. Austin Voth pitched in the afternoon. He made it through 4 ⅔ innings and allowed five runs. Washington torched its bullpen the opening night of a four-game series with the second-best team in the National League. Saturday and Sunday will be laborious. Two more home games follow. Then, a touch of mercy with a day off.


In between, the Nationals will be monitoring Juan Soto. He was a late scratch before Game 1 and sat out Game 2 because of left elbow soreness. Davey Martinez said nothing acute happened to Soto. Rather, he came in Friday and told athletic trainer Paul Lessard his elbow was sore. An MRI exam didn’t reveal damage beyond the existing inflammation and accompanying stiffness. Soto’s elbow was iced, then placed in a sleeve, and he is about to receive at least the rest of the weekend off.

As for the team’s overall status following a 7-1 loss and 10-9 win, it is in dire straits. Their best player is now injured. Only 23 games remain. They are five games out of a postseason spot, which is most likely to go to a team with around a .500 record. To get to 30-30, the Nationals would have to finish 17-6. Their chances to do so are slim. There's little evidence they won't eventually get down to none.