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Nationals start final two weeks of the regular season trying to get their act together

Nationals start final two weeks of the regular season trying to get their act together

WASHINGTON -- Davey Martinez’s Saturday night declaration has a broader application. 

“We’ve got to regroup,” Martinez said after a second consecutive loss to Atlanta.

Washington scored one run combined in the first two games of the series. Its pitching wasn’t much better. Max Scherzer didn’t look as sharp as his previous outing, the bullpen chopped up Austin Voth’s quality outing, the Nationals needed to win Sunday just to have a break-even week.

They did, beating the Braves 7-0. Atlanta starter Max Fried dominated them the last time he pitched (seven innings, one hit, no runs, nine strikeouts). Not so Sunday. He lasted just 2 ⅓ innings, allowed five runs, then was removed from the game. It turned into a day of salvage. Remaining is a two-week run against the clock.

The final road trips of the season begin Monday night in St. Louis with three games against the Cardinals. St. Louis is one of the best defensive teams in the league. Its offense is 12th in OPS. Its team ERA is second -- and includes the best bullpen ERA in the National League. The week ends with the opposite: a visit to Miami for three games. Thinking at the start of the season which argued Miami could determine postseason participants turned out correct. At least to a degree. Washington is 13-3 against the miserable Marlins. A weekend sweep would put it 13 games over .500 against a single opponent this season. That would be the Nationals’ best record against a division foe since 2012, surpassing a 15-4 run against the Mets in 2014 and the same record against Atlanta in 2016.

All the positive work against Miami, as well as through June, July and August, has taken lumps in September. The Nationals are 6-8 in the month. Two of the season’s eight shutouts have come in the first two weeks of September. Kurt Suzuki is hurt. Matt Adams is hurt. Gerardo Parra’s plate magic has run out (but been replaced by that of Asdrúbal Cabrera). The bullpen remains a logistical challenge. And part of that includes Sean Doolittle still not looking right.

Yet, the Nationals start the week with a lead and desperate to run out the clock. Fourteen games to go, two weeks, two road trips, then a weighted final week at home. Their lead is slight. Chicago is 1 ½ games back for the right to host the wild-card game. Milwaukee is a game from entering it. Those two teams are about to diverge in schedule difficulty.

Milwaukee, which has won nine of 10, waltzes into four final series all against sub-.500 teams, including two of the worst teams in the National League. First, is four home games against San Diego. A weekend series against the checked-out Pirates follows. Then, a final week on the road: at Cincinnati and at Colorado.

Chicago is blessed with series against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, too. However, in between is seven games with St. Louis. Which means the National League Central race will remain chaotic until the end.

The Nationals have a more difficult remaining schedule. After three in St. Louis and a weekend visit to Miami, they host Philadelphia for five in four days, then Cleveland (87-63) for three. It’s not only clogged, but the three of the four opponents are above .500 and in the playoff hunt. 

So, now is the time to regroup. The remaining schedule and situation leaves little choice.

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Report: Atlanta Braves discussing the use of the 'Tomahawk Chop', not name change

Report: Atlanta Braves discussing the use of the 'Tomahawk Chop', not name change

While there has been an abundance of conversations surrounding a name change for the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves are another team that is evaluating some key facets of the organization.

While the Braves have no intention of changing the name, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, there could be some changes within the ballpark.

"The Braves do not intend to change their name, though discussions about the team’s use of the 'Tomahawk Chop' are ongoing," sources told Rosenthal.

RELATED: DOC WALKER BELIEVES THERE"S AN EASY FIX TO THE REDSKINS' NAME

“The Atlanta Braves honor, support, and value the Native American community. That will never change,” the team said in a statement.

The “Chop,” which has been a part of Braves' home games since the 1990s, has received criticism in the past as insensitive to native groups. Over the past several years, it has become a common routine at the renamed Truist Park.

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Nationals get snubbed once again on Sunday Night Baseball schedule

Nationals get snubbed once again on Sunday Night Baseball schedule

When ESPN released its initial Sunday Night Baseball schedule for the 2020 season, the defending champion Nationals were nowhere to be found. 

But that was a long time ago. Since the season was delayed due to coronavirus, they've had time to consider their rating-chasing actions and think hard about Washington's ommission. 

After further consideration and a newly released 10-game TV schedule, the Nationals...are once again nowhere to be found. 

Three of their division rivals (Mets, Braves, Phillies) are on the Sunday Night Baseball schedule a combined six times, with the Braves and Phillies featured on back-to-back Sunday nights. The Cubs and Cardinals as well as Yankees-Red Sox play twice on Sunday night as well.

RELATED: NATS' 2020 SCHEDULE FILLED WITH ODDITIES

In the spirit of analytics, 75% of the known Sunday Night Baseball schedule belongs to six of the 30 teams. The two final matchups have yet to be announced. 

Now, there are of course a very limited number of Sundays on the schedule this year and there's still a chance the Nats nab one of those last two games. For now however, Washington fans will just have to enjoy their team play on all but one night a week. 

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