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Around the NL East: A week of missed opportunities

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Around the NL East: A week of missed opportunities

In a week where the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies went 3-4, no one was able to catch up because of failed opportunities. Barely any ground was gained by both the Atlanta Braves (1.5 games back) and the Washington Nationals (6.0 games back). 

If nothing changes in the division standings by season’s end, this past week would be the one to look back to. The Braves only managed two victories and the Nationals dropped two in a row to the Miami Marlins. 

The only thing that is keeping Philadelphia at the top is confidence that continues to grow with all the other teams continue to struggle to get it together.

There are a ton of National League East vs. National League East matchups this week that could flip the division this week though. Still there is plenty to watch in one of the most intriguing divisions in all of baseball. 

Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 58-47
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: @ Boston Red Sox (2), vs. Miami Marlins (4)

After taking two games and scoring 20 runs through three against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Phillies could not translate that success to the road. Losing three out of four in Cincinnati, Philadelphia missed a chance to pad to their lead in the National League East. 

Additionally their series agains the Reds showed that there are still some blaring issues with the makeup of the squad. 

Again, the starting pitching behind Aaron Nola is the obvious problem. Right hander, and the No. 3 guy in the rotation, Nick Pivetta has now dropped two straight, both bottom dwellers. One was to San Diego and one was to Cincinnati allowing nine runs in 11.1 innings. Despite the losses, he continues to show his potential in only his second year in the league.  In both those games he had nine and 12 strikeouts, meaning he is not likely a piece to be moved at the deadline. But in a perfect world, he is at No. 4 or No. 5 in the rotation. 

They are getting some consistent offense from their position guys. Since the All-Star break, the team is actually hitting pretty well. They are eighth in the majors in runs (53) and 12th in hits (89). Of course, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, and Maikel Franco are the top heavy crew leading the team. 

They were real fortunate that the Braves and Nationals struggled. 

Atlanta Braves

Record: 55-47
Last 10: 4-6
Upcoming Series: vs. Miami Marlins (3), @ New York Mets (4)

It would not have been a terrible week for the Braves had the Phillies held strong in their series against the Reds. However, they did not and now a two-game split at Miami and losing three of four to the Dodgers at home makes Atlanta seem to be in catchup mode. 

The big story of the week though is Sean Newcomb. First his near no-hitter on Sunday, then his twitter account.

On Sunday he was one out away from his first no-hitter. He had last eight and two-thirds innings of hitless baseball against the resurgent Dodgers. With eight strikeouts and 134 pitches, Newcomb has rebounded from a rough start to the month. 

Off-the-field, he was the latest to address old homophobic, sexist, racist tweets that he sent back in 2011 and 2012. He would immediately apologize for the behavior.

"I just wanted to apologize for any insensitive material," said the 25-year-old. "That was a long time ago -- six or seven years ago when I was just saying stupid stuff to some friends. I know I have grown a lot since then and I didn't mean anything by it. It was just something stupid that I did a long time ago."

Atlanta now gets the chance what should be five-to-seven easy wins this week. 

Washington Nationals

Record: 52-53
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. New York Mets (2), vs. Cincinnati Reds (4)

After the abysmal week for the Phillies, the Nationals had the perfect chance to gain ground in the division. Facing the Marlins for a four-game set, the opportunity was there. 

The Nationals split the weekend series, scoring only one run in the last two games. 

Washington continues to flirt with a .500 record as we are now fully removed from the All-Star break. Aside from Juan Soto, Max Scherzer, and the occasional home run from Bryce Harper, there is not much moving the needle right now. The biggest question is Harper actually going to be a National in less than 48 hours? Mike Rizzo is not saying he’s not an option anymore.

While Matt Adams and Ryan Zimmerman are back off of the disabled list and should give some veteran presence in the clubhouse, they lost Stephen Strasburg for some more time. Honestly, that is probably more important them right now than a couple extra older position players.

And Trea Turner became the most recent MLB star to have old tweets reemerge. Here is his and the Nationals’ response.

A must-win week during this homestead with six-games against under .500 teams. 

Miami Marlins

Record: 46-61
Last 10: 6-4
Upcoming Series: @ Atlanta Braves (3), @ Philadelphia Phillies (4)

First the Marlins got one from the Braves and two away from the Nationals in their home ballpark. Now, they look to translate that to some results on the road against the top two teams in the division. 

Rumors continue to swirl if they are going to deal J.T. Realmuto at the trade deadline to the Nationals but he has been responsible for a majority of their offense this past week. With eight hits and a .966 OPS, he decimated the Nationals and the Braves this past week. 

New York Mets

Record: 44-59
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: @ Washington Nationals (2), vs. Atlanta Braves (4)

Another all-NL East week for the third team in the division. All that is left for them is to annoy the other teams in the division and build for the future. 

Any player that has value, besides Noah Syndergaard, seems to be on the trading block. Asdrúbal Cabrera is now on the Phillies, Adrian Beltre is in numerous trade rumors and starting pitcher Zack Wheeler is also being looked at as well. 

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

After a week that gave several teams the opportunity to prove themselves in the National League East, the only team that did so was the Miami Marlins.

They aren’t as bad as we thought they were.

As for everyone else, each fan base should be disappointed.

The Atlanta Braves missed a golden opportunity to pull away from both the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. Instead, they actually lost ground to BOTH teams that were playing each other.

Philadelphia did leapfrog the Nationals in the standings, but they continue to leave wins on the table due to their bullpen. This is all while Washington went 4-4 on an eight-game homstand.

And if you’re the Mets, I need to say no more in regards to disappointment. Look out because the Marlins are now on your tail.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 44-32
Last 10: 6-4
Upcoming Series: vs. Cincinnati (3), @ St. Louis (3)

It is hard to take a team seriously when they lose two out of three to the Baltimore Orioles in their home park.

Both were in demoralizing ways. First, Sean Newcomb went seven innings allowing only a single run, then two relievers gave up a combined six runs in the ninth. Despite a comeback in the ninth, they wouldn’t eventually fall in the 15th (!) inning.

And yes… we can attest, this sucks…

Second was Julio Teheran allowing four to score before Atlanta even got an at-bat. There was a wistful rally for the rest of the game, but ultimately they came up two runs short.

Missing on a golden opportunity to emerge as the frontrunner in the NL East, the Braves dropped the ball. Once excited for a finalized rotation to be back together, there are still some gaps to fill. The team averaged 6.8 runs this week and managed only two wins.

And still no Robert Acuna Jr.

Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 41-34
Last 10: 7-3
Upcoming Series: vs. New York Yankees (3), vs. Washington Nationals (4)

Winning series will get you in the postseason. Taking two-out-of-three over the St. Louis Cardinals and the Nationals gives them four straight series wins.

None of those series victories were bigger than taking two at Nats Park.

In those six games Odùbel Herrera had 12 hits, four home runs, nine RBIs for a .444 average. He is leading the charge for a team that scored 39 runs in only six games.

Their starters are giving them quality outings as well. With each starting pitcher this week having a 1.40 WHIP or lower, there has been no downtick from them. However, all of their losses are attributed to their bullpen, including three blown saves.

On June 18, they optioned their closer Héctor Neris to Triple A after giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning. While he did have a 6.00 ERA, and a 9.45 ERA in June, he did get the job done in the final innings of games. On 13 save opportunities this year, he got 10 saves.

They hope Seranthony Domínguez (four saves) can turn around the bullpen as they make a push to the All-Star Game.

Washington Nationals

Record: 41-35
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: @ Tampa Bay Rays (2), @ Philadelphia Phillies (4)

All things considered it wasn’t the worst week for the Nationals. Despite losing a series to Philadelphia and dropping a Gio Gonzalez start to Baltimore, Washington gained a half game on the Braves.

But, you have to demand better on an eight-game homestand. These games may be the ones that could haunt the Nats come late-August and September.

Yet there are a lot of highlights this week.

-Juan Soto retroactively hit a HR on his first-ever MLB at-bat
-The Nats pick up reliever Kelvin Herrera in a career-year
-Despite trailing by four, and a rain delay, the Nats came back

Most importantly though Bryce Harper is out of his funk.

…and the fire is back, which may be the most important headline this week.

New York Mets

Record: 31-44
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: vs. Pirates (3), @ Marlins (3)

Finishing up a 10 game road trip with a 3-7 record, all the Mets needed was a return home.

Wrong, New York followed that up by getting swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field.

And one of those losses, just one, featured seven Dodger home runs.

Also another of the few productive players for the Mets could be heading to the DL. Centerfielder Brandon Nimmo (.283, 12 HR) took a pitch off of his hand this past weekend.

Miami Marlins

Record: 31-47
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. Diamondbacks (4), vs. Mets (3)

A 3-3 West Coast road trip is not too shabby for the Marlins who are playing .500 ball in the month of June (11-10).

It gave the opportunity for Kyle Barraclough to pick up two more saves, bringing his total up to seven this season. His stellar relief performances will likely garner him the honor as the Marlins’ lone representative in the All-Star Game next month.

He’s pitched 11.2 straight innings of hitless baseball. Barraclough has also not allowed a run since May 8 (19 appearances).

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Nationals chasing Braves as series continues

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Nationals chasing Braves as series continues

Veteran Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis is making a push to become an All-Star for the first time in his career.

Markakis takes a .332 batting average into Saturday's game against the Washington Nationals, when the Braves send right-hander Brandon McCarthy (5-2, 5.02) against Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez (6-2, 2.10) in the third game of the four-game set at SunTrust Park.

Atlanta has won the first two games of the series to recapture first place in the National League East. The Braves lead the Nationals by 1 1/2 games.

"That would be just great, if that happened," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "He's been one of the best and most consistent hitters in the National League from Day One. He's that engine that makes the thing run. He's dependable and you can count on him."

Markakis tied for the National League lead with 42 hits in May, three more than teammate Freddie Freeman. He also tied for the league lead with 11 doubles, while his .362 average was third best and his .397 on-base percentage ranked seventh. His 14 extra-base hits were two off the league lead.

Markakis became just the second Atlanta Brave hitter with at least 42 hits in May. Ralph Garr and Hank Aaron share the modern-era franchise record with 47. Markakis' total marks just the 19th time a Braves player has collected 40 hits in May since 1900.

Markakis finally appears to be completely healthy after undergoing neck surgery in 2014, shortly after he signed as a free agent with the Braves.

"A lot of work goes into it," Markakis said. "The past couple years, I've been able to build on it and strengthen myself. I feel almost as good as I've ever felt on a baseball field."

He will have his hands full with Gonzalez, who is off to a great start in 2018. In 11 starts, the veteran has struck out 63 batters in 64 1/3 innings and allowed only three home runs. He has allowed two or fewer earned runs in ten of his 11 starts and his ERA ranks third in the league.

Gonzalez has not faced the Braves this year. In 2017, he started four games against Atlanta and was 1-2 with a 5.32 ERA. In 21 career starts against the Braves, Gonzalez is 5-11 with a 5.11 ERA.

Atlanta's McCarthy will be trying to shake off a poor start in his last outing. He was tagged for five runs in May 28 in a loss to the New York Mets. That broke a streak of back-to-back games where he allowed only one run.

McCarthy will be making only his fifth career start against the Nationals. He is looking for his first career win against Washington, even though he has a 2.00 ERA against the Nats. He received no decision when he faced Washington on April 21, when he allowed one run in five innings.

McCarthy will need to keep Washington shortstop Trea Turner off the bases. Turner had a single in the ninth inning on Friday to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. He leads National League shortstops in on-base percentage, runs scored, walks and stolen bases.

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