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Around the NL East: Tough times in Philly

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Around the NL East: Tough times in Philly

ATLANTA BRAVES 

The Braves continue to hover around the .500 mark as they sit comfortably in third place in the division, which is about where most pundits had them before the season started. The trio of starting pitchers Alex Wood, Shelby Miller and Williams Perez are all developing at a pretty steady rate, which is one of the goals for this retooling club.  

Interestingly enough, the Braves quietly have one of the more efficient offenses in baseball. They rank 11th in runs (283), eighth in average (.263) and seventh in on-base percentage (.325). The area where they're still struggling? Slugging, as they're 26th in that category at .375. That figure might take a dip now that Freddie Freeman, who leads the team with 12 homers, will be out for a few games with a sprained right hand.  

MIAMI MARLINS

At this point, it seems like all we're doing here every week is updating how awesome a season Giancarlo Stanton is having. With the rest of the team up-and-down, Stanton's number continue to soar. He's hitting .372 this month with nine homers and 18 RBI, looking every bit like the guy who will probably win NL Player of the Month for June. He now leads the majors in homers with 24 and has had six straight years with 20 or more long balls. His career-high for single season is 37 and, with the way he's going, there's little doubt he might set a new mark sometime soon.

NEW YORK METS 

Is there any doubt that the Mets will stick around deep into the summer? They certainly aren't going away anytime soon, as they sit 1 1/2 games up on the inconsistent Nationals for first place in the NL East. And most of all, they keep doing it their way: Pitching, pitching and more pitching. At some point you wonder if the club will make a move at the trade deadline to acquire an additional bat or two to increase the margin for error for the staff. But hey, things have worked out well enough so far as is.

Speaking of bats, the Mets are expecting the return of Daniel Murphy and David Wright in the coming weeks, with the former expected to be ready sooner than the latter. Will their additions to the lineup be enough for GM Sandy Alderson to stand pat, or will the Mets still try to address their offensive woes before next month's deadline? Either way, it's quite an accomplishment for the team to even be considered 'buyers' at this point of the season.  

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES 

Boy, have things have quickly spiraled out of control in Philly. Losers of nine straight, the Phillies officially have the worst record in the game at 22-45. The skid is highlighted by Tuesday night's 19-3 blowout loss to the Orioles, a game in which the starter left in the first inning with injury, the staff allowed eight home runs and a position player had to throw 48 pitches because the bullpen phone was off the hook. Seriously.  

As as the tailspin continues, it's fair to wonder if and when the organization is going to make any changes in leadership. And the speculation this week is that the Phillies may hire former Orioles exec Andy MacPhail to help steer the franchise in a different direction. MacPhail is credited with reshaping the Orioles' roster, hiring manager Buck Showalter and starting the team's ascent from bottom feeder in the AL East to playoff contender (though he left before the team made its first postseason appearance under Showalter in 2012). If this is the move, the Phillies will have to hope that MacPhail, 63, has one more good run left in his career to turn around another struggling organization. 

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Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

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Can slumping Nationals, Gio Gonzalez end losing streak Monday vs. Padres?

When the Washington Nationals visited San Diego on May 7-9, they won the first two games of a three-game series to move within 1 1/2 games of the National League West lead.

At the time, the Nationals were on a bit of a run and the Padres were reeling with a 13-24 record.

Two weeks after that series, the Padres and Nationals meet again in Washington, D.C (7:05 p.m. ET, Monday). And the fortunes of the two teams have changed a bit.

Since winning that series finale at Petco Park to avoid being swept by the Nationals, the Padres have gone 7-4 and are riding a three-game winning streak.

The Nationals have gone 4-4 and just lost a third straight game to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday in Washington to slip four games off the lead in their division.

The Nationals are the home team this time for a three-game series that opens Monday night with a matchup of left-handers -- Gio Gonzalez (4-2, 2.36 ERA) going for Washington with Robbie Erlin (1-2, 3.46) making a spot start for San Diego.

On paper, the pairing clearly favors the hosts.

Erlin, 27, has met the Nationals twice in his career. Both games were at Nationals Park. Erlin is 0-2 in the matchups with a 16.39 ERA.

In Erlin's two previous outings in the nation's capital, Erlin has given up 17 runs, 19 hits and six walks with six strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. The Nationals have hit .413 against Erlin, who has a 2.68 WHIP against Washington.

This will be only the second start of the season for Erlin, who returned this year after having Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery midway through 2016.

Thirteen of Erlin's 14 appearances this season have been out of the bullpen. His one previous start was April 16 against the Dodgers. He gave up six runs (five earned), seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts in three innings.

Erlin is filling the vacancy created when rookie left-hander Joey Lucchesi went on the disabled list with a slightly strained glute. The Padres are hoping Lucchesi will miss only one start, although it looks like it could now be two or three.

Gonzalez is no stranger to the Padres. He started the May 9 game that the Nationals lost 2-1. Gonzalez allowed one run, five hits and three walks in six innings. Afterward, he said he struggled with his command.

Gonzalez was not involved in that decision. During his career, he has made seven starts against the Padres and has a 3-2 record with a 3.21 ERA, a 1.357 WHIP and a .253 opponents' batting average. Against the Padres, Gonzalez has given up 19 runs (15 earned), 41 hits and 16 walks with 41 strikeouts in 42 innings.

When the Nationals were in San Diego, first baseman-left fielder Matt Adams went 3-for-8 with a double, two homers, six RBIs and three runs scored -- although he got the third game off.

Since leaving San Diego, Adams has hit only .143. Washington's Bryce Harper is hitting .125 in the last eight games with a homer and three RBIs.

Another key player in the first Padres-Nationals series was Howie Kendrick, who was 5-for-12 with a double and two runs scored. But Kendrick has been lost with a ruptured Achilles tendon and on Saturday the Nationals promoted a 19-year-old prospect from Double-A.

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.