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Nationals Roundup: Washington splits four-game stand with Diamondbacks

Nationals Roundup: Washington splits four-game stand with Diamondbacks

The Washington Nationals moved to 33-38 after splitting the four-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend. Now, Bryce Harper and the rival Philadelphia Phillies come to town for a four-game stretch that can prove vital to Washington and the team's better play.

Player Notes:

Stephen Strasburg gave up six runs over five innings on nine hits over five innings in a loss to the Diamondbacks on Saturday. His ERA is now 3.75 with 115 strikeouts in 96 innings with a 1.06 WHIP, but can rebound Thursday against the Phillies.

He's not yet 21, but Juan Soto is playing like he's been in the league for years. The outfielder went 2-for-4 with his 11th homer on Saturday. He now has 41 RBI on the season to go along with an OPS of .885 over 62 games.

Adam Eaton went 3-for-3 with an RBI, two walks and a run scored in the Nationals’ lopsided 15-5 win on Sunday. The 30-year-old outfielder is fully healthy, hitting .280/.365/.398 with 41 runs scored, 19 RBI and five steals in 302 plate appearances.

Superstar Anthony Rendon went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer and three runs scored in the Sunday win, which included his 16th longball of the season. He'shitting .321/.415/.660 with 52 runs scored, 50 RBI and one stolen base across 246 plate appearances this season.

Injuries:

SP Jeremy Hellickson: Shoulder, out indefinitely 

RP Justin Miller: Shoulder, out indefinitely 

1B Ryan Zimmerman: Foot, could return mid-June

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, out indefinitely 

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, out indefinitely 

C Kurt Suzuki: Clavicle, sidelined

RP Kyle Barraclough: Biceps, 10-day IL

Coming Up:

Monday 6/17: Nationals vs. Phillies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park

Tuesday 6/18: Nationals vs. Phillies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park

Wednesday 6/19: Nationals vs. Phillies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park

Thursday 6/20: Nationals vs. Phillies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park

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Source: Rotoworld

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Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

usatsi_patrick_corbin1.jpg
USATSI

Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

WASHINGTON -- Most baseball managers try to operate in monochromatic fashion. They see one goal each day, and it only rests in those 24 hours. Some -- like Davey Martinez -- claim they don’t look at the standings in June. His standard message is to “win today” then move to tomorrow.

Human nature often runs interference on compartmentalization. It even crept up on Martinez on Sunday morning when in the midst of an answer about Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner playing daily. 

“For me, this is a big week,” Martinez said. “We have a chance to make up some ground here. I want these guys readily available to play.”

He’s right. The claim of significance is valid for once in mid-June, not a concept drummed up by overzealous television promos or interminable Internet space. 

The Nationals have seven games in seven days against two teams near the top of the division. Damaged Philadelphia arrives Monday. The Phillies’ bullpen is hurting and ineffective. Bryce Harper could miss the All-Star Game for just the second time in his career. Philadelphia is 6-8 in June. Meanwhile, Atlanta is rolling along. Its lineup remains deep, the pitching functional and Dallas Keuchel set to make his debut here in D.C. next weekend. The Braves hold a 2 ½-game lead in the not-so-great National League East. 

“Not thinking too big picture,” Adam Eaton said. “But knowing we have an in-division rivalry, we’ve got to win those games. It’s important. We’re trying to chase at this point. Not to put too much emphasis on it, but we need to play some really competitive baseball. And we shouldn’t beat ourselves these next four games. Play good baseball and not beat ourselves. If we play the brand of baseball we know how to play, and play clean, we have a good chance.”

Washington is five games under .500. Days are clicking off the calendar. Departing along with them are opportunities to chop at an 8 1/2-game deficit in the division. Following this week, only seven games against Philadelphia remain. However, 13 with Atlanta remain on the schedule, including seven in 10 days in September. The question is if those will matter. Sink this week and they won’t. Pull off a deficit-halving six of seven and everything changes. 

This week’s ramifications will first be felt on the phone lines in a month. The non-waiver trade deadline arrives July 31. Drag back to a double-digit deficit this week and plunk down the “for sale” sign. Rocket through the week and perhaps reinforcements will be found.

Monday brings a dreaded series opener. The Nationals are 6-17 in the first games of series this season. No one knows why. It doesn’t make sense. But, here they are, incapable of winning a first game and constantly playing from behind.

Patrick Corbin will be on the mound attempting to counter the trend. He, like the team when a new opponent shows up, has been in arrears the last three games. Corbin’s ERA dipped to 2.85 following a 116-pitch shutout of Miami on May 25. He’s been bludgeoned since. His ERA is up to 4.11, he will start twice this week, and the Nationals need him to right his ills.

Friday, Corbin threw a bullpen session focused on his line to the plate. Pitching coach Paul Menhart describes what they are trying to accomplish to get Corbin back to the version he was earlier this season:

“His lines and his east-west motion have made it very difficult for him to get the ball to where he wants it to be,” Menhart said. “He needs to be more direct to the plate and have more of a north-south rotation with his upper body and being more stable lower-half wise will allow him to do that and have his deception and hide the ball better and keep that tunnel.”

Corbin agreed. He doesn’t watch much video to cure ruts. He also doesn’t want too much information. The team’s analytics trackers have informed him his arm slot remains in a good place. He thinks his body is still in a running at a high level, dismissing any correlation between his struggles and the workload against Miami. He’s also going through the most common element of reduced success: trying not to chew on it too much.

“I think when I’m away from the field, you think about it more,” Corbin told NBC Sports Washington. “You’re frustrated about it a little bit -- what the heck is going on? But when you get here, you just try to work, try to do things to get better. That’s how I approach it. I’m just looking forward to my next start on Monday going out there and trying to get back to how I know I can pitch.”

Philadelphia arrives after being thumped in Atlanta on Sunday, 15-1. Washington had the opposite day in a 15-5 win. Monday night starts a reckoning of sorts for both. The Nationals will send out their three high-end starters during the four games. Philadelphia is trying to right itself and not let the Braves get out of touch at the top of the division. So, even for the one-day-at-a-time crew, the coming seven carry significant weight, and they’re finally admitting it.

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