The Washington Nationals limped into the All-Star break quite badly. The last 11 games against 3 teams who won’t come near the playoffs ended with a disappointing 6 – 5 record due to poor starting pitching. Once the strength of the team, the starting pitching which was in shambles for weeks stabilized somewhat with a return to form of Jeremy Hellickson and a decent performance by Gio Gonzalez.
Still, Tanner Roark continues to struggle badly and the Nats were also forced to start Jefry Rodriguez and Austin Voth neither of whom looked like major league caliber pitchers (in all fairness Voth only had one chance). Roark leads the Majors with 12 losses although some of that is due to run support and much of it due to poor pitching.
The starting pitching issue obviously stressed the bullpen which really did a heroic job keeping the team from a total collapse. But cracks were showing everywhere, fortunately for the Nats neither of the teams ahead of us took full advantage of our problems and we remained within striking distance of the leaders as the Braves actually were even worse in the last 2 weeks. The Phillies did not come away with Manny Machado this week and both the Phillies and Braves face the Dodgers in the next 10-days.
The unofficial 2nd half kicks off tomorrow and as luck would have it — we face one of our main opponents right out of the gate against the Braves. A series win is a must, falling further behind 2 teams with less games remaining is not an option. We must also keep in mind that while we host the Braves, the Phillies will be hosting the Padres and expecting help from the bottom feeders is probably fools gold. We have probably arrived at a crossroads where we must take care of our own business or see the season slip away.
On the bright side, the Nats enter this week with as healthy a lineup as they have had all year with the biggest returnee being Stephen Strasburg and Sean Doolittle also appears ready to rejoin the team. There is also the curious case of Ryan Zimmerman who is also eligible to come off of the 60-Day DL which would require him to take the last spot on the roster that was opened up when Tim Collins was DFA’d. The roster moves appear straight forward when it comes to the pitchers as Trevor Gott was optioned back to Triple-A on Sunday and they could send Wander Suero back to Syracuse to activate Strasburg and Doolittle.
The move to accommodate Zimmerman could involve Brian Goodwin or Mark Reynolds. This may well be the end of the line for Goodwin whose role has shrunk to insignificance. We will see how creative general manager Mike Rizzo can get. While Zimmerman is eligible to come off of the 60-day DL, it also does not have to happen today. We will wait and see on this.
The non-waiver trade deadline is looming as well. With 12 days left, Rizzo has quite the dilemma. The team appears to be far enough behind that any rental moves may be risky and counter-productive but at the same time it’s obvious that the Nats have no intention of throwing in the towel on a season they invested in so heavily with the second highest payroll and only trailing the Red Sox in total payroll. It’s also looking like that the idea of trading Bryce Harper is extremely remote but the concept of acquiring JT Realmuto appears to be very much alive according to Jon Heyman of FanCred. Since this is a move that will solidify the team beyond this year,it’s quite conceivable that this gets done in the next couple of weeks.
Any way you slice it, we have come to the point of no return. Continue to flounder and the end will be very near — but get a winning streak started — and we are right back in business!