The last five days have dramatically changed how the Nationals are looking at themselves today as they ready themselves for a game tonight against the White Sox. Sure, the Nats just drafted Jackson Rutledge in a pleasant surprise, but also find themselves 6 ½ games away from first place as the Phillies got blown-out last night and are mired in a 5 game losing streak. At the same time, the Nationals have won 4 of their last 5 games to go from 10 games behind to where they are now. It seemed improbable a week ago to make up that many games in just 5 games. The Phillies are one loss with an Atlanta win away from being in second place.
Just five days ago we were discussing a sell-off, and today it’s a little ray of optimism, okay, more like cautious optimism because the Nationals dug themselves quite the hole and had to dig their way back from a dozen under the .500 mark on May 23rd to where they are today which is seven under “even”.
That trendline is looking good for the Nats and Braves but not so good for the Phillies and Mets. With 102 games to play it might come down to who can make up ground in the month of June. The Nationals need one of those long winning streaks, and the longest winning steak they have so far is three.
Tonight, the Nationals have Stephen Strasburg on the mound with some well-deserved good weather in the forecast that calls for 74°F with low humidity at first pitch. The Nats will face a familiar face in Reynaldo Lopez who was traded to the White Sox with Lucas Giolito and Dane Dunning for Adam Eaton. Giolito is tearing up the American League and just earned the Pitcher of the Month award for May and Player of the Week award. In the midst of the amateur Draft, general manager Mike Rizzo has taken a lot of heat for failures in the Draft and particularly in this article in Washington Post, but Giolito is proof the draft is working and what is lacking is player development with regards to pitchers. You can look at Robbie Ray, Nick Pivetta, and bullpenners like Blake Treinen and Felipe Vazquez. Other teams have now figured out the analytics to make Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez into usable parts of their rotations.
While Rizzo will be back in his “war room” preparing for Day #2 of the draft, his team will hope to continue their winning ways.
“It’s not a crapshoot,” Rizzo responded to Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post back in 2006. “It’s a science. It’s an art.”
The Nats now have Jackson Rutledge to add to their top prospects, and Matthew Allen who will be hard to sign is still undrafted. The draft should not be a crapshoot in the first round, but pitcher development must show improvement in the Nationals system.
“Hearing my name called was kind of an out-of-body experience,” Rutledge said. “It’s something you dream of and it only really hit me until it happened.”
Chicago White Sox vs. Washington Nationals
Stadium: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
1st Pitch: 7:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN, WGN, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® Sirius 133 XM 186 (Internet 869)
Line-up subject to change (without notice):