Five days ago, Max Scherzer beat the Atlanta Braves, and he once again will face them and rookie Mike Soroka in the first of a three-game series which will be the last series they will meet in this regular season. In the last game, Scherzer played the role of the stopper, and today he plays a much better role of being the pitcher to continue the winning ways into a 3-game winning streak. Fortunately for the Nats’ Cy Young hurler, he flew ahead of the team yesterday afternoon as his teammates did not land until 5:01 AM at Dulles Airport. The Nats have shown resilience in the past like their weekend in Chicago that they can still get the job done with sleep deprivation.
The Nationals enter this series with multiple question marks on health issues with Matt Adams (triceps/shoulder), Kurt Suzuki (elbow), Roenis Elias (hamstring), and Joe Ross (forearm). Most likely Yan Gomes will start today for his fourth consecutive game at catcher, and first base could go to Ryan Zimmerman who has been bashing lefties but continues to struggle against right-handed pitching. While Adam Eaton and Trea Turner have ten at-bats against the right-handed Soroka, Zimmerman has never faced him before, and Howie Kendrick is 0-1 against him. Is tonight the night to rest Victor Robles? He is 0-8 against Soroka this year, but Davey might prefer VR in there for his Gold Glove level of defense.
Waiting for Dave Martinez’s lineups are always interesting. He went with Asdrubal Cabrera yesterday who had been 0-7 against Twins’ starter Kyle Gibson and Droobs went 2-3 against him for two RBIs. These small sample sizes will not always tell the full story as we all know.
Of note, Anthony Rendon leads the NL in batting average at .335 and he is tied for the NL lead in RBIs at 117 with the Braves’ Freddie Freeman. Rendon also has tied his career best in runs scored at 111 which he also did back in 2014. Rendon leads the NL in two key “Triple Crown” categories, and he will make his last push for the NL MVP in these seventeen remaining games. For Juan Soto, he is changing history books. In 1929, Hall-of-Famer Mel Ott hit 61 combined home runs before turning 21 years of age. Last night, Soto went oppo for his 56th career home run to tie Tony Congliaro’s second place mark that stood since 1965. Soto is in rarefied air amongst this select group. With 34 home runs this season, and twenty since July 1st, if Soto clubs five more home runs he will tie Ott, but with six home runs he sets the new record and also gets him to the 40 home run plateau which would put him among a new set of Hall-of-Famers. Mel Ott’s record has stood for 90 years.
For “Tony Two Bags”, he has said that individual accomplishments mean nothing if his team is not winning, and while Rendon is a legit MVP contender, Soto will get some votes also and could finish in the Top-10.
“Tony just doing MVP things,” teammate Daniel Hudson said. “It’s awesome.”
“I say it all the time, but for me [Anthony Rendon] is a candidate for the MVP,” manager Dave Martinez said.
“It’s like he’s gone to another level,” Aníbal Sánchez said of Rendon.
Some players cannot handle the pressure of a pending free agency or being in the limelight like Rendon finally has found himself this season, and he has reacted with his usual modest responses trying to direct praise on others. He was usually in the shadows of Bryce Harper in prior years, and now Rendon has stepped up to levels that are surpassing Harper’s 2015 MVP season. If Rendon goes hitless in a game, the team record is a dismal 12-20 and 5-9 when he does not play so the team is 17-29 without a Rendon hit. Conversely the team is 64-35 when Rendon gets a hit.
Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals
Stadium: Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.
1st Pitch: 7:05 pm EDT
TV: MASN, FOX Sports Southeast, MLB.TV
Nats Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan; SiriusXM® ( Streaming Internet 869)
Line-up subject to change (without notice):