Missing from the photo above is Keibert Ruiz who went down in a heap on September 8th in the sixth inning after he took a foul ball to the groin and would miss the remainder of this 2022 season with a testicular contusion. What few remember is that the Washington Nationals were on their best streak of the season. It seems so long ago when Ruiz was behind home plate, and the Nats looked confident and competent.
The Nats hot streak started the day that CJ Abrams was called up to join Ruiz, Joey Meneses, and Ildemaro Vargas. In the sixteen games that Abrams, Meneses, and Ruiz started together — the team went 9-7 and finally the pitching staff was looking like they were good. Much of that could be attributed to the new infield defense that ranked sixth in the Majors in that span from dead last in the 116 games before.
A .563 winning percentage in that 16-game stretch was impressive. It could have been better with a little more fire power in the offense and some better starting pitching. They were beating mostly postseason teams including the Seattle Mariners (1), New York Mets (2), St. Louis Cardinals (2), and the San Diego Padres (2). In fact 78 percent of the wins were against playoff teams. How? Maybe there was finally a change of mindset that started with a competent infield behind the pitchers and a catcher who was calling a good game.
It was fun to watch Washington Nationals baseball again at that time. Think about it, the Nats were beating teams fighting for their postseason rights. If you remove that Cade Cavalli start from that 16-game stretch, the Nats went 9-6 with their regular starting pitchers. Also Erick Fedde returned from the 15-day IL during that span and lost his first two-games and had that awful loss against Oakland on August 30th where he only lasted 2 2/3 innings and gave up six runs. The Nats fought in that game losing 10-6. But most of the losses in that span were close games, and none were blow-outs.
While the sample size of 16-games is only 10 percent of the season, it was the best of times in 2022. The other 90 percent was really bad in its totality. Maybe the Abrams, Meneses, and Ruiz combined games were just a mirage in their successes. There just seemed to be a different feel to those games. After Ruiz was injured, the Nats fell apart. They went on a 5-game losing streak and an horrific 6-15 record through Sunday’s loss.
Of course Ruiz was replaced by Riley Adams who tried his best, and no offense to Adams, but he has struggled in all facets of the game. The team is 15-27 when Adams starts and that is a 58-win pace. It is even worse with Tres Barrera as the team is 2-15 in his starts, and the team is 0-3 in Israel Pineda starts. So yes, Adams is your best option it would appear when Ruiz was not playing. Can general manager Mike Rizzo upgrade at the back-up catcher position? As SteveR20 pointed out, the backup catcher market is thin in free agency.
Maybe just maybe you will remember those games with Ruiz, and it gives you a little optimism for next year.