Game #21 and the Nats will try for something special today

The Washington Nationals have a chance to do something special today and sweep a series for the first time since August 2021. The last time the Nats swept a 3-game series was in July 2021 before that infamous trade deadline. Yesterday, these young Nats pulled off an improbable win in the longest of Vegas odds when they beat Minnesota’s ace, Pablo Lopez, with Chad Kuhl going up against him. Lopez had entered the game with a miniscule 1.73 ERA and a new 4-year contract extension for $73.5 million. Lopez was bested by Kuhl who was signed in the offseason to a minor league deal.

With yesterday’s win, the Nats have leapfrogged several teams in the MLB standings and are tied for the 24th best team in baseball with the San Francisco Giants, and in the NL East, the Nats are just 2.0 games behind the Phillies. With the Nats much-improved starting pitching, it has made each game fairly close this year with only three blowout losses. Unfortunately the Nats are 3-5 in one-run games, and that is where much of the focus has to be. If that 3-5 was turned around to 5-3, the Nats would be just two games under .500. They say one-run games are how you can judge your manager.

In the good news department, Joey Meneses has continued his hot stretch accumulating four hits yesterday and going above .250 on his batting average. Dom Smith put together a 2-hit game with a walk as the team’s DH. CJ Abrams crushed his first home in his Nats’ career, and it was a much-needed shot that both the team and Abrams needed.

“I think more so than anything, we are getting ready. We’re on time. We’re just trying to stay in the middle of the field, and not trying to do too much.”

— manager Dave Martinez on his offense

You hope that the Nats got their timing back. They also saw some extreme luck by finding weak contact that many of the balls found green outfield grass. BABIP usually evens out, and it sure did yesterday. The Nats accumulated 15 hits in Saturday’s game. While Alex Call was the only Nats’ player without a hit in the game, he got on-base three times via walks and a hit-by-pitch.

One analytical note is that Meneses now has extra-base hits in each of the three games he has started in the field. In total, he only has four XBH in the 16 games he has started at DH. This is certainly something to look at going forward.

Perhaps in the strangest play since actors, Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman, changed bodies in the film Change-up, former teammates Victor Robles and ex-Nat Michael A. Taylor had one of those moments with Robles morphed into the “guy” and Taylor, the 2021 Gold Glover, turned into the guy he didn’t want to be. Robles hit a ball that Taylor gloved on a dive and then the ball popped out of his glove and rolled away from him. Taylor’s effort to retrieve the ball was a jog figuring it was a stand-up double but as Taylor lobbed the ball towards second base  — Robles turned on the afterburners and legged it into one of the strangest triples you will ever see.

The Nats starters ERAs are a combined 4.75, and today’s starter, Patrick Corbin, has had two days to chart pitches and see what was working and what was not against the Minnesota Twins.

Here is how they rank:

No. 5 Starter: Chad Kuhl 7.36 ERA
No. 4 Starter: Patrick Corbin 6.30
No. 3 Starter: Josiah Gray 3.74
No. 2 Starter: MacKenzie Gore 3.43
No. 1 Starter: Trevor Williams 3.38

It was rumored that the Nats might face Twins’ starter Sonny Gray, but the team is pitching the right-hander Bailey Ober in his first appearance of 2023 as he was called up to replace Simeon Woods Richardson who pitched 4+ innings yesterday and looked to be headed back to Triple-A. As they say, Richardson took one for the team. Ober started 11 games for the Twins last year and pitched to a 3.21 ERA and a 2-3 record. His repertoire is 4-seamer, slider, changeup, and curveball. His issue is giving up hart hit balls with an expected-slugging percentage of .462 in his career and an 11.7 percent barrel rate. Ober had one of the stingiest walk percentages in the league last year which helped him to control his WHIP.

The weather has certainly been a factor in this series as it was near freezing on both Friday and Saturday, and the wake-up weather in Minneapolis is about the same but should warmup to a chilly 42°F for first pitch and hit a high of 46° later in the afternoon. In fact, yesterday’s temperature was the coldest game the Nats have ever played in. Martinez joked about playing the next four months in freezing temps.

On the Nats schedule, they will fly after this game to New York City and will get a full day-off on Monday in the Big Apple. After that day-off, the team will play 16 straight days without a day-off until May 11. That will be a grind for sure.

Here is your Baseball Savant Statcast link for the game.

Washington Nationals vs. Minnesota Twins

Stadium: Target Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota
1st Pitch: 2:05 pm EDT
Radio: 106.7 The Fan radio and via the MLB app

Line-up subject to change (without notice):

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