The Washington Nationals picked up a much needed win in this first game of this doubleheader to get to 69-wins on the season and tie the mark the team had in 2010. There is significance to that because then-owner, Ted Lerner, expanded payroll after the season and signed Jayson Werth. Of course with six more games to go, the Nats are looking to win 75 games.
The Washington Nationals schedule keeps getting interrupted by Mother Nature as a tropical storm doused the area in two days of steady rain. Yesterday’s game was wisely cancelled two days ago, and that led to a doubleheader scheduled for today. The rain has not disappeared off of the radar just yet, but the hope is that the Nats and Braves can get in this pair of games today. Who knew that Washington, D.C. was in a rainforest? Over 25 percent of gamedays this season have been impacted by the weather.
Last season, the Washington Nationals named Lane Thomas as their Player of the Year, and yesterday the team announced that he earned that honor again for this season. Certainly after the trade of Jeimer Candelario with his .823 OPS and the injury of Stone Garrett with his .801 OPS, it would be a battle between Thomas and CJ Abrams for the team’s POY or as some call it — the MVP. If you go by BBRef, they have Abrams with the edge at a +3.6 WAR over Thomas with a +3.3 WAR. By FanGraphs’ calculation of WAR, Candelario is STILL the team’s WAR leader at +3.1 with Thomas at +2.7 and Abrams at +2.4. Yes, WAR is a formula that differs in the calculation at every turn. There is no standard in the WAR calculation.
Yesterday, the Washington Nationals held their crossover night with the Washington Commanders at Nationals Park. It was a show of unity of the two most prominent teams in the DMV. Last night, it was Patrick Corbin, who caught the ceremonial first pitch, from Commanders’ owner Josh Harris. Tonight, Corbin takes the mound to get a win for his Nats’ team after they were crushed by the Braves’ relentless offense last night.
The Washington Nationals won a series they needed to win, and took the series yesterday from the White Sox. Today, the Nats will begin a 4-game scheduled series (weather permitting) against the best team in MLB, the Atlanta Braves. Tonight is Commanders Night in the Capital Crossover event that is a great thing for sports in the D.C. area. Never have the teams done anything like the before. Hopefully it will be an annual event going forward. The Commanders will hold their crossover night in two weeks at FedEx Field when they take on the Bears in a Thursday night game. Special crossover tickets are available for both games.
Looks can be deceiving for these 2023 Washington Nationals. The team currently has a 68-win season, and that would generally be considered to be a failure for several teams — but for a rebuilding team that only won 55-games last year — this is a significant improvement. The Nats have exceeded even the most optimistic computer generated projections of 65-67 wins from FanGraphs modeling, while Vegas set their over/under for 58.5 wins at several sportsbooks. And guess what, the Nats have nine more games to play this season (weather permitting) to better that record.
The Washington Nationals have another chance for a series win, and they kind of need this one with ten games remaining to get to 70+ wins. Josiah Gray just needs to follow what Jackson Rutledge accomplished yesterday — and be very careful pitching to Luis Robert.
By now we well recognize that for each of our personal certainties about what to expect from our beloved Washington Nationals, there are things beyond our control — both bad and good. The biggest difference as we close out 2023 is that at this time last year, we had hopes and solutions that were a) fewer in number b) farther away from realization c) above all, less exciting.
The Washington Nationals have Jackson Rutledge on the mound for his first home start in his MLB career. That start last week certainly was not how you dream about your MLB debut given that it was a disaster on the mound. Forget the 17.18 ERA for a moment, and consider that his first inning actually had good pitches go wrong with three hits that found outfield grass via a groundball and two weak bloops by the left field line. Of course there were bad pitches that went wrong too — but if some more went right, who knows how that could have gone. Credit to Pittsburgh for not letting up on Rutledge who surrendered 4 earnies in the first inning. His xERA (expected ERA) was 5.64 for that start. Still not good, but that’s the difference with BABIP. What won’t work is giving up all of that contact.
In total, the 2019 first round draft pick was tagged with 10-hits because he didn’t miss enough bats plus that bad luck BABIP in his 3⅔ innings of work. You must miss more bats in 2-strike counts. Rutledge threw 52 strikes and only got 8 swing-and-miss strikes — all on fastballs and sliders. Not one on his changeup that played like a BP fastball too often, and was most likely attributed to the release point and shape on the pitch. It is a tumbler of a changeup that was working so well in Triple-A and could have been that nerves played into it with too firm of a grip — but only Rutledge would know for sure. This is where you wish you had Stephen Strasburg as an extra set of eyes as he threw one of the best changeups in baseball for a decade.
The Washington Nationals ended their 5-game losing streak yesterday with an exciting extra-innings victory over the Brewers. They arrived back in Washington, D.C. tonight for their final homestand of the season with three games starting tonight against the White Sox. The nine games after that are all against first place teams. Winning four more games this season would get the Nats to 70 on the season and feels like a realistic goal. More than that would be great. Start tonight as they say with a win.