Despite leading in all four games, the Washington Nationals leave San Diego with a disappointing four-game split.
Facing off against Juan Soto and Josh Bell for the second time since the blockbuster trade, the Washington Nationals headed to San Diego in what was presumed to be a four-game sweep. Instead, Washington became the next team to stifle the struggling Padres, holding them to eight runs and splitting the series.
In fact, Washington led in every game and had an opportunity to pull off a sweep of their own. Game One was a pitchers duel — with Aníbal Sánchez and Yu Darvish matching each other inning for inning. Sánchez had his best start of the season — holding the Padres to one run across five innings, while striking out four. The one run he allowed was a solo shot to Manny Machado on a 3-0 count.
Heading into the ninth inning Washington and San Diego were tied — with Yu Darvish still in the game. The veteran faced three batters, allowing two to reach and only retiring one — leading to newly acquired Josh Hader entering the game for the Padres. Unfortunately for San Diego, something has been off with Hader over his last 10+ appearances, as he quickly allowed both inherited runners to score.
Kyle Finnegan was able to close it out for Washington, getting Jurickson Profar to ground into a game-ending double play. Unlike the pitcher’s duel from the first game, Game Two saw neither Paolo Espino nor Blake Snell make it past the fifth innings, allowing three runs each. While most eyes were on Soto and Bell, this was a homecoming for CJ Abrams — the main prize in the blockbuster trade. In the top of the fourth, Abrams was finally able to come through against his old team, driving in two runs on a two-out single.
Once both bullpens entered the game, runs became scarce for the second straight game, the score was tied heading into the ninth. Josh Hader was once again given the ball and had a second straight meltdown. After walking Victor Robles, Hader grounded a ball and threw it away, allowing Robles to score from first. Alex Call followed it up by hitting his first career homer to put Washington up 6-3. Kyle Finnegan recorded his second straight save for the Nats, striking out two of the three batters he faced.
With a chance to win the series, Washington jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in Game Three after a Lane Thomas solo shot in the second inning. After going 0-22 against the Nationals since the trade, Josh Bell finally came through with a hit in the fifth inning, a solo shot that tied the game.
He wasn’t the only former Nat to hurt his old team — with Juan Soto hitting the go-ahead homer in the seventh inning. Unfortunately for Washington, Josh Hader had been removed from the closer’s role and didn’t make another appearance. San Diego held on to win 2-1.
Saturday’s game was nearly identical to Game Four — Nelson Cruz gave the Nats the lead with a solo shot that was crushed into the upper deck. Patrick Corbin was excellent through the first five innings, but was kept in too long. He allowed the go-ahead two-run homer to Bell before exiting the game in the sixth. Washington’s offense was unable to muster much and for the second straight game, lost 2-1.