In a season in which the Washington Nationals are on track for their worst regular season record — the focus has been on the young core.
In tonight’s 5-1 win against Oakland, it was a vintage recipe for success — the starter going deep, the offense coming through with clutch hits, and the bullpen shutting the door. This time around, the Washington Nationals’ future core led the way.
After allowing a second-inning solo homer to Dermis García, veteran Aníbal Sánchez was able to lock in and get to work. Despite only 57 of his 95 pitches being called strikes, Sánchez was able to continually get himself out of jams, allowing only one run across seven innings while striking out four. This marks the third straight start where the 38-year-old allowed one or fewer runs, an issue that had plagued him over the last few seasons.
With Sánchez giving his team a chance to win, it was Washington’s future middle infield that rose to the occasion. Having just missed a homer in his first AB, shortstop CJ Abrams worked an impressive seven-pitch walk to lead off the fifth. Then on an error by the second basemen, he was able to flash his elite speed, reaching third on the play. Joshua Palacios immediately singled him home to tie the game at 1.
Not to be outdone, Abrams’s double-play partner Luis García followed it up with an RBI single of his own, which turned out to be the winning hit. Luke Voit rounded out the Nationals’ explosive four-run fifth inning with a two-run moonshot. García finished his night 2-4, adding a double in the eighth inning. Since moving over to second, he’s looked much more comfortable defensively.
An inning later, Abrams came up again and was able to jumpstart a two-out rally, doubling to right field. Ildemaro Vargas immediately doubled him home to put Washington up 5-1. Abrams finished the game 1-3, but showcased why the Nationals made him one of the main prizes in the Juan Soto/Josh Bell blockbuster.
Once Sánchez departed the game, Carl Edwards Jr. and Kyle Finnegan teamed up to keep Oakland off of the scoreboard. Edwards had a quick 1-2-3 eighth inning, but Finnegan made it interesting, doing his best Tanner Rainey impression. Oakland loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate, but Finnegan was able to finally settle in, striking out back-to-back batters to end it. All three of his strikeouts were on swinging pitches, even hitting 100 mph at one point, highlighting his evolution as a closer.