It was a day of reunions for both the Nationals and the Padres after their blockbuster midseason trade last season that saw superstar Juan Soto head to San Diego in return for a package that included now Nats players MacKenzie Gore and CJ Abrams. The trade signaled two very different directions for the franchises. The Padres went all-in and made a run to the NLCS while the Nationals admitted it was time to rebuild and had their worst season in over a decade.
That does not mean the trade was bad for either team, despite the Padres not winning the NL pennant or the Nationals trading a young superstar. In fact, the trade has looked pretty good for both sides lately as Juan Soto has regained form over the last 30 games for the Padres after an early slump and both MacKenzie Gore and CJ Abrams have flashed impressive performances throughout the first 48 games of the season.
All three players had their moment on Tuesday night as MacKenzie Gore got the start against his former team. Gore unfortunately was a little too amped up, overthrowing and missing up often throughout the night. He only lasted 4.2 innings allowing 3 runs on 7 hits with 4 walks and 5 strikeouts. Walks have been his achilles heel, producing a very high pitch count early in the game that prevent him from going deep and eating innings. Padres' players and staff did however note how Gore has developed and were impressed by his stuff.
CJ Abrams had his moment too, as although he only had one hit in the contest, he made it count. Abrams took an 0-1 slider from Yu Darvish deep to the second deck for a no-doubt two run shot, with a stone cold stare down of the blast.
The homerun had to feel good for Abrams, who probably felt some type of way about being traded (which is understandable). Unfortunately for the Nationals, there was another side to that trade that may have provided some extra motivation for Tuesday's game.
Juan Soto got his revenge in the 7th inning, with an absolute moonshot off Erasmo Ramirez, who for some reason was pitching for the second inning in a row in a one run game despite giving up a run in the 6th. Soto made Davey Martinez pay for that decision.
Ramirez would take the loss in the game due to Soto's homerun, as well as what followed. Immediately after Soto's blast, Ramirez allowed a single to Xander Bogaerts then a homerun to Jake Cronenworth before he was finally pulled from the game. Head-scratching bullpen management once again.
The Nationals had some life offensively, but it ultimately wasn't enough. Lane Thomas went back-to-back with CJ Abrams as he lifted his team leading 7th homerun into the vistor's bullpen in Left Field. Later, Joey Meneses doubled home Luis Garcia, who also had two hits, in the 8th inning. But again, the Nationals' offensive issues continue to plague them in that they do not walk a lot (only 1 in this game), they are too aggressive on the first pitch which leads to many one pitch outs (several times this game) and they do not get many runners in scoring position and fail to capitalize when they do (0 for 3 this game).
The Nationals will look to rebound in game 2 against the Padres tonight, but they really need an offensive strategic overhaul to produce more consistently. Speaking of a rebound, Chad Kuhl made his relief debut in the game and went 2 scoreless innings to close out the game. Kuhl looked comfortable in relief and had a nice rhythm.