Through five innings at Kauffman Stadium, the Nationals offense was nowhere to be seen. After running wild in the series opener with 12 runs, the Nats bats were quiet halfway through Saturday afternoon's contest and they trailed 2-0. When Jeimer Candelario singled to begin the 6th inning, it was only the team's third hit against Royals righty Brady Singer. By the end of the frame, the Nationals had taken the lead and would go on to seal the series victory against the struggling Royals squad.
Following Candelario in the 6th, Corey Dickerson crushed a deep RBI double to put the Nats on the board, collecting his 1,000th career hit. It was the 8th hit of the 11-year veteran's tenure on the Nationals, and he has looked great at the plate since returning from the injured list on May 15th. Dickerson's milestone sparked a 4-run rally for the Nats that was capped off by a loud, go-ahead, 2-run double from CJ Abrams.
After the 4-2 lead was secured, the bullpen shut down the Royals and coasted to make 4-2 the final score. Five scoreless innings out of the 'pen followed Josiah Gray who exited after only four innings, and that plus one Nats rally was enough to earn the W.
Nationals Game Review
What went right?
The bullpen's performance. The back end of the bullpen has been leaned on heavily over the past four days, with a string of close, late leads needing to be held. Kyle Finnegan earned his 11th save of the season following scoreless appearances from Hunter Harvey, Carl Edwards Jr., and Mason Thompson who contributed two innings. After Chad Kuhl was called upon for the save in the first game of the series, it was clear that the Nationals are lacking in good late-inning options when Finnegan and Harvey aren't available. Edwards Jr. notched his 11th hold and Harvey his 10th, showing just how much they've been called on in close games to set up Finnegan.
Aside from Luis Garcia cooling off with an 0-for-5 followup to his 6-hit game in the series opener, every Nats starter reached base. The team struggled for the first five frames with runners on base, but they jumped on Brady Singer and Josh Taylor with a 5-hit, 4-run rally. The team has drawn a lot more walks than typical in the first two games against the Royals and have stayed hitting well as they have done in the past few series played.
What Went Wrong?
Josiah Gray's outing was far from his best against a weak Royals lineup. He struggled with control once again, issuing 3 walks and allowing several hitter's counts. Last start against an even worse Detroit offense he allowed 6 walks but only one run. Gray also hung a first-pitch slider to Salvador Perez to allow a homer for the first time in four starts. Gray kept the Nationals in the game by pitching out of jams but exited after just four innings with seven baserunners allowed. His ERA remains stellar but he will need to throw more strikes, especially against better offenses.
It was another game without a home run for the power-starved Nationals team, which isn't much of a surprise. The team currently sits tied for last in the NL and 2nd-worst in baseball in home run count, certainly the team's biggest weakness overall. Any day now Joey Meneses might start go on a home run streak, but with Joey sitting on 2 and the rest of the team lacking in pop, the trend will likely continue.
Washington Nationals Record: 23-29
When is the next Nationals game?
The Nats look for a road series sweep on Sunday at 2:10 PM EST. MacKenzie Gore will make his 11th start of the season against fellow southpaw Daniel Lynch, who is scheduled to make his 2023 debut. The potential sweep would be the first of the Nationals season, and the teams first ever sweep of the Royals. If the offense can jump on the lefty Lynch as it has on several lefties recently, it just might happen.