A much better week for Washington
Two shutout wins and a strong performance on Sunday versus the San Diego Padres to secure a series win capped off a solid week for the Washington Nationals, with three wins and four losses. Right fielder Lane Thomas and third baseman Jeimer Candelario are bolstering their All-Star caliber seasons. Josiah Gray had an important bounce-back start on Saturday. Although there were ugly losses this week, there were impressive performances by multiple Nationals players.
The Nats faced the St. Louis Cardinals for a three-game series. Game one was disappointing, seeing Washington blow a five-run lead to lose the game; 8-6. Josiah Gray gave up two home runs and six earned runs. Carl Edwards Jr. allowed two earned runs and walked two Cardinal batters in the seventh inning. Luis Garcia had four RBI, and Lane Thomas, Jeimer Candelario, and CJ Abrams had two hits each. Game two was no prettier, as MacKenzie Gore was tagged for five earned runs over six innings. He struck out nine but also allowed two home runs. Stone Garrett and Victor Robles collected two hits each, but nothing going the plate for Washington. St. Louis collected 14 hits, coasting to a 9-3 win in game two. In the rain on Wednesday, Trevor Williams was dealing for the Nats. Over six innings of work, Trevor allowed five hits, no earned runs or walks, and struck out four. Williams is now 4-4 with a 4.14 ERA this season, quietly providing a quality veteran presence for the Nationals' pitching staff. Luis Garcia recorded two doubles, and CJ Abrams took Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas opposite field to left for his seventh home run. Washington had ten hits but only three extra-base hits en route to a 3-0 win over the Cardinals.
Thursday was a make-up of the postponed game against the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier in the month due to air quality issues. Jake Irvin was fantastic on the mound, throwing six innings, allowing five hits, one earned run with one walk, and six strikeouts. Following his turn being skipped in the rotation, Irvin has thrown 11 innings allowing just two earned runs with ten strikeouts and three walks. Keibert Ruiz had three hits in his season debut as a designated hitter, and Riley Adams had three hits, including a homer. An ugly seventh inning with an error by Luis Garcia followed by a Ketel Marte three-run homer off Jordan Weems proved too tall for the Nats to overcome. Arizona won the game; 5-3.
The Nats traveled to San Diego for a weekend series and got off to a terrible start on Friday night. Patrick Corbin got rocked by Padres hitters, allowing seven earned runs and two homers across five innings of work. Chad Kuhl did no better in his one inning, allowing four earned runs. He was designated for assignment on Saturday. The Nats' had ten hits, including two doubles by CJ Abrams, but could not convert with runners in scoring position. San Diego routed Washington; 13-3.
Saturday and Sunday were completely different stories. Lane Thomas and Jeimer Candelario went deep, and that was all Gray needed as the Nats won game two, 2-0. Sunday afternoon was fun to watch. MacKenzie Gore was nasty over five innings, striking out nine Padres batters. Washington put the hammer down on a skilled San Diego team to win two out of three games. Candelario had three hits and three RBI, Joey Meneses had two hits and three RBI, and Luis Garcia had two hits. The new addition to the bullpen Joe La Sorsa recorded an electric strikeout to record a hold in the sixth inning. The bullpen held the Padres bats down enough to win game three, 8-3.
Hitter of the Week
Lane Thomas raked again this week, forcing me to name him as Hitter of the Week for the second time in a row. Lane hit two doubles, two home runs and drove in three runs to raise his season splits to .295/.344/.503. Thomas' OPS is now at .847, the highest average in the Nationals lineup. Thomas has undoubtedly been the best hitter for Washington this season. Trading Jon Lester for Lane Thomas was one of Mike Rizzo's best trades.
Now Rizzo has another decision to make, does he trade Thomas for more prospects or make him part of the rebuild? If I were Rizzo, I would call the Yankees about acquiring Thomas and Candelario for as much as they're willing to give up. The Yankees right fielder, Aaron Judge is out for an extended period and needs a replacement. Thomas would fit in perfectly, as New York needs hitting, and the right field is tiny at Yankee Stadium. Candelario could fit in as a DH or third baseman for New York.
Pitcher of the Week
Although Gray was rocked by the Cardinals earlier in the week, his start on Saturday was arguably the most important one of the season. Giving up the home run was Josiah's issue last season, and the Cardinals hit two in his start on Monday. San Diego has lots of power in their lineup, but Gray neutralized them over 5.1 innings. Across 16 starts, Gray is 5-6 with a 3.43 ERA, 78 strikeouts, 42 walks, and a 1.40 WHIP. Josiah has given up just 12 home runs this season, arguably the most important stat.
Gray is knocking on the door of being an elite starter. The amount of walks that Gray gives up is concerning, but he's overcome the extra baserunners so far. The next step in his development is to limit the walks and throw more strikes. Nationals fans and the front office are ecstatic with the improvement from the 25-year-old. He's Week 13's Pitcher of the Week after his bounce-back performance versus the Padres.