The 2023 Washington Nationals are a particular group of players. They may not be the winningest team, but their grit and perseverance are second to none. A five-win week versus the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds proved that the Nats could be farther along in the rebuild than we thought.
Monday night began with a test versus Corbin Burnes, one of the best pitchers in the National League. Nats starter Jake Irvin was as effective as Burnes, as seemed unphased by the pitching matchup. Joey Meneses hit a home run off Burnes, a part of his three-hit performance. Joey collected three hits, including a go-ahead single in the bottom of the seventh inning. Jose Ferrer, Jordan Weems, Mason Thompson, and Kyle Finnegan combined for 3.2 innings to seal the Nats' 5-3 win. Josiah Gray got the ball on Tuesday and was ineffective. He got tagged for five earned runs over 3.2 innings on the mound. The Nats fell to Milwaukee in game two, 6-4. Game three highlighted the Nats' grit, winning on a walk-off fielder's choice call on an Alex Call ground ball. The play was so interesting that you need to see it for yourself.
We might as well call Great American Ball Park the "Nats park of the Midwest." Washington hitters mash in that park for some reason. Friday night was the Lane Thomas show. He hit two home runs, including a two-run homer in the 10th. Joey Meneses hit a home run in the eighth off Reds' starter Graham Ashcraft, putting a damper on his pitching line. Patrick Corbin did his job, allowing three earned runs over 6.1 innings. The Nats won an exciting game one in extras, 6-3. Game two was all about Joan Adon, who was recalled from AAA for the game. Adon took a perfect game into the sixth inning but ended up with three earned runs. The 24-year-old showed maturity not seen last season, striking out seven and walking none. Lane Thomas, Keibert Ruiz, and Riley Adams collected two hits each. The Nats won game two, 7-3. Game three was arguably the fastest start in Nats history, with the first two pitches thrown by Reds starter Lyon Richardson sent out of the yard by CJ Abrams and Lane Thomas. Abrams racked up four hits and two stolen bases, and Lane Thomas had two hits and three RBI. Jake Irvin allowed three earned runs over 4.1 innings, and the bullpen shut down the Reds for the rest of the game. The Nats wrapped up a series sweep, 7-3.
Hitter of the Week
Everyone is happy for Jake Alu. The 26-year-old rookie had five base hits and five RBI this week, including a clutch go-ahead double in the 10th inning versus Cincinnati. The 24th-round pick in the 2019 draft finally got his shot and is looking to run with it. Jeimer Candelario was moved to Chicago, and playing time has opened up for Jake Alu.
The final months of the season will be interesting for Jake Alu, as he should get regular at-bats at the Major League level. He's produced at each minor league level in his professional career. With top prospect Brady House at third base, Alu doesn't project as a long-term solution. Where does he fit in the future? The best spot is as a utility player off the bench. Someone who can be a reliable defensive replacement in the late innings while providing a quality at-bat is important to playoff teams. That role is perfect for Jake Alu, who can play five positions.
Pitcher of the Week
How about Joan Adon? The 24-year-old got recalled to the Majors and took a perfect game into the sixth inning, no big deal. It was against the Reds, not an easy opponent. Adon allowed three hits and three earned runs over six innings pitched. In the sixth, he allowed two base hits followed by a home run by TJ Freidl. Adon struck out seven and didn't issue a walk. His control was far better than last season, and his delivery looked much smoother.
Adon is staying in the Majors for the time being. The Nats could have a "good" problem, too many starting pitchers. Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore, Trevor Williams, Patrick Corbin, Jake Irvin, and Joan Adon. Could the Nats keep Adon in D.C. over the final two months as a fill-in starter? It's been rumored that Gore and Irvin will be on an innings limit, and Adon throwing the ball well could provide rest days for them. Adon throwing the ball well is a great change of pace from last season, as he was a bit tough to watch.