With three wins this week against the Padres and Royals, the Washington Nationals have improved their record to 23-30.
The Nats are above preseason expectations across the league. Starting pitching success can be attributed to most of the wins, but the bats were alive and well this week.
A three-game set with San Diego began on Tuesday, headlined by ex-National Juan Soto in the Padres lineup. The Nats were quiet early but got to Padres starter Yu Darvish in the fifth behind CJ Abrams' two-run home run and Lane Thomas' solo shot. Erasmo Ramirez entered in the sixth inning and was taken deep by Juan Soto and Jake Cronenworth. The Nats fell on Tuesday night, 7-4.
Trevor Williams got the ball on Wednesday and was solid, going 5.2 innings allowing three hits, two home runs, three walks, and striking out three. The 31-year-old free-agent acquisition has been productive across ten starts this season, pitching to a 4.32 ERA. Keibert Ruiz kicked off the scoring with an RBI single in the bottom of the second, followed by an Alex Call double that scored two. Two batters later, Luis Garcia hit a sacrifice fly to score Alex Call, making it 4-0 Nationals. Home runs by Padres' Rougned Odor and Ha-Seong Kim rounded out the scoring for San Diego. The game ended 5-3 in favor of Washington.
Thursday was a heartbreaker. Starter Jake Irvin only allowed two hits across four innings but walked four batters and allowed a home run. Reliever Andres Machado allowed three runs in the fifth. The Nats were down 5-1 and seemed out of the game. Washington rallied for five runs in the seventh inning and was ahead in the ninth inning to secure the series win. Hunter Harvey was called upon for the save and allowed a gut-wrenching three-run homer to Rougned Odor.
Friday night got off to a great start versus Kansas City, behind Lane Thomas's' leadoff home run. The Nats exploded for an eight-run sixth inning to take a 9-2 lead. Erasmo Ramirez was ineffective once again, allowing three inherited runners to score, and was charged with two earned runs, all without recording a single out. Carl Edwards Jr. struggled in relief of Ramirez, allowing two runs on two hits and a walk. Chad Kuhl held on for 1.2 innings to get his first save of the season.
Josiah Gray was Saturday's starting pitcher and was pulled after four innings while allowing two runs. Washington's bullpen is taxed heading to Los Angeles for a three-game set. Trevor Williams is on the mound for game one and will look to eat more than a few innings for the Nats.
Pitcher of the Week
Highlighted by his career-high 11-strikeout performance on Sunday afternoon versus the Royals, MacKenzie Gore is this week's District on Deck Pitcher of the week. The 24-year-old showed what Washington expects the young lefty to be, a dominant force on the mound. The main factor to Gore's success has been throwing strikes, and located 75 of his 106 pitches in the zone Sunday. MacKenzie lowered his ERA to 3.57 on the season after throwing seven innings while scattering three hits and walking just one batter.
Gore got the ball earlier in the week in the first game of the San Diego series and battled through 4.2 innings of work. He didn't have his sharpest stuff, as he walked four batters and gave up two home runs. MacKenzie allowed just three runs and kept Washington in the game. Starters will occasionally not have their best arsenal and have to limit damage, and that's what Gore did Tuesday night.
Hitter of the Week
At just 23-years-old, Luis Garcia recorded six(!) hits on Friday night versus the Royals. He's the youngest player since 1964 to achieve this accomplishment.
Six hits in a game undoubtedly earns Garcia District on Deck Hitter of the Week honors. Luis recorded four hits in the series versus San Diego. His improvement at the plate compared to last season has been astronomical. According to baseball-reference.com, he's cut his strikeout percentage in half to 11 percent and doubled his walk rate to 6.3 percent. Could the move to second base full-time be a reason for his success?
Garcia has committed just one error this season in 45 games played, compared to 16 in 92 games last season. The shortstop position was not the spot for Garcia, and it likely caused extra time and practice, taking away from his best tool, the bat. Luis was best known for his bat-to-ball skills in the minors, hitting 13 home runs in just 37 games at AAA in 2021. His career batting average in the minor leagues is .286 in 387 games. Luis is back to his roots at second base and has taken a big step in his development at the plate.