The Nationals did not play Monday, but benefitted from the Braves difficult homestand schedule.
The Dodgers beat the Braves easily 6-2, pushing the Nationals’ lead to four full games in the National League East and a robust five games in the loss column.
Atlanta is now 2-2 on a 10-game homestand that includes the Nationals, Dodgers and Athletics.
Despite losing two of three against Atlanta over the weekend, the Nationals have three more on the road in New York before heading home for a weekend series against the Pirates. Pittsburgh is fighting the Brewers for their divisional leadand are 2 1/2 games back in the NL Central.
Currently Pittsburgh and St. Louis lead the wild card race. The Giants are only a 1/2 game out while the Braves trail by 2 1/2 games for the final playoff spot.
There is still plenty of baseball left and the Nationals still must contend with an offense without Ryan Zimmerman. There are questions about Jayson Werth and how banged up he shoulder and ankle are.
* Left-hander Felipe Rivero has finished his rehab assignment and has returned to Double-A Harrisburg. The 23-year-old 6-foot-2, 195-lb., Venezuelan has gone 1-5 in 10 games this season with a 3.60 ERA. He has logged 35 innings, so he is used in longer relief spots.
Tampa Bay acquired right-handed pitching prospect Nathan Karns from the Nationals in a deal in February that sent catcher Jose Lobaton, Rivero and outfield prospect Drew Vettleson to the Nationals.
The Nationals also have Xavier Cedeno as a lefty reliever, but with Rivero healthy, he provides good depth on that side of the hill for a much coveted position.
Rivero has faced lefty bats in only four innings this season, accumulating a 2.25 ERA and allowing just one earned run. In 21 innings against righty bats, he has a 5.57 ERA. When placed in high-leverage situations, he has had difficulty with a 45.00 ERA with runners at second and third.
The 23-year-old Vettleson, who battled a broken hand and missed two months early this season, is hitting .236 in 63 games which is off his .274 average last season with the Tampa Bay organization. But he got hot in late July, with three runs, three doubles, a homer and five RBIs.
Senators manager Brian Daubach told PennLive.com that Vettleson “has some thunder in his bat.”
* Single-A Hagerstown crushed Delmarva 13-7, tallying seven runs in the first inning. Rafael Bautista, Carlos Lopez and Brennan Middleton blasted homers for the Suns. Lopez went 3-for-6 with four RBIs. Wilmer Difo went 5-for-6 with two RBIs. Bautista and Wilman Rodriguez also each had three hits. The Suns pounded out 19 hits.
That was more than enough for right-hander Lucas Giolito, who went five innings and allowed no runs, two hits and two walks while striking out six. Giolito tossed a workmanlike 69 pitches, 45 for strikes, improving to 9-2. His pitching total for the season is up to 93 innings and 19 starts.
There really aren’t many examples of pitchers who compile nine wins at the low Single-A level. Why? Because those type of prospects move up to high Single-A. Giolito is on the cusp.
As I have written here previously, I believe he will be an invite to Arizona Fall League, and if all goes well, could easily do the Single-A to Double-A midseason jump next year as has been a pattern for top-flight Nats prospects in the past.