Soto wins showdowns with Scherzer as Nats lose possible last game with star (updated)

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Juan Soto is going to dominate the baseball news cycle for the next 20 hours leading up to Tuesday’s 6 p.m. trade deadline. If the Nationals end up trading the 23-year-old superstar, he’s going to be the biggest player acquired at this year’s deadline and possibly ever.

But for at least one more night, Soto was hitting third in manager Davey Martinez’s starting lineup, playing right field and wearing “Nationals” across his chest. And if this is the last time that will be the case, he gave Nats fans one last classic Juan Soto performance.

Facing old friend Max Scherzer in his first three plate appearances, Soto went 1-for-1 with a 421-foot home run and two walks, albeit in an eventual 7-3 loss to the Mets. He finished the night 1-for-1 with the homer, three walks, two runs scored and a stolen base in front of a crowd of 29,034 who were either rooting for him to stay in D.C. or rooting for him to go to New York.

“For me, I'm playing for the Nationals right now. I haven't heard anything yet. So for me, just another game that I play,” Soto said during a lengthy postgame meeting with the media.

In their first matchup in the bottom of the first inning, Soto was able to run the count full and draw a six-pitch walk. When Josh Bell, also still in the Nats lineup tonight, doubled down the right-field line, Soto advanced to third. But Mets right fielder Starling Marte threw the ball to second base with no one there, allowing both runners to advance and giving the Nats a quick 1-0 lead on Scherzer.

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Martinez on Adrianza trade, Harris return and selecting Vargas

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And here. We. Go.

With the trade deadline about 24 hours away, the baseball world is already abuzz with moves and even more rumors. The Nationals, who figure to play a major role in this year’s deadline, have already gotten the ball rolling, making their first of the numerous trades expected over these next two days.

This afternoon the Nationals traded utility player Ehire Adrianza to the Braves, for whom he played last year, in exchange for 26-year-old outfielder Trey Harris. Adrianza signed a one-year contract with the Nats in March but had his season delayed due to a quadriceps strain during the last week of spring training.

After finally joining the big league club, the 32-year-old played a variety of roles for manager Davey Martinez, appearing at second base, third base, shortstop and left field over 31 games. Adrianza hit .179 with two doubles, seven RBIs, one stolen base and five runs scored with the Nats.

“I talked to Ehire. He gets an opportunity to go back to where he was from and go help them,” Martinez said during his pregame press conference. “And they're in the playoff run, so I'm excited for him that he gets to go back there. I wish I would have seen more of Ehire here because I know the kind of player that he is. He got off to a slow start, and I really believe it's because he was injured. You know, he had a bad injury with the quad and he really couldn't get going. But I loved having him. He was a constant professional. I know I could count on him going out there and doing whatever I asked him to do, no matter what. So I wished him all the best. And I told him, I said, ‘Maybe we'll cross paths again here one day soon.’”

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Game 104 lineups: Nats vs. Mets

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With the trade deadline just over 24 hours away, I wouldn’t blame you if you immediately scrolled down in search of three names in the Nationals lineup: Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Nelson Cruz.

Well, for now, all three are in Davey Martinez’s starting lineup. Keep an eye out for late scratches and in-game replacements. It’s that time of year.

Ehire Adrianza was the first trade chip to fall with today’s announcement that he was traded to the Braves in exchange for 26-year-old outfielder Trey Harris. The Nats seemed to be showcasing him with increased playing time lately, and he heads back to the Braves to provide utility help in their postseason run. Maikel Franco returns as the starting third baseman.

We can be almost certain that Patrick Corbin isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so he’ll be ready to make his 22nd start of the season. At 4-14, the left-hander is looking to stay out of the loss column, as he is on pace to become the major leagues’ first 20-loss pitcher in two decades. He was charged with six runs on seven hits and a walk while only recording two outs in a loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday.

Corbin is 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA in three starts against the Mets this year.

Max Scherzer makes his second start against his former club tonight, both coming at Nationals Park. He gave up three runs and struck out six over six innings while earning the win in the second game of the season on April 8. Scherzer is 6-2 with a 2.09 ERA on the year, and 1-1 with a 1.39 ERA in his five starts since returning from a strained left oblique muscle that kept him sidelined in June.

The Nationals also are hoping to start August on a better note than they finished on during a 6-19 July, just “good” enough to avoid the worst month in club history.

NEW YORK METS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, MLB.com
Weather: Sunny, 85 degrees, wind 7 mph out to left-center field

NATIONALS
CF Victor Robles
2B César Hernández
RF Juan Soto
1B Josh Bell

LF Yadiel Hernandez
DH Nelson Cruz
SS Luis García
C Keibert Ruiz
3B Maikel Franco

LHP Patrick Corbin

METS
CF Brandon Nimmo
RF Starling Marte
SS Francisco Lindor
1B Pete Alonso
DH J.D. Davis
LF Mark Canha
3B Eduardo Escobar
2B Jeff McNeil
C Tomás Nido

RHP Max Scherzer

Rizzo says Soto leak didn't come from Nats, team “will explore all our options”

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Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made his first public comments about the reports that Juan Soto rejected the Nats’ latest contract offer and the organization will now entertain trading the superstar before Tuesday’s 6 p.m. deadline.

Rizzo, making his weekly appearance this morning on 106.7 The Fan’s “The Sports Junkies,” addressed everything from the team’s negotiations with Soto to his relationship with super agent Scott Boras to the organization’s ownership situation.

Last week, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that Soto rejected a 15-year, $440 million offer from the Nationals and that the team will now entertain trading him before this year’s deadline. On the day of the report, Soto said he was upset that the details of the contract offer became public, and public opinion pointed the finger at the team.

“Leaks are just so difficult,” Rizzo said. “In this age of social media, who knows where some of these things come from? But all I can tell you, it unequivocally did not come from me for sure, 100 percent for sure, or from our front office. That much I know for sure. We had this information three weeks before it leaked out, so we had ample time to leak it out if we wanted to leak it out. … They never ever help a situation. It was disappointing to me, I was upset about it. And it's something that I'd just like to know who leaked it out just to have that information and make sure it didn't come from anybody in baseball operations.”

Rizzo doubled down that the Nationals were not the ones to leak the contract offer details, stating that doing so would not have benefitted the club in any aspect.

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Draft tracker: Nats make final picks of 2022 draft (final update)

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The 2022 MLB Draft concludes today before tonight’s All-Star Game. The Nationals have 10 picks this afternoon, one in each of the remaining rounds.

Through the first 10 rounds, the Nats drafted two third basemen, one shortstop, three outfielders, one catcher, two right-handers and one left-hander. They selected three high school players, highlighted by 18-year-old outfielder Elijah Green out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., with the No. 5 overall pick Sunday night, and seven players from the college ranks.

“There's gonna be some kids out there that maybe got their feelings hurt a little bit,” assistant general manager and vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline said on Zoom call with reporters at the conclusion of yesterday’s selections. “Maybe you want to circle back and they may really want to play. So we'll go back and talk to them about, you know, the guys that said no, we'll go back and talk to all of them that said no, and ask them where they stand, how they feel now. And put the board together to the best of our ability. But that being said, I thought this first two days of the draft was really, really good. A really positive thing for the organization that's kind of in a rebuilding process. Guys did a great job.”

With their first pick of the day, the Nats selected right-hander Luke Young out of Midland College in Texas with the 321st overall pick in the 11th round. He’s listed as 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds.

A reliever for Midland, the 20-year-old went 9-4 with a 3.95 ERA, 110 strikeouts, 27 walks and only three home runs allowed over 79 ⅔ innings this year.

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With trade talk heating up, Soto wins Home Run Derby

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It was Juan Soto’s chance for redemption. After falling to eventual repeat champion Pete Alonso in the semifinals of last year’s Home Run Derby at Coors Field, this year’s event gave the Nationals slugger the chance to be a part of a star-studded field and win it all.

It’s hard to deny Soto twice. And with the eyes of the sporting world focused on Hollywood (including super agent Scott Boras sitting in the front row behind home plate), one of the game’s biggest stars stood on top of it all in more ways than one.

Soto won the 2022 Home Run Derby tonight at Dodger Stadium, beating Mariners rookie Julio Rodríguez 19-18 in the finals. Soto joins Bryce Harper, who beat Kyle Schwarber in an electric finale in 2018 at Nationals Park, as the only Nats players to win the Home Run Derby.

“It feels amazing,” Soto said on the broadcast after the win. “All of the hard work I put in and everything. It just feels amazing.”

After hitting the clinching home run, Soto launched his bat in the air in celebration and was mobbed by his father, Juan Sr., and brother, Elian, other Dominican players from across the major leagues, and Nationals manager Davey Martinez, who joined Soto this week as part of the National League coaching staff.

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Draft tracker: Nats make Day 2 picks of 2022 draft (final update)

bennett ou

The second day of the 2022 MLB Draft is underway, with the Nationals set to make eight picks between the third and 10th rounds this afternoon.

They started this year’s draft by selecting 18-year-old outfielder Elijah Green out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The son of former NFL tight end Eric Green, he is said to potentially be “an impactful superstar,” according to longtime assistant general manager and vice president of scouting operations Kris Kline.

In the second round, the Nats selected left-hander Jake Bennett out of the University of Oklahoma. They got their big starting pitcher in Bennett, who is listed as 6-foot-6 with a wingspan over 70 inches on the mound. The Nats previously drafted Bennett out of Bixby (Okla.) High School in the 39th round of the 2019 draft, but the southpaw decided to follow high school teammate and current top prospect Cade Cavalli to Norman. They are now reunited in the Nats farm system.

Then they turned their attention to the eight picks on Monday, and by the end of the afternoon, the Nats had eight more prospects for their minor league system.

“I thought it went really, really well," Kline said on a Zoom call with reporters after the conclusion of the 10th round. "It was one of those drafts where it was a position-player-heavy draft. And so the pitchers you wanted, you either got them or you didn't. You ID'd them early. Some of them were hurt. Some of them were healthy and got hurt. Some were hurt and got healthy. It was just one of those years.”

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Should Soto participate in the Home Run Derby again?

Juan Soto 2021 Home Run Derby swing

We saw this happen last year.

Everyone was panicking because Juan Soto’s overall offensive numbers weren’t up to his superstar standards about one-third of the way through the season. Then around mid-June, he started heating up at the plate and went into the All-Star break as one of the game’s hottest hitters.

People debated whether or not he should participate in the Home Run Derby, an event known for ruining hitters’ swings, after finally rediscovering his rhythm at the plate. But Soto did it anyway, hitting 46 home runs before being eliminated in the semifinals by eventual champion Pete Alonso.

“This is the time of year where I think he does start heating up,” Davey Martinez said of Soto. “I don't know why that is, because he always has his streaks in the beginning when he hits the ball really well. But he's swinging the bat really well right now.”

We’re now seeing almost the same story play out in 2022, which again brings up the question: Should Soto participate in the Home Run Derby?

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Soto named to All-Star Game, Bell left off roster

Soto bloom

ATLANTA – The rules say every team needs at least one representative in the All-Star Game, so despite a disappointing season, we knew there would be at least one Nationals player going to Los Angeles for this year’s Midsummer Classic.

That player is Juan Soto, announced on the “MLB All-Star Selection Show” on ESPN.

“It feels great to be part of it representing the Washington Nationals,” Soto said of his selection after today’s loss to the Braves. “It feels great to be out there and be on the list of all the All-Stars that the Washington Nationals have had in the past. And to be around those guys, it feels great.”

There was a lot of speculation as to whether Soto or Josh Bell or both would join Davey Martinez on Braves manager Brian Snitker’s National League team at Dodger Stadium. Now we know it will just be the left-handed slugging outfielder going to his second straight All-Star Game.

“It means a lot not only for me, but for the organization,” Soto said. “To represent the Washington Nationals out there and knowing that Davey is coming with me is gonna be great. We'll see how fun it's gonna be and how excited we will be.”

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Nats swept out of Atlanta with extra-inning loss (updated)

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ATLANTA – When it rains, it pours. An ironic use of that phrase on a beautiful day just outside downtown Atlanta.

But it’s true for the Nationals, who dropped their fourth straight game and were swept by the Braves with today’s 4-3 loss in 12 innings in front of 32,053 at Truist Park.

Jordan Weems, who pitched two impressive scoreless innings Friday night, was charged with the bottom of the 12th. The Nats intentionally walked Matt Olson to put two runners on for the right-hander. Austin Riley, who hit the tying home run in the eighth inning, stepped up to the plate and delivered the game-winning RBI single.

Tanner Rainey put up two zeros in the 10th and 11th innings, not without some tense moments, though.

Going back to the seventh, Davey Martinez brought in Kyle Finnegan to face the top of the Braves order and protect a 3-2 lead. Finnegan struck out the side easily, and since he last pitched Wednesday, he was plenty rested to go back out for a second inning.

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Harvey reinstated, Adon optioned and Tetreault transferred

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ATLANTA – Hunter Harvey was seen in the Nationals clubhouse this morning before the series finale against the Braves at Truist Park. His hair is hard to miss.

That meant a roster move was coming. When it became official about 30 minutes later, the Nats had reinstated Harvey, optioned Joan Adon to Triple-A Rochester and transferred Jackson Tetreault to the 60-day injured list.

“I've been feeling a lot better since the last time, so that's always a plus,” Harvey said at his locker of his recovery from a right pronator strain. 

The Nationals placed him on the injured list on April 21 after he pitched only 2 ⅔ scoreless innings over four appearances. Now after missing 71 games, he’s finally back.

“It took a little bit longer than we wanted to,” Harvey said of his rehab. “I had a couple of setbacks, but we took a little bit extra time and made sure everything was OK, and now I feel a lot better than I did before.”

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Game 88 lineups: Nats at Braves

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ATLANTA – The Nationals need a win today to salvage this three-game series against the Braves and end this mostly miserable road trip on a high note.

Paolo Espino will lead them on the mound as he makes his sixth consecutive start. The right-hander hasn’t posted similar numbers as a starter to those he did when he was strictly a reliever. In 20 appearances out of the bullpen, he had a 2.03 ERA over a mainly low-leverage 26 ⅔ innings. Since he joined the rotation on June 12, Espino is 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA in 22 innings over five starts. He gave up three runs in one inning of relief against the Braves in his second outing of the season on April 12.

For the offense, Ian Anderson may present the best opportunity to do some damage off a Braves starter. The right-hander is 7-5 with a 5.09 ERA over his first 16 starts of the season. He gave up four runs on six hits and four walks in four innings plus three batters against the Nats on June 13. He has a 9.82 ERA in just 11 innings over his last three starts.

César Hernández is on the bench and not in his usual leadoff spot, with Luis García batting first instead. Manager Davey Martinez also has Juan Soto and Josh Bell swapping places in today's batting order.

All-Stars will be announced later today, so we’ll see soon who will be the Nationals’ representative in the Midsummer Classic.

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Corbin not consistent enough, rally falls short in another loss (updated)

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ATLANTA – There was reason for optimism heading into this Patrick Corbin start.

His overall numbers still weren’t great in the form of a 4-10 record and 5.68 ERA over his first 17 outings. But he had been really effective over his last two starts with a 1.20 ERA, 16 strikeouts and three walks over a combined 15 innings. He pitched eight innings of one-run ball and recorded a season-high 12 strikeouts on June 28 against the Pirates and then pitched another seven innings of one-run ball on Monday against the Marlins.

But the third time was not the charm for Corbin this afternoon at Truist Park, as he was charged with four runs over six innings in a 4-3 loss to the Braves before a crowd of 40,632 fans.

Like a lot of his outings, Corbin had his ups and downs throughout this start. He faced the minimum in four of his six innings, with 1-2-3 innings in the third and sixth, and double-play balls in the second and fifth. It was the first and fourth innings where he struggled.

In the bottom of the first, ​​Corbin almost worked around a Ronald Acuña Jr. leadoff single as he retired the next two batters. But Austin Riley hit a slider over the plate into the left-field seats for a two-run homer and an early 2-0 Braves lead.

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Sánchez strong in rehab start, but Nats waiting on rotation plans

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ATLANTA – The Nationals received an encouraging report on Aníbal Sánchez’s latest rehab start with Triple-A Rochester.

And with Monday’s off-day and the four-day All-Star break the following week, the Nats’ rotation could be in line to get some rest, a boost and a reset.

Sánchez completed 5 1/3 innings with four hits, two runs (one earned), three walks and three strikeouts in his fourth rehab start last night (third with Rochester). He threw 87 pitches, 54 for strikes, against the 23 batters he faced, a little more than the five innings and 75 pitches he was originally scheduled to throw.

“Yeah, he threw 5 1/3, 87 pitches. He threw the ball well,” Davey Martinez said during his pregame meeting with the media. “He had a couple of walks in there, but he felt good. So today he'll rest, he'll throw a bullpen, we'll see where he's at. And then we'll figure out what's next for him.”

Looking at the schedule, five days from yesterday would be Wednesday’s matinee finale against the Mariners. As the rotation currently stands, Josiah Gray would be in line to start Tuesday’s opener after Monday’s off-day, and Joan Adon’s spot would come up Wednesday.

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Game 87 lineups: Nats at Braves

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ATLANTA – It’s a new day and the Nationals will be looking to get past last night’s disaster, which saw them lose 10-2 in the series opener with a 75-minute rain delay and another position player pitching.

They’ll turn to Patrick Corbin to set the tone for them on the mound this afternoon. Although the overall numbers still aren’t great (4-10 record and 5.68 ERA in 17 starts), the veteran lefty has been very impressive over his last two starts, pitching to a 1.20 ERA with 16 strikeouts and three walks over a combined 15 innings. He did, however, give up six runs in just 2 ⅔ innings here at Truist Park in his second start of the season. Here’s hoping things have changed since the last time Corbin faced the Braves.

After mustering only Juan Soto’s two-run home run off Charlie Morton last night, the Nats offense hopes to be more productive against Kyle Wright, who has been one of the more consistent starters in the league. The 26-year-old right-hander is 9-4 with a 2.91 ERA over 16 starts this season, and he should be plenty fresh after only pitching four innings and throwing 71 pitches (both season lows) in his last start against the Cardinals. (Manager Brian Snitker removed him as a precaution after the Braves jumped out to a 6-0 lead.) 

Wright hasn’t faced the Nats since 2020, but is 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA in four career appearances (two starts) against Washington.

The weather here is once again not great for baseball. The light rain falling is supposed to clear around the scheduled 4:10 p.m. first pitch, but then it’s supposed to storm all night starting around 6-7 p.m.. They may be able to start this game. Whether or not they finish is a different story.

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Weems trying to prove worth in Nats bullpen

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ATLANTA – Part of the rebuilding process, especially if you want to make it a quick turnaround back to contention, is finding diamonds in the rough. Whether that’s in the draft, international market or free agency, adding productive pieces that may have been overlooked by other teams is a good way to put together a contender.

It’s still early with a small sample size, but Jordan Weems is hoping to be one of those diamonds in the rough for the Nationals.

You may look at his overall numbers and think there’s no way. A 29-year-old right-handed reliever who has been cast off by three other teams? Who was drafted in 2011 but didn’t make his major league debut until 2020 as a 27-year-old? Who has a 6.53 ERA in only 25 big league outings? Who had a 7.27 ERA and 1.731 WHIP in just 8 ⅔ innings over eight appearances coming into Friday’s series opener in Atlanta?

How is that a diamond in the rough?

Well, if you take a look at Weems’ more recent numbers, you'll find there are some positive developments that suggest he’s perhaps turning a corner. At the very least, he’s turning himself into a reliable arm out of Davey Martinez’s bullpen.

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Disastrous second inning dooms Fedde, Nats in loss (updated)

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ATLANTA – It’s been hit or miss for Erick Fedde this year. Really, it’s been hit or miss for Erick Fedde throughout his career. But he hasn’t been put under the microscope until these past two seasons as he has solidified himself in the Nationals rotation.

Sometimes he’s sharp and can use his arsenal effectively to turn in a quality (if not better) start, although he typically gets himself into high pitch counts.

Other times he’s flat and serves up easy pitches for the opponent to hit, which puts his team in a hole and also drives up his pitch count.

Tonight’s series opener against the Braves was the latter as a five-run second inning doomed Fedde and the Nats en route to a 12-2 loss in front of 41,725 fans at Truist Park.

Fedde put himself in a small deficit from the start. In the first inning, he served up a solo home run to Matt Olson on an inside and slightly elevated cutter. He needed 16 pitches to complete the first frame, a pretty standard start for the right-hander.

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García returns to lineup, Sánchez starts again in Rochester

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ATLANTA – Less than 24 hours after exiting Thursday’s series finale in Philadelphia, Luis García is back in the Nationals lineup for the series opener in Atlanta. A sigh of relief can be heard throughout the organization.

Ehire Adrianza replaced García at shortstop in the bottom of the seventh inning of the 5-3 loss to the Phillies after García grounded out to lead off the top of the sixth, clearly grimacing and holding his right side as he jogged back to the dugout. Manager Davey Martinez said after the game that the young shortstop was dealing with a "stomach issue.”

It must have been a quick bug, similar to what Nelson Cruz dealt with when Martinez scratched him from the lineup late Tuesday with an illness. García is feeling well enough to play tonight.

“He had an upset stomach yesterday,” Martinez said during his pregame session with the media. “He said he woke up, he felt a lot better. So I told him to make sure he drinks a lot of fluid. It's hot. So we'll keep an eye on him. He said he feels good.”

García felt something coming on before yesterday’s game, but told his manager he was good enough to play. He ended up getting worse as the game went on.

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Game 86 lineups: Nats at Braves

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ATLANTA – Greetings from just outside downtown Atlanta, where the Nationals are making their second visit to Truist Park this year.

I can confirm the Nats won’t have to face Kyle Schwarber over this three-game series, but alas, another National League East opponent awaits in the Braves. The Nats are a woeful 7-30 on the season within the division and have won just two out of their last 21 games against their rivals. Although the Nats have played the Braves the least so far, they’ve had the most success against Atlanta, winning a three-game set here in early April despite getting swept at home over three games last month. 

Erick Fedde will look to continue a strong stretch in which he’s pitched to a 2.82 ERA over his last four starts. That stretch started when he allowed three runs in 5 ⅓ innings against these Braves on June 15. The key for Fedde will be to, once again, get quick outs and not get himself into deep counts so as to keep his pitch count down and get deeper in the game.

Charlie Morton will take the mound for the Braves in tonight’s opener. The veteran right-hander is 4-3 with a 4.34 ERA over his first 16 starts, but like Fedde, he’s been pitching really well as of late. Over his last four starts, Morton has a 1.35 ERA with 35 strikeouts to just four walks. This will be his first time facing the Nats this season after having gone 4-6 with a 5.23 ERA over 13 career starts against Washington. 

Luis García is in tonight’s lineup after leaving yesterday’s game in Philadelphia with a stomach illness.

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Cavalli and Baker selected to All-Star Futures Game

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The All-Star Game’s week-long festivities are not just to celebrate the best in today’s game. They are also to put the best of baseball’s future on the national stage. And we now know who will be representing the Nationals on that stage in just over a week.

Cade Cavalli and Darren Baker have been selected to represent the Nationals in the 2022 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, Major League Baseball announced today on MLB Network’s “MLB Central.” The 23rd All-Star Futures Game features the top prospects across the minor leagues as they’ll compete as part of the first-ever All-Star Saturday on July 16.

Cavalli, 23, will be appearing in his second straight All-Star Futures Game after representing the Nats in Colorado last year. The 2020 first-round pick pitched a scoreless fifth inning for the National League side while matching his two walks with two strikeouts and touching 100 mph with his fastball three times.

Currently the Nats’ top prospect, according to both MLBPipeline.com and Baseball America, Cavalli is tied for third in the system with 68 strikeouts after being one of the strikeout leaders in all the minor leagues in 2021. In 14 starts for Triple-A Rochester, he is 4-3 with a 4.54 ERA and 9.1 K/9. But Cavalli has upped his game recently, going 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA, 41 strikeouts and a .182 batting average against over his last seven starts. 

That includes last night, when the right-hander enjoyed one his most impressive outings to date, retiring the first 17 batters he faced en route to completing seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball at Lehigh Valley. He finished with seven strikeouts and no walks.

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