Call was a nice surprise, but enough to bring back in 2023?

Alex Call swinging gray

PLAYER REVIEW: ALEX CALL

Age on opening day 2023: 28

How acquired: Claimed off waivers from Guardians, August 2022

MLB service time: 74 days

2022 salary: $700,000

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Nats do little with nine hits, fall to Braves 5-2 (updated)

abbott blue @ ATL

ATLANTA - Alex Call raced back to the warning track, found the wall, halted, and leapt upward, kicking up dirt and reaching his glove toward the sky.

He missed.

The ball, hit at a 41-degree launch angle, floated inches above Call’s glove, and Austin Riley’s 37th home run of the season landed in the seats just beyond the left field wall.

Even the Braves’ pop-ups are home runs.

Atlanta (92-55) mashed their National League-leading 221st and 222nd homers of the season in a 5-2 win over Washington (51-96) in the series opener on Monday night. The Nationals, meanwhile, scored just two runs on nine hits, keeping their homer total at a paltry 126.

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Game 146 lineups: Nats vs. Marlins

meneses and voit

The Nationals haven’t found themselves in this position very much this season, but here they are today: After back-to-back wins over the Marlins the last two nights, they have a chance to sweep a series for the first time in 2022.

To do that, though, they’ll have to either outpitch Sandy Alcantara or score some runs off him. Neither is an easy task. Alcantara remains the favorite to win his first career Cy Young Award this fall, entering today’s start with a 2.43 ERA across an MLB-high 203 2/3 innings. He is the very definition of a modern ace, and the Nationals have had all kinds of trouble against him.

This is Alcantara’s fourth start against the Nats this season. He’s 2-0 with an 0.78 ERA, having allowed only two runs and 19 batters to reach base across 23 innings. He pitched a six-hit, zero-walk shutout the last time he faced them, June 8 here in D.C.

So, if the Nationals aren’t going to outslug the Marlins today, they’re going to have to outpitch them. Aníbal Sánchez, the long-ago Marlins right-hander, faces that task this afternoon. He has pitched quite well recently, with only three runs allowed over his last five starts, spanning 23 1/3 innings. His last outing lasted only two innings, though, because of that long rain delay in Philadelphia one week ago. So he’s plenty rested for this one.

MIAMI MARLINS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where:
Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 82 degrees, wind 8 mph out to center field

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Revolving outfielders have more to prove over final weeks

Meneses-Robles-Thomas-gray

Even with two extra spots in September, the Nationals are currently only carrying four true outfielders on their active roster. That’s usually the standard for any team: three starters and one backup on the bench.

But manager Davey Martinez, in fact, has utilized six players in the outfield since the roster shakeup at the trade deadline.

Victor Robles and Lane Thomas have been in Washington all season long. Joey Meneses (typically a first baseman) and Josh Palacios were brought up to fill the holes left by Juan Soto and Josh Bell, with Palacios making a couple of trips back-and-forth between the majors and Triple-A Rochester. Alex Call was selected off waivers from the Guardians on Aug. 7. And utilityman César Hernádez has appeared in left field four times to start September.

This is part of the process for the Nationals to see what they have in these players before the season ends in three weeks.

For the most part, they know what they have in Robles, who you may have noticed has not played since Sept. 7 in St. Louis. He was scratched from the starting lineup with a stiff neck the following day, but has been seen walking around the Nationals clubhouse this week with seemingly no issues.

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Game 138 lineups: Nats at Cardinals (Robles scratched)

josiah gray pitches blue

ST LOUIS – The Nationals were one out away Wednesday night of victory, of securing at least a four-game split here at Busch Stadium and of clinching a winning road trip against two division leaders. And then … well, you know what happened in the bottom of the ninth.

They still have an opportunity today, however, to achieve all of the above and head home 4-3 against the Mets and Cardinals, which would be no small achievement. They’ll attempt to do so in an early matinee, with a 12:15 p.m. local first pitch on a bright, warm September afternoon here.

Josiah Gray gets the start, and he’ll need to be better than he was in New York, when he allowed six runs to the Mets. These final starts of Gray’s season are important. He really wants to finish on a high note and go into 2023 feeling good about his place near the top of the Nats rotation. To do that, he’s going to have to pitch well against some good lineups still on the schedule, including the Cardinals lineup he’ll face today.

The Nationals, who were completely shut down by left-hander Jordan Montgomery until the seventh inning Wednesday night, now go up against the wily old veteran right-hander, Adam Wainwright, who today pairs up with Yadier Molina for the 324th time as a major league battery, tying the all-time record. Notable switch to Davey Martinez’s lineup: Nelson Cruz has been bumped down to the No. 6 spot after struggling out of the cleanup position.

Update: The Nats have a late lineup change: Victor Robles was scratched with a stiff neck. Alex Call replaces him batting ninth and playing left field. Lane Thomas is now in center field.

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Nats swept out of Philly with another blowout loss (updated)

abbott in shadows @ PHI

PHILADELPHIA – The first five games of the post-Juan Soto and Josh Bell era have been difficult for the Nationals. And unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any easier.

“They were big parts of the team," manager Davey Martinez said of Soto and Bell. "But for me, it's about giving guys another opportunity. These guys get an opportunity to come up here and play and show what they can do the last two months.”

The Nationals were swept out of Philly today via a 13-1 loss to the Phillies, their fifth straight loss overall and ninth in their last 11 games.

“You know, after the first day, which I thought we played well, game got cut short because of rain, and then the last three games were just not fun," Martinez said. "We got to pitch better. I thought we swung the bats OK 'til today. But we got to pitch better and we gotta get some better starting pitching. We're always behind. It's tough for morale. We do the best we can to keep these guys going, keep the guys positive. As you can see, man, they play. But I mean, we're always behind, so we got to start scoring first and get some better starting pitching.”

The Nats are now 36-74 this season, which puts them on pace to finish 53-109. That would be their worst record in franchise history since the Expos finished 52-110 in their first season in 1969 and the first 100-loss season in club history since 2009.

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