Difference in power leads to Nats' sixth straight loss (updated)

vargas kneels grey

ATLANTA – A major difference between the Nationals and Braves is power at the plate. The Braves have it. The Nationals do not.

The Nats have hit the second-fewest homers in the majors and fewest in the National League. Meanwhile, the Braves have hit the third-most in the majors and second-most in the NL.

That difference was pretty glaring in today’s 6-4 loss in front of 40,799 at Truist Park.

When the offense doesn’t have a lot of pop, you need pitching that also keeps the ball in the field of play and doesn’t give up a lot of free baserunners so that those one-run shots don’t turn into multiple runs.

MacKenzie Gore has done a much better job of limiting walks recently. After giving up multiple in nine of his first 10 starts, he had given up just one over his last two starts coming into today’s rematch with the Braves.

Continue reading

After memorable grand slam, Garrett makes case to stay


The sting of the Nationals’ 10-5 loss to the Diamondbacks still loomed over the entire home clubhouse Tuesday night, but Stone Garrett couldn’t help but light up when asked about the grand slam he clubbed way back in the first inning off a team and a pitcher he knew all too well.

“It felt freaking good,” the 27-year-old said, his smile growing wide. “That’s my best friend pitching. And your old team. Keibert (Ruiz) just hit two home runs off his old team (last week at Dodger Stadium), so it feels good. Revenge game.”

Designated for assignment by Arizona last November, then signed by the Nats two weeks later, Garrett already faced his former team last month at Chase Field. And he already faced Tommy Henry, the 25-year-old left-hander who became one of his closest friends and a regular roommate through their respective treks up the organizational ladder.

This, though, meant far more. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the first, Garrett launched a changeup from his good buddy deep to left, the ball clearing the fence for the first grand slam of his career and the first grand slam by any Nationals player at home since Yan Gomes on June 15, 2021.

“It felt like a good pitch,” Henry told reporters in the visitors’ clubhouse. “Yeah, it’s unfortunate it was him. It’s unfortunate in any circumstance, but unfortunate it was him because I probably won’t hear the end of it now.”

Continue reading

Another ragged night for struggling Nats pitching staff (updated)


For the second straight game, Davey Martinez pulled a struggling starter in the middle innings and entrusted a struggling reliever to keep a close game against a quality opponent close.

And for the second straight game, that struggling reliever not only couldn’t keep the game close, he couldn’t even keep it close enough for his Nationals teammates to have a realistic shot at coming back by night’s end.

Jake Irvin was tonight’s fading starter, and Erasmo Ramirez was tonight’s struggling reliever. They bore a striking resemblance to Trevor Williams and Andrés Machado from two days prior in a loss to the Phillies. In this case, the opponent was the Diamondbacks, who took full advantage of the Nats’ pitching woes during a 10-5 victory that further underscored some major problems for the home club.

"Walks," an unusually and visibly aggravated Martinez lamented. "We're walking too many guys. Hitting batters. Falling behind. Pitching 2-0, 1-0, 3-1. You're not going to win very many games like that. We've got to clean that up."

The Nationals have now lost six of their last eight, and a recurring theme throughout this stretch has been ragged relief pitching, whether in the middle or late innings. The situation already was dire entering the day, with the Nats owning the National League’s worst bullpen ERA (4.73) and WHIP (1.433), and things only got worse.

Continue reading

Nats finding success against high volume of lefty starters

Dominic Smith gray

The Nationals have had a rough go to the start of the season in terms of opposing starting pitchers. They’re facing left-handed starters at a higher rate than usual, which early on led to some inconsistencies in their lineup constructions.

When the Nats face the Padres’ Blake Snell in this afternoon’s series finale, it will be their 19th time in their first 50 games facing an opposing lefty starter. That’s almost a 40 percent rate, unusually high over the first two months of the season, with possibly more on the way.

“Yes,” manager Davey Martinez answered during his pregame media session when asked if this amount of opposing left-handed starters is unusual. “We've seen a lot of lefties. I think we'll get another one too in Kansas City. So yeah, we have seen quite a bit of lefties. But the thing about it is our left-handed hitters are not doing bad against them, it's kind of nice.”

It’s almost ironic that the Nationals have faced this many southpaws to start the year. Over the offseason, the focus was on acquiring a left-handed-hitting corner outfielder and possibly a backup lefty first baseman to fill out the roster. They were able to get both and then some.

Corey Dickerson was the left corner outfielder and Dominic Smith was the starting left-handed first baseman, allowing Joey Meneses to shift to designated hitter full time. Add switch-hitter Jeimer Candelario and the Nats could actually have more lefty bats than righty in their lineup on a given night.

Continue reading

Vargas leaves for rehab assignment; Martinez on lineup changes

Ildemaro Vargas throwing gray

NEW YORK – The Nationals had one noticeable player missing from the clubhouse before tonight’s series finale against the Mets. Ildemaro Vargas, on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder strain since April 11, left the team to start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester.

“He went out this morning, though they, unfortunately, had a day game today,” manager Davey Martinez said of his backup utility infielder. “So he's got to start playing tomorrow.”

Vargas jammed his shoulder while making a diving play earlier this month in Colorado. He had recently been able to most of the usual baseball activities, but Martinez had said it still bothered the switch-hitter when swinging right-handed.

When he arrives at Rochester, Vargas will get most of his reps at shortstop while also getting at-bats from both sides of the plate.

“Yeah, he's got to go out there,” Martinez said. “I want him to play some shortstop. I want to see him field. He's definitely got to swing the bat. Hopefully, he can swing both left-handed and right-handed. But we'll see how he does and we'll see how long it's gonna take for him to go out and come back. There's no timetable yet, but hopefully it's only a few days.”

Continue reading

Game 24 lineups: Nats at Mets

trevor williams cherry

NEW YORK – Here we go again: For the second straight series, the Nationals have put themselves in position to earn their first three-game sweep since June 14-16, 2021, when they took three straight at home against the Pirates. It’s also the second straight series they’ll have this opportunity on the road, this time at Citi Field against the Mets, who entered this series only a half-game out of first place in the National League East. The Nats last swept a three-game road series Aug. 23-25, 2019 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Trevor Williams will look to become the fourth straight Nats starting pitcher to turn in a quality start and fifth in the last six games. He’ll also be doing so while taking the mound at Citi Field for the first time since signing a two-year, $13 million contract with the Nats this offseason.

Williams is off to a strong start with his new team. He’s a respectable 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.078 WHIP over his first four starts, completing at least five innings each time out and allowing no more than three runs per start.

The Nationals offense will be tasked with facing their first left-hander of this series in Joey Lucchesi. The 29-year-old made his first major league start since recovering from Tommy John surgery last year on Friday in San Francisco, completing seven shutout innings and allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out nine in a win over the Giants.

Victor Robles is the only Nationals regular to have faced Lucchesi ahead of tonight, going 4-for-8 with a solo home run. Meanwhile, Dominic Smith gets a day off and Stone Garrett will DH against Lucchesi, moving Joey Meneses to first base. And Luis García takes tonight off, but it’s Michael Chavis playing second base instead of Jeter Downs.

Continue reading

Nats swept by Rays as same issues continue

corbin cherry

On Opening Day, Patrick Corbin suffered through some defensive errors behind him, some bad luck on weak contact by Braves hitters and some poor pitches on his own part. He couldn’t retire the only batter he faced in the fourth while giving up four runs (two earned) and throwing 85 pitches.

In today’s matinee finale against the Rays, he was more efficient with his pitches but at times not all that effective, with the results more of the same in a 7-2 loss to complete a three-game sweep in front of 13,836 fans at Nationals Park.

Corbin kept his pitch count down throughout most of the outing, much better than his first start on Thursday. He had only thrown 69 pitches and 47 strikes while keeping it a 3-2 game through five innings. And he was getting ahead of hitters at a better rate, something he also struggled with against the Braves. Of the 21 hitters he faced through five frames, he got ahead of 12 of them to limit the Rays to six hits and three runs.

But in the sixth he ran into some classic Corbin issues. One out away from a quality start and possibly allowing himself to come out for another inning, he gave up a home run to Harold Ramírez after getting ahead 0-1. The 80-mph slider was just below the zone for the Rays designated hitter to golf over the center field fence to end a streak of 11 consecutive retired batters.

After a single by Manuel Margot, it was time for some of the usual bad luck to strike Corbin again. Victor Robles, who had just made a nice diving grab to rob Isaac Paredes of a leadoff hit, lost Taylor Walls’ fly ball to the Sun Monster, resulting in an RBI double. Then Jose Siri hit an RBI single to right, advanced to second on a throwing error by Lane Thomas and was put out at third on a heads up play by Jeimer Candelario and CJ Abrams.

Continue reading

Nats sign third baseman Candelario, outfielder Garrett (updated)

Jeimer Candelario Tigers throw white

The Nationals made their first major league acquisitions of the offseason today, signing free agent Jeimer Candelario to a one-year deal to add an experienced third baseman coming off a rough season to a lineup that needs plenty of added production, then signing power-hitting outfielder Stone Garrett to a major league deal.

Candelario contract guarantees the 29-year-old a $5 million salary, with another $1 million available in incentives, according to the New York Post's Jon Heyman. Garrett, who appeared in 27 games for the Diamondbacks after making his major league debut this summer, gets a league minimum deal but is under the club's control for six years.

A switch-hitter originally signed by the Cubs in 2010 as an amateur free agent, Candelario went to the Tigers in a July 2017 trade deadline deal that sent veterans Alex Avila and Justin Wilson to Chicago. Over the ensuing six seasons, he hit .243 with 124 doubles, 65 homers, 245 RBIs and a .728 OPS.

Candelario peaked during the 2020-21 seasons, posting a combined slash line of .278/.356/.458 for a well-above-average OPS-plus of 125. He tied for the major league lead with 42 doubles to go along with 16 homers in 2021 and finished that season with 3.8 bWAR.

Candelario’s production dropped significantly this season, though. In 124 games, he batted just .217/.272/.361 with 19 doubles, 13 homers and 50 RBIs, his bWAR plummeting to 0.6. Entering his final year of arbitration and due to earn a raise from his $5.8 million salary, the Tigers chose not to tender him a contract at the Nov. 18 deadline, making him a free agent.

Continue reading