Flashback: Parra’s grand slam a nice introduction to Nats a year ago

Flash back to May 9-12, 2019, as the Nationals continued their long road trip with a four-game set against the defending National League champion Dodgers at Chavez Ravine.

Today marks the anniversary to the end of that series, with the Nats coming home with some added confidence that they could hang with the big boys in the NL, even though they were not at full strength.

It was the introduction of veteran Gerardo Parra as a member of the Nationals. His grand slam on May 11, 2019, propelled the club to a comeback 5-2 win over the Dodgers.

The Nats arrived in Southern California 1-5 on their road trip, having lost two in Philadelphia and enduring a three-game sweep at Milwaukee. Their record was 14-22, good for fourth place in the NL East, seven games back of the first-place Phillies.

In Game 1, Howie Kendrick’s three-run homer in the first inning staked the Nats to a 3-0 lead and Patrick Corbin tossed seven scoreless innings for the 6-0 win.

The Dodgers evened the series in Game 2 as Kenta Maeda returned the favor with a 5-0 shutout over the Nats and Aníbal Sánchez. Joc Pederson hit two homers and David Freese cranked a late two-run shot. Wilmer Difo had two of the four hits for the Nats.

Then in game 3, Parra drilled a Dylan Floro offering over the right-center field wall (about two sections over from a famous Kendrick grand slam three and half months later) in the eighth inning of just his second game in a Nationals uniform. The dugout erupted, especially Max Scherzer, who earned the comeback win. Scherzer went seven innings, allowing only two runs.

The Nats needed a win in the finale to post their first series win since April 18, but came up short, falling 6-0. The Dodgers led 2-0 until the eighth inning. But Hyun-Jin Ryu took a no-hitter into the eighth before Parra’s double broke it up. Stephen Strasburg surrendered two runs over six innings to take the loss.

Even with that series finale loss, the Nats got on the plane back to D.C. feeling like they could play some ball, even with injuries having slowed them down for the first two months of the season. Their official jumping off point to a season turn around would begin 11 days later, but Martinez said this that Sunday after the split of the four-game set: “The boys don’t quit. They’re playing hard. I see signs of these guys starting to play together.”

* The First-Year Player Draft is set for June 10 with only five rounds. The rest of the free agents will be signed after the draft out of a $20,000 pool set for each team. Those signings are unlimited, so it depends on how the Nats decide to dole out that money. The draft the past several years has been 40 rounds.

With only 15 to 17 college games played and little or no high school games in 2020, it would presumably be difficult for scouts to make decisions with very few recent game videos available on candidates.

Rizzo-Suit-sidebar.jpgBut Nats general manager Mike Rizzo told me Monday via text that the club has a “high confidence level” on how their draft board looks heading into these abbreviated selections.

Several mock drafts online (here, here and here) have the Nats choosing right-hander Cole Wilcox out of Georgia with their first pick of the draft, the 22nd overall selection

Wilcox was a 37th-round selection by the Nats in the 2018 draft fresh out of high school. The 6-foot-5, 232-lb. starter went 6-2 with a 3.38 ERA in 82 2/3 innings and one complete game, with 96 strikeouts and 40 walks. Wilcox allowed only four earned runs in 23 innings in 2020, with wins over Richmond, Santa Clara, Georgia Tech and UMass.

Another Southeastern Conference pitcher that has been connected to the Nats is South Carolina right-hander Carmen Mlodzinski.

The 6-foot-2, 215-lb. starter was a Baseball America second team All-American to begin this season, pitching in four games. He allowed three homers and six runs against Clemson, but was outstanding in the other three starts. He gave up only two earned runs in 19 1/3 innings against Cornell, Holy Cross and Northwestern, winning twice. He recorded 22 strikeouts and eight walks in the four starts. Baseball America also listed Mlodzinski as their No. 10 overall prospect to begin this season.

* “Nationals Classics” on MASN today features a pair of games. At 1 p.m., the Nats win on a bases-loaded wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th versus the Mets from July 17, 2012. Then, at 4:30 p.m., Jordan Zimmermann’s complete-game, one-hit shutout to beat the Reds from April 26, 2013.

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