This game was mostly painful to watch; it dragged on way too long. The Nats bats just weren’t there for most of the game. In fact it is a minor miracle I was awake for the really exciting 14th inning (thanks to my anticipation for the hockey playoff game soon to start in Wash, D.C.).
So, the 14th inning starts with the game tied and our star pitcher grabbing a bat and heading to the batter’s box as a pinch-hitter! That was actually not so far fetched since he was hitting .286 with several key RBIs to his credit. Anyhow, Max hits a clean single up the middle, and then we fans could hope maybe Max would try to steal 2B again:))) Wilmer Difo then hits a shot in the right-centerfield gap that goes all the way to the wall. Max takes off from first clearly pushing himself to top speed. I began to worry about him pulling a hamstring (I have painful experience with that!). But as I watch him approach 3B I see Bob Henley signaling Max to try to score! I see the cutoff man bobble the throw a bit and then try to catch Difo stretching for a triple, so I know Max will score and put the Nats ahead.
They ended up winning the game 5-3, and pulling to only a half game out of first place. And the 2 minor-league players in the game (Soto and Keiboom) had more hits (5) than the rest of the team combined!
They are good enough to possibly win the NL-East division. But the Mets seem to have all their starting pitchers healthy and also have a chance to win it. The Braves and Phillies are better. So this division is up for grabs. The Nats are slightly better now than they were at this time last year, but not by much.
They need the following: a 5th starter and a stronger bullpen. Their starting pitcher depth is not strong at all; they have Hellickson and Jackson who are nearing the end of journeyman careers, and they have A.J. Cole and other AAA arms who are not ready for The Show.
Are they ready for October? Not really. To get past the first round of the playoffs they need to acquire a stronger #3 starter; Gio has never won a game in the playoffs. The Nats need to do what the Astros did last year at the trade deadline, go get a starting pitcher who can win playoff games. In addition they need to upgrade the bullpen by 2 better arms than they now have. As the season plays out up to the trade deadline and some teams realize they are not going to be playing in October, candidates for the above needs will likely appear on the market.
Sweeping Cincinnati gave the Nats a great start to the new season. In general the pitching, defense, hitting and base-running have looked pretty good. Adam Eaton has been phenomenal as he played a major role in getting the Nats on the scoreboard in the first inning of each road game. That is huge in any away from home series, but to start the season in this way, and with a new manager, can pay dividends in so many ways. For sure the starting pitchers love that!
I strongly support Dave Martinez batting Trea Turner down in the order. With his penchant for swinging at anything near the plate, not working the count and resistance to bunting, he does not belong near the top of the order. I hope the new hitting instructor will help him with a more productive and mature approach to hitting. Turner played a leading role in ensuring the Nats failed to get past the first round last October.