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Nationals Notebook: Bring back the Braves — please!

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jake Irvin throws during the third inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Monday, April 29, 2024, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)(AP/Lynne Sladky)

Baseball can be a funny game. Even the best teams will lose at least 60 games over the course of a season, and even the worst teams can go on heaters from time to time.

Last week, Nationals fans dealt with two extremes, from getting swept by the fourth-place New York Mets before taking three of four from second-place Atlanta for the second time in two weeks.

Talk about a contrast.

And after posting five wins against the Braves in each of the previous three seasons (and that’s over 13 games in 2023, but over 19 games in 2022 and 2021), the Washington Nationals already have six with five more games between the two clubs.

Forty-percent of the way through the schedule the pitching has exceeded expectations, with more than a few young arms impressing. Unfortunately, the offense has remained somewhat suspect, and one reason why the Nats rank 23rd in scoring is the fact the “easy runs” aren’t coming (Washington’s 51 homers are the third fewest in the majors).

Can players like Lane Thomas return to 2023 form? Actually, one would settle for C.J. Abrams returning to his April 2024 form. And the Nats “new patsy” isn’t on their schedule until August 23.

Digesting the Division: Philadelphia (45-20) split its series in London with the New York Mets, with Ranger Suarez improving to 10-1 on the season with an ERA of 1.81. Atlanta (35-28) drops nine games back thanks to its recent issues (2-6) with the Nats, while Washington (30-35) saw its cushion over the New York Mets (28-36) shrink thanks to last week’s sweep.

Miami (22-43), after going 14-13 in May, are back to their old tricks, starting June with six losses in seven games (they come to Washington this weekend).

Break up the Birds: Baltimore (42-22) continued their run through the AL East by winning five of seven against Tampa Bay and Toronto (you can call them Rays, and you can call them Jays). Adley Rutschman had the big bat again with 11 RBI last week. After one more game with Tampa Bay the O’s swap out the AL East for the NL East, as Atlanta and Philadelphia come to Camden Yards.

Diamonds Direct Diamond King: Jake Irvin didn’t just toss six scoreless innings last Friday against Atlanta. The right-hander, by winning his second straight start, snapped a Nationals’ four-game losing streak. In 13 starts this year he’s already surpassed last season’s win total set over 24 outings.

Last Week’s Heroes: Jacob Barnes led the bullpen with four scoreless innings of relief over four games. Jesse Winker hit .550 with five runs and three RBI, while Nick Senzel led the team with six runs scored and C.J. Abrams’ five RBI paced the lineup.

Last Week’s Humbled: Ildemaro Vargas batted .200, while Joey Meneses went 0-10 at the plate. Hunter Harvey allowed four runs over two innings of relief, while Jordan Weems coughed up six runs over 3.2 frames. Patrick Corbin surrendered six runs over 5.1 innings and while his seven losses aren’t the most in the majors, he is tied for the most in the National League.

Game to Watch: Wednesday the Nats face Detroit, with Jake Irvin on the mound against hard-luck Tigers pitcher Reese Olson (1-7, 3.43 ERA). The Tigers have scored just 25 runs in Olsen’s 12 starts.

Game to Miss: Sometimes 1-7 pitchers aren’t hard-luck situations, and Saturday, Patrick Corbin (1-7, 6.15 ERA) starts against Miami’s Trevor Rogers (1-7, 5.37) in an illustration of that fact. Brace yourself for both bullpens.

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Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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