Washington Nationals Collection Preview: First half finishes in opposition to San Francisco Giants

Well, that was a blow to the heart for the Washington Nationals.

In the middle of the fourth inning of the series finals against the San Diego Padres, it looked like the Nationals were going to score a much-needed series win against one of the better teams in the Major Leagues.

Then it all revealed itself in one of the most bizarre innings of Max Scherzer’s career as he allowed seven deserved runs, including a grand slam for reliever Daniel Camarena, and the Nationals would lose to a walk-off single by Trent Grisham.

It’s still baffling that it could happen, and for a mug of Scherzer’s kind, too.

Despite the end of the series, a split against the Padres is by no means bad and the Nationals are currently 5-6 in their difficult stretch against teams over 0.500 before the break.

To round off the first half of the season, the Nationals travel up the west coast to face the San Francisco Giants, who still take first place in the stacked National League West.

These two teams haven’t met that long. In mid-June they played a series split in which pitching was the key, with the two offenses coming together in just 11 runs in the four Washington games.

This was the series that really boosted Kyle Schwarber’s historic run in first place before injuring himself and putting the Nationals back to the brink of competition on their run. For the Giants, they’ve gone 14-7 since that streak and are doing pretty well with a 54-32 record.

Here are the facts from Oracle Park ahead of the three-game weekend series …

The schedule

  • Game one: Friday, July 9th at 9:45 p.m. EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The fan
  • Game two: Saturday, July 10th at 4:05 p.m. EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The fan
  • Game three: Sunday, July 11th at 4:05 p.m. EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The fan

Pitching matches

  • Game one: Paolo Espino (2-2, 2.48 ERA) vs Logan Webb (4-3, 3.86 ERA)
  • Game two: Jon Lester (2-3, 5.34 ERA) vs Anthony DeSclafani (9-3, 2.84 ERA)
  • Game three: Erick Fedde (4-5, 4.53 ERA) vs Kevin Gausman (8-3, 1.74 ERA)

Who is hot

Josh Bell: Surrounded by other storylines lately, you will be forgiven for ignoring the fact that Bell has been one of the hottest hitters for both the Nationals and the Seniors lately.

As of May 13th, Bell has posted .310 / .371.548 with nine homers and 32 RBIs, good for a 146 wRC + in that range. For perspective, Juan Soto had a wRC + of 146 in 2018 and 142 in 2019, so Bell has been beating at a similar level to Soto in its first two years since May 13.

He’s been doing even better lately. In his last 18 games, Bell beats .339 / .406 / .597 with four home runs and 18 RBIs. He only hit four of these 18 games and has more walks than strikeouts in this segment, gets seven free passes and only hits six times.

While Kyle Schwarber still doesn’t have a clear return schedule, the Nats needed Bell to grow and produce. So far, pun absolutely intended, he has answered the bell. I couldn’t help it.

Anthony DeSclafani: It’s been a couple of weeks now, but Nationals fans won’t like to be reminded of how DeSclafani dominated them with a two-goal shutout when the Giants hit the nation’s capital in June.

Including that performance, the right-hander is 4-1 in his last five starts with a 1.56 ERA and 2.97 FIP in 34.2 innings while hitting 35 and only walking eight. He did a great job of limiting hard contact against him during that time, with an average exit speed of only 88.8 mph.

After several injury-ridden years with the Cincinnati Reds, DeSclafani finally seems healthy this year and has been an important part of a Giants rotation that has brought her to the top of the NL.

Who is not

Gerardo Parra: In a way, it feels like Parra never really left the Nationals. Despite a season in Japan and the start of the 2021 season in the minors when Baby Shark played when he stepped on the record for his first setback with the team since the World Series, it felt like 2019 again.

Unfortunately, despite some funny moments, Parra wasn’t quite the clutch hit it was two years ago.

By the time he put down a pinch hit knock on Wednesday night, the optimistic outfielder was hitless in his previous 10 at-bats. After the series in San Diego, Parras slash dropped to a disappointing .172 / .226 / .345 in the season with just three extra base hits.

Despite the injury to Schwarber, who opens up a starting place in the outfield, it looks like Parra will lose game time to the red-hot Alcides Escobar, with Josh Harrison moving to left field more frequently.

Despite his obvious intangibles, as the Nationals keep getting healthier, Parra needs to show something special on the field in order to stay in the bank for the long term.

Alex Dickerson: Since he was swapped by the Padres for the Giants in 2019, Dickerson has been a fascinating story that can always be found in and produced in large at-bats.

This year was mixed for Dickerson. After suffering a shoulder impingement in mid-May and a back injury in June, he only returned from the IL a little more than two weeks ago and has not quite produced at the level of his remaining tenure with the Giants.

In 12 games since his return, the outfielder has only played 0.212 / 0.297 / 0.424, despite having a pair of home runs that increase the slugging percentage and keep his wRC + just above the league average of 100 during that time.

During this period, however, it has a miserable strike rate of 32.4% compared to a gait rate of 8.1%.

With injuries to Jaylin Davis and Mike Tauchman, Dickerson must now be an almost everyday player. With his current performance, he could be one of the few weak points in the Giants lineup.

From the opposing shelter

Check out some of the best Giants storylines from our friends at McCovey Chronicles …

Something else to see

Though the Nationals have been getting a little healthier lately, they were inflicted another injury not long before Thursday’s series finale with the Padres when Joe Ross was put on the 10-day injury list with what the team called the “right elbow” became inflammation. “

Ross was originally supposed to start with the Giants at some point during the series but with this new injury he will now miss that start.

The good news is that Nationals manager Dave Martinez doesn’t think it’s serious.

“He felt a bit tight in his forearm, he has a small sore in his right forearm,” Martinez explained. “So we put him on the IL to get some of the swelling and hopefully it’s just a start he’ll miss.

“Let’s see what happens. He was at the doctor yesterday, he wasn’t very worried, so for the next 10 days we will only see how he develops here.”

If Ross can get back on his usual turn right after the All-Star Break, the Nationals could be forced to make some rotation decisions in the not-too-distant future.

Max Scherzer will continue to lead the rotation. Ross and Erick Fedde impressed with more fixed roles in the rotation this year. Beyond that, however, there are question marks about what the Nats should do with their remaining two rotation positions.

The team’s two left-handers, Patrick Corbin and Jon Lester, both have ERAs north of 5:00 and the latter has struggled to get deep into the games. Meanwhile, Paolo Espino has been impressive since joining the rotation and Stephen Strasburg is making further progress in his recovery from nerve irritation in his neck and could soon begin a rehab assignment.

Both Lester and Espino will start this series with the Giants for the Nationals. With rotation spots running out soon, they hope to impress to keep theirs.

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