Stephen Strasburg in on the DL with right shoulder soreness. Joe Ross is still working his way back from shoulder inflammation (though there were positive reports on the right-hander on Thursday).
Sammy Solis is on the DL with a left shoulder issue and likely a couple weeks away from a return. Oliver Perez is dealing with back tightness, but reportedly available.
Washington had lost four straight and six of the last 10 games (before Thursday night’s win).
Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker was asked before Wednesday night’s game against the AL East’s third-place Baltimore Orioles, if having an 8.0-game lead in the NL East (which was down to 7.0 after Wednesday’s loss — and back up to 8.0 after Thursday’s win) made it easier to deal with all the adversity and injuries.
“Not really,” Baker said. “I mean, you’d rather have your players, you’d rather have your guys to make sure you keep that lead. There ain’t no guarantee you’re going to keep this lead that you have. I mean, we lose three and they win three and now they’re back to five and now they start believing that they can catch you.”
Baker also pointed to advice he received from one of his former managers from his playing days with the Los Angeles Dodgers in discussing his goal of helping the Nats to finish strong.
“Lasorda used to tell us, Tommy Lasorda used to say, hey when we were behind, you just think about one game a week, just pick up one game a week.
“I’d like to pad this lead. Ain’t nobody scared or looking behind you, but I’d like to pad it. Because I’m a strong believer, I really believe that our best time has not come even close to yet. Because we’ve only had two guys at a time hot in the lineup at the same time, you know what I mean, and without Stras, without Ross, those were big losses for us and the guys have performed well in their absence, but they’re not them.”
While it may be a while before the pitching staff is back together again, the Nationals’ infield did get Ryan Zimmerman back recently, after he missed 16 games with a bone bruise in his left wrist, which was caused by a hit-by-pitch.
In five games back, the first baseman is 6 for 21 (.286/.304/.476) with a double and a home run. Baker said he was hoping for big things from Zimmerman, who is a career .302/.366/.508 second-half hitter.
“This is Zim’s time of the year,” Baker said earlier this week.
“Right now we don’t have a choice, it has to be his time of year. So we’re looking forward to having a healthy and productive Zim.”
Baker also talked about the contributions he thinks he can get from Ben Revere, in spite of the fact that the outfielder’s playing time has dried up to some extent since Zimmerman returned, pushing Trea Turner into the outfield more or less full time.
“When you’re used to playing every day it’s tough to handle,” Baker acknowledged.
“But Revere, for a long time, he was playing every day. We’re going to need Ben Revere.
“People ask, ‘Why are you sticking with this guy or that guy?’ We’re going to need everybody. There’s going to come a time when we’re going to need Ben Revere and god forbid if somebody gets hurt or whatever and if Ben hasn’t played at all, now you’re wasting time for him to try to find his stroke with very limited time left.
“It would be different if he was a rookie and didn’t have any track record, but this guy has a track record. Just like Zim has a track record. We have some other guys that are struggling here too. But we’re in pretty good shape and we’re counting on these guys some point in time to come through.”
“This is the time of year for hitters to do some damage,” Baker added.
“This is where the hitters feast most of the time. As a former hitter, and as a manager and a player, this is what I’ve seen over the course of the year, these are the dog days.”
In the third straight loss to the Orioles on Wednesday, Baker said he saw signs of life from his hitters.
“I just know that we’re starting to swing the bats and I can feel it in my heart that we’re going to get hot,” Baker said.
“Because we really haven’t been hot all year, we’ve been consistent, but we haven’t been hot.“
Wednesday night’s five-run ninth was a good start, with the Nationals scoring a run on a reliever, Zach Britton, who hadn’t given up a run since early May.