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The good, the bad, and the ugly from the Nationals’ road trip to Colorado

The Washington Nationals continued to tread water in 2019, dropping back under .500 after a series loss to the Colorado Rockies. Here are the big takeaways...

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals wrapped up a rough road trip with a brutal series loss to the Colorado Rockies. They dropped the bookend games of the three-game set, winning the middle game behind a great starting pitching performance.

It’s becoming maddening how this team has constantly lurking around the .500 mark during the Dave Martinez era. And if it’s not maddening enough for you, follow Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) on Twitter, and it’ll become maddening very quickly.

Here are the big takeaways from the series against Daniel Murphy and the Rockies...

The Good

Corbin exactly as advertised

When Patrick Corbin signed with the Nationals, many wondered whether they overpaid for the starter’s services. But even though there’s a long way to go on his deal, he’s living up to the billing in the first month of his tenure in the nation’s capital.

The left-hander showcased that again on Tuesday when he went six innings, surrendering two earned runs on five hits and a walk while striking out six.

While that line isn’t necessarily great in isolation, by Coors Field’s standards, it’s a fantastic outing. And even more so for a pitcher who relies on his slider, a pitch that will break less than usual given the altitude.

Corbin continues to impress and is starting to really prove that last year wasn’t a fluke. It’s going to be fun to watch the left-hander go to work every fifth game.

Dozier finally coming around

One of the main stories early on in the season was the poor start of Brian Dozier. Through his first seven games he slashed just .080/.115/.080, but there have been signs that he’s turning things around.

Yes, he still only managed to go 2-for-9 this series, but he’s been hitting the ball much harder of late. In Colorado, four of his six batted balls had an exit velocity of over 100mph, and that comes off a series in Miami where five of his six batted balls were over 90mph.

Even with the eye test, he seems to have finally shaken off the rust and could go on a hot streak at any moment. But given the latest developments, he has a lot of pressure to do so now.

Carter Kieboom has reportedly been called up to the big leagues, meaning Dozier may need to perform to fend off the young gun who is assumed to be the long-term future at the keystone. But if Dozier keep hitting the ball well, he could at least hold on in the short-term.

The Bad

Sánchez the weak link the rotation

When the Nationals signed Aníbal Sánchez to a two-year deal, there was some skepticism around the signing given the recent trade of Tanner Roark. For the early part this season, the team’s new right-hander has struggled.

Through five starts, Sanchez is 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA while allowing 16 walks and striking out just 20 in 27 innings.

On Wednesday, he had a rough go of it again, allowing five runs in five innings on nine hits and a worrying five free passes.

Last season, Sánchez was doing a good job of restricting hits allowing just a .274 xwOBA which combines exit velocity and launch angle and predicts what the wOBA would be. But so far this season, that’s risen to .332 xwOBA, which needs to improve.

After he seemed revitalized with the Atlanta Braves, Sánchez needs to get back to that level for the Nats and keep them in games to prove that he’s worth the money.

Defense still not up to scratch

Despite manager Dave Martinez’s desire to emphasize the fundamentals all spring, the team has yet to display this with consistency. Their defensive shortcomings were once again on display out in Denver.

Perhaps the biggest defensive miscue was made by Adam Eaton, not someone that you would expect the have such a lapse. But the right fielder badly misjudged a sharp line drive by Raimel Tapia that should’ve been the end of the third inning. Instead, it was a bases clearing double that put the Rockies up 4-3, giving them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

We also saw some adventures in the field from Juan Soto and Wilmer Difo during the series that certainly didn’t help matters. The theme has carried over from last year, which reflects poorly on Martinez.

The team certainly has the defensive talent to be a good on that side of the ball. They definitely need Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner back to anchor the left side of the infield before they can make significant strides in the right direction again.

The Ugly

Rosenthal almost out of time

Just when it looked as if Trevor Rosenthal might be righting the ship, he went straight back to square one in the series finale. Now it’s fair to wonder how much time he even has left before the organization needs to cut their losses.

The right-hander opened up the inning by hitting Charlie Blackmon and walking Trevor Story on five pitches. But, unlike his previous appearance, he never looked in control of his pitches during the outing.

He threw just 16 of 31 pitches for strikes, including three wild pitches and some pitches that could’ve easily hit other hitters. And now it’s fair to wonder how much longer the team can continue to keep him on the roster.

Even though he’s guaranteed $7 million, the Nationals are handicapping themselves by only using him in the lowest leverage spots. He likely has until Dan Jennings is big league ready to find his groove, or he risks being released as a huge disappointment.

Next up: Time for the Nationals to head home where the surprising San Diego Padres await them. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Jeremy Hellickson are set to take the ball for the hosts who badly need a strong homestand after a rough road trip.