A big blowout win in the series opener meant further dance celebrations in the Nats dugout which everyone is loving right now. But then another dud from Patrick Corbin left the bats with too much to do in the later innings and they split the series.
Here are the main takeaways from the two games on the south side...
Sánchez back to 2018 form
In the early going this season, the performance Aníbal Sánchez certainly raised some red flags. In his first eight starts with the Nationals, he had largely disappointed, posting a 5.27 ERA with only one quality start to his name.
However, since he’s returned from a hamstring strain that knocked him out of his ninth start early, he’s been en pointe. In his start on Monday, he pitched 6+ innings of four-hit ball, allowing just one run, walking one and punching out one.
“This is who I saw last year,” manager Dave Martinez said following the game. “Keeping the ball down, getting a lot of early swings, and just working in and out with his fastball and mixing in his breaking pitches, but he’s been really good.”
Monday’s start was his third since returning from the Injured List. In that time, he’s put up a sparkling 1.04 ERA, allowing only nine hits and three walks in 17.1 innings. And perhaps more importantly, his team has won every game, when they were just 3-6 beforehand.
Sánchez has helped replace the production that the team is struggling to get from Patrick Corbin now, keeping the Nats’ rotation as one of the best in the National League. The right-hander will hope to keep rolling on Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Turner in the groove
A subject we’ve written about a few times in these series recaps is the health of Trea Turner affecting both his play at the plate and in the field. Even though there are still small lingering signs he’s not 100 percent just yet, he’s definitely hitting his stride at the dish.
He exploded again in the first game of the series, going three for six, finishing just a single short of the cycle. He was even able to make some nice defensive plays, including a nifty double play to help out Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth on Monday.
“After missing seven weeks and not playing game speed, it takes a little bit to catch up,” his manager said on Monday. “Now you’re starting to see Trea play the way he’s capable of playing, and it’s good to see.”
Over the team’s last seven games, Turner is slashing .310/.375/.828 with eight extra-base hits, three of them homers, and seven RBI.
Remarkably, given how many hitters are swinging the bat well, in those seven games, Turner’s 1.203 OPS leads the team.
Yes, missing the likes of Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon earlier in the season was a huge blow, but having Turner back completely changes the balance of the lineup.
“When we have Trea getting on base and leading off, he creates a lot of havoc,” Martinez explained after his shortstop’s explosive performance.
It’s no coincidence the lineup has picked up its performance at the same time as Turner. His presence and speed is game-changing and should continue to be for the rest of 2019.
Adams ailing oblique
Thankfully, the Nats are much healthier than they were just a few weeks ago. That doesn’t make them immune to further injuries though, as Matt Adams to latest to tweak something.
“He has a left oblique strain,” Martinez told reporters after the game. “I’m a little concerned. Whenever it’s an oblique, that’s going to be days missed.”
He seemed to injure it on a check swing, and he was taken out of the game for Gerardo Parra before sitting out of Tuesday’s contest entirely. But the fact he didn’t go on the IL signals optimism that he might be able to return quicker than initially hoped.
“Actually, he’s a lot better than we anticipated,” Martinez told MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “He woke up today and he’s not as sore. We’re going to wait. The day off helps us. So right now he’s day-to-day, which is really nice.”
Nats fans can be forgiven for any skepticism regarding the team’s handling of injuries recently and thinking Adams might head the same way. It’s been a recurring theme with the Nationals lately.
However, with the game in an AL park, the extra bench bat wasn’t a huge deal, giving them a couple more days to fully evaluate the injury. And if he’s still ailing on Thursday, they can retroactively put him on the IL with no harm done. But hopefully, that won’t be needed.
Corbin woes continue
Another troubling outing for Patrick Corbin led to another defeat for the Nationals in the series finale on Tuesday. The lefty allowed seven earned runs on six hits and two walks in 5+ innings of work.
But what was more troubling than the result was the fact that the White Sox were simply teeing off on Corbin at will. The hosts recording five Barrels - balls in play with over a .500 xBA and over 1.500 xSLG - and 12 balls in play with an exit velocity over 90mph.
Once again, it seemed like his fastball command was a big issue. Even though he was in the zone a lot more on Tuesday, there still some sizable misses that allowed hitters to get ahead in the count and do damage.
“We talked about this before, it’s location,” Martinez said following the start. “It’s falling behind hitters. It was funny today, his fastball was good, he threw some 95, but his location, his location, and his slider is just short right now.”
Corbin’s next scheduled start is likely to come at home against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday. The stakes are going to be incredibly high for the Nats in that game, realistically needing a series win, so Corbin needs to figure out his issues quickly.
Next up: The Nationals are heading back home for one of their bigger home stands of the season. The Arizona Diamondbacks are the first of three visitors to Nats Park, with the hosts sending Erick Fedde, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Aníbal Sánchez to the mound.