The Mets fans gave every game a playoff atmosphere and even though the result of the series wasn’t ideal for the Nats, it was baseball that was fit for the postseason. Get used to it, as there are going to be plenty more series like this down the stretch for the Nationals.
Here are the main takeaways from the three games in New York...
The Nationals’ lack of quality infield depth has already come back to bite them once this season when Trea Turner was out with a broken finger. So when Mike Rizzo called up an old friend who had just been released in Asdrúbal Cabrera, it made a lot of sense.
Filling in for Brian Dozier in the last two contests, Cabrera went 3-for-8 with a go-ahead two-RBI double in the finale and the ball in play in the first that allowed three runs to score.
“He comes over here, a veteran guy, I know he’s trying to put the ball in play,” manager Dave Martinez said after the series. “He’s not trying to get big, he’s just trying to put the ball in play and to stay inside the ball and hit the ball to right field like that was tremendous.”
While he impressed, it looks like Cabrera will still be a part-time player moving forward.
“We’ve got to get him in there a couple times a week to keep him fresh, but he’s a big help,” Martinez explained.
It’s probably the right call, with both Brian Dozier and Matt Adams owning an OPS north of .850 since June 1st, so it’s tough to sit them with regularity. That doesn’t mean Cabrera won’t have an impact and he’s already proven that in his limited time back with the Nats.
Juan man wrecking crew
On the whole, the offense struggled to get too much going against the Mets this series. However, that didn’t stop Juan Soto leaving from his mark in Queens over the weekend.
Before his part in the series finale came to an abrupt end, Soto was absolutely crushing Mets pitching, going 5-for-10 with three long balls, four runs, and five RBIs.
“He’s been like that all year,” Martinez explained. “He’s unbelievable, he really is. Like I said, he’s feeling the energy, he’s very poised, he goes out there and he’s getting pitches to hit, he’s taking pitches that he should be taking, he’s doing really well.”
Soto continues to put himself in elite company as a 20-year-old this season with his prowess at the plate. After his multi-HR effort on Saturday, the fourth such game in his career, he’s now one behind Mel Ott for most by a player before turning 21.
The young outfielder had fans drooling after his debut season and his encore might be even better this year. It really is amazing to watch him do his thing every game as he continues to grow into one of the most impactful players in all of baseball.
While Soto’s bat did plenty of talking this series, his weekend ended on a worrying note.
On Cabrera’s double, Soto got a late stop sign from third base coach Bob Henley, causing him to tweak something, meaning he couldn’t make it back to third before being tagged out.
Everyone associated to the team held their breath as initially, Soto struggled to move around after the play. However, it seems that Soto may have dodged a bullet after all...
“He’s got a mild (sprain),” Martinez told reporters after the game. “X-rays are negative, so he’s going to be day-to-day.”
“He wanted to go back out there, and I was fighting him, just c’mon, let’s take care of this, but hopefully in a day or two he’s good to go.”
There are a handful of players that the Nats can’t afford to miss for an extended period of time. Soto is definitely among them, so it should come as a huge relief that the injury he suffered appears to be minor.
With that in mind, don’t be surprised if the coaching staff chooses to play things cautiously and leave Soto out of the lineup for a day or two to ensure that he’s 100 percent.
Nightmares at Citi Field
The first two games of this series felt like we had been taken back to 2015 for a moment. Citi Field was the location when the Mets started their late-season rally with a sweep of the Nats right around the trade deadline, with two last-gasp wins in the first two games.
At least this time, the Nationals were able to steal the finale against Jacob deGrom. Regardless, they’ve had their fair share of horror shows in Flushing this season.
The Nats finish the season just 3-7 in their 10 games on the road against the Mets.
Sunday’s win also put a certain demon to bed, as entering the series finale, the Nationals led in the eighth inning of each of their last five games in Flushing and lost all five.
“I don’t think it’s here,” Martinez said of his team’s Citi Field woes. “You’re looking at a Mets team that’s surging right now and they’re putting the ball in play. They’re hitting home runs. We’ve just got to make our pitches and keep battling.”
The good news is, that wraps up the regular season slate between these two teams in New York. Then again, given how both are playing, don’t rule out a meeting back in the house of horrors for the bullpen in October...
Yes, once again, some ill-advised writer decided to jinx the Nationals by praising the bullpen coming into the series. They proceeded to then cough up a late lead in the first two games of the series in dramatic fashion. Whoops.
Sean Doolittle drew a lot of ire from fans as he threw away a three-run lead in the ninth inning of Friday’s game. It was very reminiscent of his previous outing at Citi Field in which he allowed six runs to score while protecting a one-run lead late on.
“I think he just couldn’t get the ball up,” Martinez said after the game. “He’s effective when he’s up. He threw some balls a little [more] over than normal, but when he’s up, he’s effective.”
The closer thought the lack of command could’ve come from pressing too much velocity-wise...
“One thing that jumps to mind is I wasn’t really happy with the way the ball was coming out of my hand,” the closer explained about what he thought went wrong on Friday.
“I looked up at the scoreboard a few times, and saw some 91 and 92s, and I might have been over-throwing, over-compensating, trying to throw a little bit too hard and do too much.”
Thankfully, Doolittle got the best of those Citi Field ghosts to rest in the series finale with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, locking down the 7-4 win.
“It was awesome [for him] to go out there, to get back on the bump and do what he did,” Martinez said on Sunday. “It was good for him, build some little confidence.”
On Sunday, Doolittle looked like the closer we have come to expect over the last 24 months. That should put minds at ease that Friday was simply a bump in the road for the lefty as he will no doubt continue to have plenty of job security in the closer’s role.
Next up: The Nats hope to put this series behind them as they come home to Nationals Park to face the Cincinnati Reds. Erick Fedde, Joe Ross, and Stephen Strasburg are currently lined up to start the three games, but the potential return of Max Scherzer could change plans.