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The good, the bad, and the ugly from the Washington Nationals’ split with the Orioles

Baseball has a funny way of bringing you back down to earth sometimes. Following an impressive sweep of the Cubs, the Nationals could only split with the O’s...

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Wait, the Washington Nationals really only have 17 home games left this season? Looks like it’s time to get down to business with some huge series looming for the team in September.

The Nats didn’t exactly have an ideal series this week against the Baltimore Orioles, splitting against one of the league’s worst teams. At least most teams in the NL Wild Card race weren’t able to gain ground after the slip-up.

Here are the main takeaways from the series with the O’s...

The Good

Patty Ice

Has Patrick Corbin managed to convince everyone that last season wasn’t a fluke yet? Though he was the hard-luck loser on Tuesday, the left-hander continued his excellent year.

The Orioles got to him early, putting up two runs in the first inning. However, he knuckled down to finish the game with seven innings, allowing just the two runs on four hits, walking none, and striking out nine.

“You see the professionalism in him,” his teammate Adam Eaton told reporters after the game. “He comes back, he takes a deep breath and then comes out and does what he needs to do.”

“Heck of an outing by him and I wish we could have rewarded him for how he came back.”

After making a few mechanical changes after getting a bit lost, Corbin has dominated almost every lineup he’s faced. Since June 19th, the lefty holds a 2.16 ERA in 13 starts, striking out 99 and walking 22 in just 83.1 innings.

The jury is still out on whether going to six years for Corbin was the right call for the Nats or not, but it’s tough to argue with the early returns from their shiny new left-hander. If they make it back to the NLDS, having him take the ball once or twice will be huge.

Max keeps progressing

As the Max Scherzer “rehab assignment that isn’t really a rehab assignment” continues, the right-hander took another step in the right direction in his start against the Orioles.

He failed to make it out of the fifth inning in this one, needing 89 pitches to navigate 4.1 innings, allowing six hits and walking one while striking out eight in this start. The results weren’t as important as the process of getting their ace back to full speed though.

“He was good,” manager Dave Martinez said of his ace’s latest start. “Obviously we had a pitch count on him, but typical Max, he gave us what he had. I thought towards the end he was getting a little tired, but that’s part of just building him back up.”

“Moving forward we need Max to be Max, and he understands that.”

As much fun as it is to watch Scherzer go out there all snarling and foaming at the mouth, he is well aware that he has to make an effort to rein things in for a little while...

“I know what’s at stake,” Scherzer explained after the game. “I know I need to get my back right, and learning how to pitch a little throttled down.”

“This might make me a better pitcher later, really figuring out how to get guys out with location instead of having the ability to just rear back and just try to blow somebody away.”

The postseason is a month away and there’s an increasing likelihood the Nats will play in the Wild Card game. Scherzer is still penciled in for that start, so it’s all about him being ready to cut it loose when the time comes and Wednesday was another step along the way.

The Bad

Eaton plunked

Quietly, Adam Eaton had become one of the hottest hitters for the Nationals in the month of August, becoming a huge reason why the offense had started firing on all cylinders lately.

He was hoping to rebound from the 0-for-4 he posted on Tuesday. Unfortunately, his game was cut short when he was hit by a pitch in the lower leg, leaving the game after limping to third base on an Anthony Rendon double.

As always, it’s always tough to determine the severity of injuries suffered following being hit by a pitch right off the bat, but the manager did at least provide some positive news...

“He’s pretty sore,” Martinez told reporters after Wednesday game. “He got hit right on the side of his knee. I just talked to him now, he’s said he’s real sore. He had X-rays, it was negative, so he’s going to be day-to-day.”

During this month, Eaton holds a .329/.439/.622 slash line with 12 extra-base hits, including five long balls, almost doubling his season total of seven before August. But given how he limped around the bases yesterday, short-term, things look a little uncertain...

With rosters due to expand after Saturday’s game, an IL stint is unlikely for Eaton seeing as putting someone on the 10-day IL doesn’t really do much roster-wise in September other than force Eaton not to return until his stint is up.

We probably won’t know the extent of the injury until Friday. Regardless, the team will be hoping that it isn’t serious and can get one of their hottest hitters back as soon as possible.

The Ugly

Because baseball

Fresh off of a huge sweep of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field where the offense looked unstoppable, the Nats came home to face the team with the highest ERA in all of baseball. So, of course, the Orioles blanked the Nationals in the series opener...

Aaron Brooks, a pitcher who had a 6.21 ERA entering this start, dominated the Nats’ lineup from the get-go. In his six scoreless innings, he allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out six Nationals.

With the way the Nats had been playing, particularly with the bats, there really was no other way to explain what happened on Tuesday other than “baseball.” Any team can beat any other on any given day, something that the team’s starter put into a bigger context.

“That’s why I think winning your division is so important,” Corbin told reporters after the game, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “If you’ve got one game, anything can happen.”

The left-hander hit the nail on the head. Baseball can throw up so many oddities. Even one of the very best teams in baseball in the Houston Astros had Justin Verlander pitching against his former team, the Detroit Tigers, and lost while -600 favorites in the game.

“We’ve been hitting the ball really well up till today,” Martinez said. “So hey, let’s forget about today, come back tomorrow and do it again.”

The Nationals did a good job of putting the horror show behind them by jumping all over Asher Wojciechowski for five runs in the first inning in the very next game.

When things were going bad earlier in the year, this type of loss would’ve been further under the microscope. But with the current run the team is on, it’s fair to say it’s just one of those things.

Next up: As September draws closer, the Nationals now prepare for a three-game series with the Miami Marlins. The Nats will send out three of their big guns for this series as they announced Aníbal Sánchez, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin will toe the rubber.