See, we told you the Washington Nationals would still be playing baseball in October!
Wait, so they didn’t make the playoffs and it’s just a result of the regular season finishing late? Damn. In that case, it’s time to gear up for a series of Nationals baseball for one last time in 2021.
After losing the game that would seemingly never end on Wednesday in the series finale against the Colorado Rockies, the Nationals lost their seventh series in September and dropped to 65-94 on the season with three games remaining.
Those final three games are going to mean something though as the Boston Red Sox make the trip to Nationals Park hoping to clinch an American League Wild Card berth.
Boston will be reeling after they lost a series to the Baltimore Orioles earlier this week, leaving them in a tie for the second and final Wild Card spot. The Red Sox need a positive result this weekend if they want to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Here’s what you can expect from Nationals Park this weekend...
- Game One: Friday, October 1st, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
- Game Two: Saturday, October 2nd, 4:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
- Game Three: Sunday, October 3rd, 3:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
- Game One: Josh Rogers (2-1, 2.73 ERA) vs Eduardo Rodriguez (11-8, 4.93 ERA)
- Game Two: Josiah Gray (2-2, 5.85 ERA) vs TBD (0-0, -.-- ERA)
- Game Three: TBD (0-0, -.-- ERA) vs Chris Sale (5-1, 2.90 ERA)
Alcides Escobar: All Escobar does is collect hits. Sure, not many go for extra bases and he doesn’t walk a ton, but there’s still something to be said for racking up hits at the rate the veteran does.
Since September 14th, Escobar has collected 24 of them in 69 at-bats while slashing a strong .348/.387/.478 with a home run, nine RBIs, and a 131 wRC+ in that stretch.
Perhaps something that doesn’t get talked about enough is that with Escobar hitting well over the past couple of weeks, it’s likely given Juan Soto more opportunities to hit instead of just walking down to first, as teams don’t want to push baserunners into scoring position.
Will the Nationals keep Escobar beyond this season? It’s not entirely clear. Either way, he’s performed well enough to at least earn another shot at a major league job for next season.
Kyle Schwarber: Remember the good old days when it was dangerous to sit in the bleachers at Nationals Park because Schwarber was launching baseball after baseball into the seats? That was only three months ago but it feels like a completely different season.
Even with the torn hamstring that he suffered in early July, the Nationals were still able to trade Schwarber at the deadline to the Red Sox, and he’s picked up in Boston where he left off in the nation’s capital.
Since returning from the Injured List in mid-August, Schwarber is slashing .296/.429/.536 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in 36 games for his new team, good for a 162 wRC+.
With no DH for the Red Sox this weekend, we may see Schwarber play some first base during this series, a position he had played at the major league level once — it came during a five-man infield situation in extra innings in 2017 that ended on a wild pitch.
Jordy Mercer: It’s fair to say that Mercer has had a pretty forgettable time with the Nationals this season. He came into the year as some veteran infield depth, never really had an extended run as a starter, and then landed on the Injured List with a calf strain at the end of July.
After he was activated from the IL, Mercer appears to be ending his tenure with the team just as it started. Since he rejoined the team, the veteran is slashing just .238/.333/.286 with a 75 wRC+ in 24 plate appearances thanks to occasional starts at second and third base.
With Carter Kieboom healthy again after a couple of days off in Cincinnati, Mercer doesn’t figure to get much playing time in this final series, bringing his season and maybe career to a quiet close.
Adam Ottavino: Somehow, I don’t think the Red Sox-Yankees trade that sent Ottavino to Boston will go down as a real classic between the two teams. You’re safe, Babe Ruth.
Ottavino did start out his time with the Red Sox relatively well, sporting an ERA of 2.68 heading into the All-Star break, however, it’s been a rough finish to the year for the reliever.
In 7.2 September innings, Ottavino has allowed seven runs on eight hits and three walks while striking out 12. The big issue in this stretch has been the home runs, with four long balls against him in those 7.2 innings, including one in each of his last two appearances.
The right-hander may have pitched himself out of any meaningful spots lately, but if he does come into a game in this series, look for the Nationals to take advantage.
From the opposing dugout
Check out some of the top Red Sox storylines from our friends at Over the Monster...
- The bottom third of the lineup holds the key to Boston’s success this week
- The Red Sox are still in control of their own destiny
- Travis Shaw has been a fun mid-season acquisition
One more thing to watch
Even though this series means very little to the Nationals, it means everything to the Red Sox who, are in a tie with the Seattle Mariners for the second AL Wild Card spot heading into the final series of the season.
Elsewhere in the Wild Card race, the Mariners face off against the Los Angeles Angels at T-Mobile Park, the New York Yankees host the AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays, and the Toronto Blue Jays play the Baltimore Orioles north of the border.
This race is going down to the wire and barring something unexpected, will go to the final day of the regular season, so expect the visitors at Nats Park to treat it like a playoff game.
Currently, the Red Sox have Chris Sale set to start the series finale on Sunday on normal rest, likely with a view to a potential must-win scenario on the final day. However, that would appear to be in pencil for now based on how Friday’s and Saturday’s games go.
With no starter set for Saturday's game just yet, there exists a possibility that Boston pushes Sale forward to pitch on Saturday on short rest if they fall behind in the Wild Card race, and has Nathan Eovaldi pitch on short rest too on Sunday to try and go all-out for two wins.
Alternatively, if the Red Sox are able to wrap up a Wild Card spot ahead of Sunday’s game, then they could scratch Sale in preparation for the winner-take-all postseason game.
There are a lot of moving parts for Boston in this series and we’ll only know more as the final few days of the regular season tick down. This definitely looks to be an intriguing series...