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Washington Nationals Series Preview: The battle for last place in the NL with the Cincinnati Reds

The Nationals and Reds have been the two worst teams in the National League this year. Now the two meet this weekend...

MLB: Washington Nationals at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Remember the last series that the Washington Nationals played against the New York Mets?

We included an image to try and sum up the season so far with Juan Soto and Josh Bell both thrown out at third and a gaggle of players surrounding third base.

Well, a new contender has entered the ring from this week’s series against the Mets.

Poor Yadiel Hernández dived well short of a line drive and face-planted into the outfield grass at Citi Field as the Mets extended their lead to 5-0 on their way to a series sweep.

The sweep at the hand of the Mets now leaves the Nationals in last place in the National League at 18-34, ahead of only the Kansas City Royals with their 16-33 record for the worst in Major League Baseball

The Nats do at least have a chance to do something about that this weekend when they travel to Cincinnati to take on the 17-32 Reds, who overtook them for second-last this week.

After a huge sell-off this offseason, it wasn’t a huge surprise that the Reds were early bottomfeeders in the league, but even the most doom-and-gloom fans wouldn’t have predicted them to start the season quite as badly as 3-22.

They’ve picked it up a bit now though, going 14-10 since then, and will actually give the Nationals a test in this four-game series.

Here’s the lowdown from Great American Ball Park ahead of the long weekend set...

The schedule

  • Game One: Thursday, June 2nd, 6:40 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Friday, June 3rd, 6:40 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Saturday, June 4th, 4:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Four: Sunday, June 5th, 1:40 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Probable Pitchers

  • Game One: Joan Adon (1-8, 6.08 ERA) vs Graham Ashcraft (1-0, 1.69 ERA)
  • Game Two: Josiah Gray (5-4, 5.08 ERA) vs Mike Minor (0-0, -.-- ERA)
  • Game Three: Erick Fedde (3-4, 4.60 ERA) vs Tyler Mahle (2-5, 5.53 ERA)
  • Game Four: Patrick Corbin (1-8, 6.96 ERA) vs Luis Castillo (2-2, 3.38 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Carl Edwards Jr.: When the right-handed reliever stepped off the mound after his first appearance for the Nationals, many were left unconvinced by his performance.

In that outing, Edwards Jr. allowed three runs on three hits and a walk.

Since then though, he’s been flat-out dominant for the Nats and is rapidly making his way up the bullpen pecking order for manager Dave Martinez.

Edwards Jr. has not allowed a run in his last 10 appearances, striking out 11, and allowing just seven baserunners in 12 innings of work, looking a lot like the reliever he was when he was one of the best setup men in the league with the Chicago Cubs. Expect to see him in more high-leverage spots for the Nationals

Kyle Farmer: Let’s be honest, much like the Nats, Reds fans don’t have a ton to be excited by on the major league team right now, but Farmer’s recent hot streak is one of them.

Essentially a throw-in in the trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers — the same trade that saw Josiah Gray head to LA — Farmer has put together a decent run of late, slashing .419/.455/.774 in his last nine games, launching three home runs and a pair of doubles in that span.

Farmer has settled in as the Reds’ primary shortstop this season and seems to be hitting his stride lately, so will be a name for the Nationals to watch out for in this four-game series.

Who’s not?

Yadiel Hernández: Having been one of the constants in an inconsistent offense during the first month or so of the season, Hernández has hit his first extended slump of the year.

In the last 15 days, Hernández is slashing .162/.225/.270 with just one home run and three RBIs, while his .495 OPS over that span is the worst on the team, yes, even below Luis García’s .500 OPS who was only recalled yesterday and went 1-for-4 with a solitary single.

With Lane Thomas and Dee Strange-Gordon hitting better of late, Hernández may be getting squeezed for playing time while he works his way out of the rut he’s in right now.

Mike Moustakas: Perhaps the most notable player the Reds weren’t able to move this offseason was Moustakas, but it’s not hard to see why when he’s earning $16 million this season and struggling mightily at the plate, even more so lately.

In his last 10 appearances, Moustakas is slashing just .067/.243/.067 without an extra-base hit while striking out seven times. At least he’s walked five times and even stole a base though!

Moustakas, who is reportedly a part of the fantasy league seen all across MLB news this past week, will likely continue to be in the lineup while he works out of this funk. The Reds will need him to rebound in some form if they want to have any hope of trading him.

From the opposing dugout

Check out some of the top Reds storylines from our friends at Red Reporter...

One more thing to watch

One of the big storylines in the early part of the season was when the Nationals would finally call up Luis García, who had been absolutely tearing it up at Triple-A Rochester.

The youngster finally got the call on Wednesday after the incumbent shortstop, Alcides Escobar, was placed on the 10-day IL with a right hamstring strain after making a nice diving play during Tuesday’s game with the Mets.

Down in Triple-A, García was dominating to the tune of a .314/.368/.531 slash line with eight home runs and 32 RBIs, becoming one of the team’s big offensive forces in the lineup.

“We had to put Escobar on the IL. He’s still sore,” manager Dave Martinez explained. “Luis has been playing well, and he’s hitting well, so he’s the next, best available guy we’ve got, so we’re going to give him an opportunity.

“I talked to him today, and he’s going to play every day, and I’m going to bat him — I told him, ‘Some days I’ll bat you seventh, some days I’ll bat you eighth, depending on what — but you’re going to play shortstop every day, left-handed, right-handed, you’re going to get an opportunity to play.”

García’s call-up may have only come because of Escobar’s injury — it seemed as though they were content to keep him at Triple-A still — but he now has a chance to cement a permanent place with the big league club if he can perform anywhere close to how he was in the minors.

Previously when he’s been up, García has often been protected from left-handed pitching, but it looks as though this time, he’ll get pretty much all the available starts at shortstop.

Series Preview Trivia

Last series’ trivia question: In the Nationals’ series in 2019 against the Mets that sunk the team to 19-31, can you name the three Nats pitchers that recorded blown saves in the final three games of the four-game set?

Answer: Tanner Rainey, Sean Doolittle, Wander Suero

Here’s our trivia question for this series with the Reds, where we have a 50:50 choice for you about a former player who played for both the Nationals and Reds in his career...

One of the most notable players to play for both the Nationals and Reds was slugger Adam Dunn, spending eight and half years in Cincinnati before two seasons in the nation’s capital. Which team did Big Donkey have a higher OPS with, the Nats or Reds?