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Washington Nationals Series Preview: Trade deadline is here, oh, and the New York Mets are in the nation’s capital

Sure, there’s a three-game series with the Mets to play, but the Nationals may be more focused on the trade deadline...

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With another series loss in the books for the Washington Nationals, it was hard not to focus on what may happen in the next couple of days with the trade deadline looming.

Against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Nationals lost the series, but in the one game they did win, it was in large part thanks to the offensive contributions of Juan Soto, Josh Bell, and Nelson Cruz, all of whom could very well be traded in the coming days.

With those players, and others who could be dealt away, the Nationals have the worst record in the majors at 35-68. If that’s how bad they are with them, it’s scary to think how they’ll be without them.

So, while there is a three-game series with the New York Mets to start this week, the eyes of Nationals fans appear to be elsewhere, at least until the deadline has passed.

The last time the Nationals saw the Mets, they were comfortably atop the National League East, sporting a 10.5 game lead over the Atlanta Braves. That lead has since shrunk to 3.0 games with the Braves on a tear, so the Mets will be looking to capitalize on a series against the bottom-dwelling Nationals this week.

Here’s the lowdown from Nationals Park ahead of the set with the Mets...

The schedule

  • Game One: Monday, August 1st, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Two: Tuesday, August 2nd, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
  • Game Three: Wednesday, August 3rd, 4:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN and MLB Network (out-of-market only), Radio: 106.7 The Fan

Probable Pitchers

  • Game One: Patrick Corbin (4-14, 6.49 ERA) vs Max Scherzer (6-2, 2.09 ERA)
  • Game Two: Cory Abbott (0-0, 2.25 ERA) vs Jacob deGrom (0-0, -.-- ERA)
  • Game Three: Aníbal Sánchez (0-3, 7.47 ERA) vs Chris Bassitt (7-7, 3.83 ERA)

Who’s hot?

Lane Thomas: With the Cardinals leaving town, we look at one of their former players currently hitting pretty well for the Nationals in Thomas, who might be a little under-the-radar.

Since the All-Star break, Thomas has a slash line of .389/.421/.556 with three doubles, a walk, and a stolen base. He even appeared atop the batting order in Sunday’s series finale against the Cardinals with Robles sitting out the contest with a minor injury.

If Robles’s injury lingers for a few more days, Thomas might get a couple more opportunities to lead off for the Nationals in this series against the Mets.

Francisco Lindor: While Pete Alonso continues to draw the attention of other teams for his form with the bat, it shouldn’t go unnoticed the start to the second half that Lindor has had.

In 31 at-bats post-All-Star Game, the shortstop is slashing .419/.486/.645 with a home run and four doubles while striking out eight times and walking four. That recent run has raised his wRC+ on the season to 125, a few points higher than his career figure of 117.

After a disappointing first season with the Mets offensively, Lindor seems to have rebounded well this year, and teams facing the Mets will need to take note of his resurgence at the plate.

Who’s not?

Juan Soto: Last season, the Nats’ talisman went to the Home Run Derby, then came back and dominated the league in the second half. This time around, he’s a Home Run Derby champion but has started the second half a little sluggishly.

In the team’s last nine games, Soto is slashing .172/.385/.241 with only one extra-base hit, a triple, to go with nine walks and eight strikeouts. The walks are still there, so Soto’s on-base percentage is still at a strong level, but the hits and power have dried up.

Perhaps some of it is a potential trade weighing on his mind, or perhaps it’s just a slump like the one was in around May time. Will he make it through this series with the Nats? Who knows.

Brandon Nimmo: In previous seasons, the Mets have seemingly always been on the lookout for a center fielder at the deadline in the offseason. Nimmo may have quelled those concerns for now, but he’s definitely struggling a little bit of late.

In his last eight appearances in the second half of the season, the outfielder is sporting a lackluster .184/.184/.289 slash line with just a pair of extra-base hits. Most notably, for someone who is hitting lead-off, Nimmo has yet to draw a walk since the All-Star break.

Nimmo should continue to play for the Mets through this slump given how well he’s done this season in general, but the lack of walks lately is maybe something to keep an eye on.

From the opposing dugout

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One more thing to watch

We hear you, there’s the obvious elephant in the room that these two teams could have a few players arriving and leaving at some point during the series with the trade deadline just an hour before first pitch for Tuesday’s game.

Because of that, one storyline that has been glossed over league-wide, not on the Mets’ beat though, is that Jacob deGrom will be making his first start of the season on Tuesday.

“Nerves haven’t set in yet,” deGrom said to reporters on Sunday, as quoted by the New York Times. “But I am sure I will be pretty nervous and I have a feeling it’s going to feel like my debut, so I am definitely excited.”

deGrom was set to start the season opener at Nationals Park this season, however, he suffered a stress reaction in his right scapula in Spring Training which put him on the shelf, a familiar feeling for the right-hander in recent seasons.

What does deGrom think may have caused the injury, and potentially be at the root of his severe injury troubles the past couple of seasons?

“In 2018 and ’19 I felt I was at my best mechanically and I took a lot of time to look at those videos and try to get back there,” deGrom explained. “I noticed I was a little more upright and leaning more toward first base in my follow-through than in those years, so with this time to work on things. I feel like I got my mechanics back to where I want them.”

The two-time Cy Young winner might have an abbreviated outing, seeing as it’s his first major league start of the season, and in his final rehab start, he only made it up to 67 pitches.

Even so, with a Nationals lineup that may be stripped down to the bone by the time Tuesday’s game rolls around, deGrom may well have a nice soft outing to ease himself in.

Series Preview Trivia

Last series’ trivia question: The Nationals and Cardinals have made just one trade together since the team moved to D.C. in 2005. However, the Cardinals have a long history trading with the Montréal Expos. Which current player’s father was traded from St. Louis to Montréal in 2000?

Answer: Fernando Tatís Jr.

Are you all up for another trade-based trivia question for this series? No? Well, tough, you’re getting another trade-related trivia question based on one of the pitchers in this series.

Max Scherzer is back at Nationals Park this week, and the former Nat has been traded twice in his career. The first time, when he went from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Detroit Tigers, which future Nationals player was also involved, went the other way to Arizona?