What was it that kept the Washington Nationals from an overdue series win against the Chicago Cubs? That would be their bullpen, which has arguably been the one part of the team that’s performed better than expected so far this season.
Staked to a 2-1 lead, Steve Cishek couldn’t strand the baserunner left by Josiah Gray, and then allowed two more runs of his own to leave the Nats in a 4-2 hole they wouldn’t climb out of.
That was after the bullpen just kept ceding singles to their opposition the night before in a game they looked to have lost before a two-run home run by Joey Meneses saved the day.
Next for the Nationals is a series that will have a lot of eyes on it when the San Diego Padres come to Nationals Park for a three-game weekend matchup.
It will be talked about ad nauseam over the next few days, but it’s hard to ignore the homecoming for Juan Soto and Josh Bell during this series. Hopefully, they get the reception from the home faithful that they deserve for all they gave for the franchise, especially Soto, who was a shining light during his time in D.C. the last four years.
Here’s what to expect from Nationals Park ahead of the series with the Padres...
- Game One: Friday, August 12th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: Apple TV+, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
- Game Two: Saturday, August 13th, 7:05 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
- Game Three: Sunday, August 14th, 12:05 pm EDT. TV: Peacock, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
- Game One: Cory Abbott (0-1, 5.68 ERA) vs Mike Clevinger (3-4, 3.60 ERA)
- Game Two: Aníbal Sánchez (0-5, 7.56 ERA) vs Yu Darvish (10-5, 3.28 ERA)
- Game Three: Paolo Espino (0-4, 4.04 ERA) vs Blake Snell (4-6, 3.96 ERA)
Luke Voit: It doesn’t happen often that a team who sells at the trade deadline acquires their best hitter, but those are the unusual circumstances that the Nationals find themselves in with Voit.
Despite a rough start to the year with the Padres, Voit is starting strong with the Nationals, slashing a strong .292/.393/.542 with a pair of home runs and three RBIs, good for a 160 wRC+ in his first seven games with the team.
Voit figures to be the team’s primary first baseman the rest of the way this season and could be to start next season too, given he has two more years of team control after 2022.
Manny Machado: Though he’s not quite on the torrid pace that had him in the very early NL MVP discussion to start the year, Machado is still hitting pretty well of late for the Padres.
So far in August, the third baseman has a slash line of .302/.354/.558 with two home runs and eight RBIs, giving him a wRC+ of 148 this month. One of those home runs and three of those RBIs came on a three-run walk-off blast against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday.
Machado has been the standout performer for the Padres on offense this season, and will now hope to kick on thanks to the additions of Soto and Bell, with Fernando Tatís Jr.’s return also looming on the horizon for the Padres.
Aníbal Sánchez: The Nationals’ rotation has been its weakest link all season, and while Patrick Corbin gets a lot of the attention, Sánchez in a reunion tour with the Nationals is hardly much better.
In his five starts this season, he holds a disappointing 7.56 ERA with 18 strikeouts and 11 walks in 25 innings, with each of his starts resulting in a losing decision on his record.
Sánchez is set to start the second game of the series against the Padres, and may not put up much resistance to a strong San Diego lineup, even if it’s slumping a little lately.
Josh Hader: Through two months of the season, there may not have been a better pitcher in the major leagues than Hader, who had yet to allow an earned run, and had allowed just four hits in 16.2 innings of work. Pretty impressive, even by the left-hander’s lofty standards.
Since the calendar turned to June though, it’s been a different story for Hader. In 22 appearances since the start of June, he sports an ugly 8.55 ERA in 20 innings while blowing three saves and allowing seven home runs. The strikeout-to-walk ratio is still there, with 37 strikeouts and just nine walks, but the hard contact against him is definitely concerning.
Perhaps that’s why the Milwaukee Brewers were slightly more willing to trade Hader to the Padres at the deadline. Either way, maybe the Nationals could do with a player who has a big, go-ahead, 3-RBI hit off of the left-hander in a big game. Any idea where to find one?
From the opposing dugout
Check out some of the top Padres storylines from our friends at Gaslamp Ball...
- Padres trade Eric Hosmer to the Red Sox
- Padres SP Joe Musgrove signs 5-year contract extension
- Padres acquire Josh Hader from Brewers
One more thing to watch
I mean, there’s only one additional thing to keep an eye on, the return of a couple of former Nationals.
After being traded away on August 2nd, Juan Soto and Josh Bell make their, well, we can’t call it long-awaited because it’s only been 10 days, but much-anticipated return to Nationals Park this weekend, as they hope to keep the Padres in the NL postseason hunt.
Many fans were expecting Bell to be traded with his contract expiring at the end of the season, and the Padres were always a fit for him provided they could free up the space at first base, so the fact that he’s returning this series isn’t exactly a shock to the system.
Soto, however, is going to be the focus of the weekend. Not just because he's one of the best players in the sport, but because the Nationals went from “we aren’t trading him” to “we’re entertaining offers” to actually trading him within the space of two months.
While some fans may still believe that Soto should’ve accepted the 15-year, $440 million offer he received, an offer that despite a record-breaking total value was still below-market value for a player like Soto, he’s expected to receive a positive reception from the home crowd.
“I think the fan reaction will be very positive,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday. “Juan has done a lot for the organization in his tenure here, a member of the championship [team] that won it, so I think it will be a positive atmosphere, a positive reception for him.
“And I think it will be a big crowd because San Diego is an exciting team to watch, they’re a good team, and I’d like to beat them a couple of times, it will be fun.”
Both Soto and Bell will receive tribute videos before the game, so it will give fans a chance to show their appreciation for two players who, in their separate ways, became fan favorites in D.C. and the crowd there on Friday will likely show that sentiment.
Series Preview Trivia
Last series’ trivia question: Fresh off an MVP award the year prior, the Cubs were not going to let Bryce Harper beat them during a four-game set at Wrigley Field in 2016. How many times did Harper walk in that series?
Answer: 13 times, in four games!
After a series away from trade-related questions, we can’t not have a trade-related question for this series, right? Especially when these two teams have another big trade already on the books.
In 2014, the Nationals and Padres agreed to a trade that brought Joe Ross and a player to be named later to Washington, who would turn out to be Trea Turner. Which two players, one major leaguer and one minor leaguer, did the Nats send to Tampa Bay, via San Diego, in that trade?