If only Josh Hader had been called on to try and close out all four games of the Washington Nationals’ four-game series against the San Diego Padres, Dave Martinez’s men may have come away with a four-game sweep of their recent trade partners.
Alas, after two blown games for Hader, the Padres realized that they needed to demote him from high-leverage spots, and that allowed them to salvage a series split in what was a surprisingly well-fought series between two teams who are very far apart in the standings.
Next for the Nationals is a quick series against the Seattle Mariners to wrap up the west coast trip.
Having started the season poorly, the Mariners have made their way back into a Wild Card spot, in large part thanks to a 14-game winning streak heading into the All-Star break, which included two wins over Washington at Nationals Park in July.
Here’s our look ahead to the two-game midweek series at T-Mobile Park...
- Game One: Tuesday, August 18th, 10:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN 2, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
- Game Two: Wednesday, August 19th, 4:10 pm EDT. TV: MASN, Radio: 106.7 The Fan
- Game One: Erick Fedde (5-7, 4.95 ERA) vs Robbie Ray (9-8, 3.87 ERA)
- Game Two: Aníbal Sánchez (0-5, 6.43 ERA) vs George Kirby (5-3, 3.47 ERA)
Ildemaro Vargas: Of the Nationals’ hitters to have appeared in more than 10 games in August, who leads the team in batting average? Yep, that’s right, it’s Vargas.
While he hasn’t brought the power that fellow post-deadline minor league veteran, Joey Meneses, has shown, Vargas has been plodding along steadily and proved serviceable at the plate with a .321/.362/.415 slash line since his call-up, including a banner 2-for-3 day against the Padres on Friday to spark the Nationals to a win.
Vargas has well and truly knocked Maikel Franco off of his perch as the team’s starting third baseman, and it’s hard to argue against it given how well he’s hit so far in August.
Cal Raleigh: On a young and exciting team, a player like Raleigh hasn’t had the hype that he probably deserves, but he’s been one of the Mariners’ most consistent bats lately.
In his last 11 games, the catcher is slashing a strong .306/.375/.694 with three home runs, just one off of the team leader in that span, Eugenio Suárez, while racking up a team-leading five doubles.
The 25-year-old still has work to do to get his season slash line of .213/.285/.477 a bit further up, but if nothing else, he’s providing a good amount of power and a steady presence behind the plate, which is pretty good for a starting big league backstop.
Tyler Clippard: It’s not quite been the homecoming that Clippard had hoped for when coming back to D.C., with his tenure derailed by injuries, and now, struggles on the mound.
After an Injured List stint thanks to a groin strain, Clippard returned to the team on August 12th, but has looked way off the pace in three appearances, sporting a 12.00 ERA in three innings, walking four batters, striking out three, and allowing a home run by Brandon Drury a couple of weekends ago.
Clippard may have been hoping for some high leverage chances this season with a bullpen hierarchy in flux. Unfortunately, he’ll need to prove himself on the mound again before he can get those, despite his experience in those spots over the course of his career.
Ty France: After making a compelling case to be an American League All-Star to start the season, France has fallen off of a cliff since midseason.
Since the All-Star break, France is slashing a disappointing .198/.276/.308 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. It’s been even worse in his last 11 games with a dismal .109/.173/.109 line, not notching any extra-base hits, and striking out 10 times.
The first baseman is still hitting second for the Mariners for now, but they will need him to break out of this slump soon if they still want him to hit that high up in the batting order.
From the opposing dugout
Check out some of the top Mariners storylines from our friends at Lookout Landing...
- What’s eating Ty France?
- The equation has changed for the Mariners and a Mitch Haniger extension
- Penn Murfee is serving up gyros and punchouts
One more thing to watch
As the rest of the dismal 2022 season plods along for the Nationals, more and more younger players are going to get a chance to show what they can do in the big leagues.
It started with CJ Abrams getting a call-up last week, admittedly a bit before the Nats would’ve liked given the injury to Luis García, who is now starting at shortstop.
Others will no doubt follow, potentially including Cade Cavalli, Matt Cronin, and Jake Alu.
And for Nationals manager Dave Martinez, he sees it as an important step in the rebuild to get their young prospects exposure to the big leagues, just as he did with last year’s marquee prospects, Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz.
“For both of those guys, especially Keibert, he understood the importance of knowing his pitchers,” Martinez said on Sunday. “He came with a different attitude about learning the pitchers. And like I said, he’s done a lot better job of that.
“And then for Josiah, we talked a lot about his mechanics, repeating his mechanics, high-leverage situations where last year he struggled a little bit on and got frustrated. This year, there’s hardly been any of that, so it’s been really good.
“Like I said, I’ve seen improvement on both, and hopefully after this year, they can learn a lot from what happened, and then next year they come back a little bit better, and learning a lot more about what they need to in certain situations.”
Riley Adams looks set for a recall in this series in Seattle, with Tres Barrera optioned to Triple-A, and could get some time at both catcher and first base in this stint with the Nationals.
Expect more to come, and more learning experiences for younger players to at least give fans a small window into the future...
Series Preview Trivia
Last series’ trivia question: During the Nationals’ previous series with the Padres last week, Nelson Cruz notched his 2,000th major league hit. Which two other former Nationals players (2005-present) have also reached that milestone?
Answer: Alfonso Soriano and Ivan Rodriguez
It’s been a long time since the Nationals ventured out to the Pacific Northwest for a series, so for this trivia question, we take a look back on the last series between these two teams out west.
The last time the Nationals made the trip to Seattle was back in 2014. In that series, one former National recorded a save for the Mariners, and one former National started a game in that series. Can you both of those players?