1. What awaits us with the Nationals in this big four-game series at Philadelphia the next four days? The Nats go into this having lost 12 of 17 games, having been shut-out in six of 15 games and having been shut-out seven times total in June. The Nats are lucky to only be 3 1/2 games behind National League East-leading Atlanta and one game behind the Phillies. This goes without saying, but the Nats’ offense has got to wake up. There is no excuse for these guys getting dominated as they were in that two-game sweep at Tampa Bay, going a pathetic 5-for-57 (.088 batting average) with eight walks versus 23 strikeouts in getting shutout in back-to-back games. The Nats lost two of three at the Braves June 1-3 and lost two of three to the Phillies at Nationals Park June 22-24. It’s time for this team to play well in a big intradivision series this month.
2. How about how the Nats’ 1-0 loss at Tampa Bay on Tuesday afternoon ended? The Nats had the bases loaded with one out off three lefties in Bryce Harper (full-count leadoff walk), Juan Soto (one-out single) and Daniel Murphy (one-out single) all having reached base against Rays lefty reliever Jose Alvarado. But then Sergio Romo came into the game. What happened? He got Trea Turner on a first-pitch flyout to right fielder Carlos Gomez and then struck out Michael A. Taylor on three pitches to end the game. Just awful. And we weren’t done. Romo then began jawing at Taylor off him having angered Romo by stealing third base off in the bottom of the sixth in that 11-2 Nats win over the Rays on June 6. Players, managers and coaches then spilled onto the field, though no punches were thrown. Daniel Murphy did get in Romo’s face; good for Murphy. Taylor basically didn’t respond at all, though he said after the game that he initially didn’t hear Romo. Let’s make something clear: Romo needs to STFU. He is way too sensitive regarding that Taylor steal of third on June 6. This is the majors, not Potomac Boys Club. At the same time, watching the Nats struggle as they are right now, could they not perhaps use some of the “jerk” factor that a guy like Romo brings? I know that this is tricky, because the Nats thought that they were getting that with Jonathan Papelbon in 2015, and we saw how that trade worked out. But the Nats, fair or not, have had a reputation for being soft for years. Heck, Romo, who won World Series with San Francisco in 2010, 2012 and 2014, was on that 2014 team that beat the Nats in that four-game NLDS, prior to which then-Giants pitcher Tim Hudson told The Washington Post, “Obviously they have a talented group over there, there’s no question. They have some great pitching. But come playoff time, talent can take you a long ways, but what do you have between your legs? That’s going to take you real far. And I think we’ve got a group in here that really has some of that.”
3. No Nationals player is being done dirtier by the failing offense than Max Scherzer. He now is 0-3 over his last four starts despite having a 2.33 ERA (seven earned runs in 27 innings) during that stretch. All three of those losses for Max have been shutout losses for the Nats: 2-0 to San Francisco on June 10, 2-0 at Toronto on June 16 and 1-0 at Tampa Bay on June 26. Max on Tuesday afternoon wasn’t dominant, as he recorded just four strikeouts and threw just 63 of his 104 pitches for strikes, but he was good, allowing one run in seven innings on just four singles and three walks. The run came on a Jake Bauers RBI groundout off back-to-back singles by Kevin Kiermaier and Matt Duffy to begin the bottom of the first.
4. Bryce Harper was the starting right fielder and batted in the no. 2 spot in both games in the two-game sweep at Tampa Bay. He had a walk in the 11-0 loss at Tampa Bay on Monday night and a double and two walks in the 1-0 loss at the Rays on Tuesday afternoon. But Bryce also was part of yet another base-running debacle for the Nats this season on Tuesday afternoon, as he kept running to second despite Adam Eaton having hit the brakes in running from second to third on a double steal-that-wasn’t. The result was Rays catcher and ex-Nat Wilson Ramos running all the way to tag Eaton for the second out in the top of the fourth. Bryce has got to be looking to see what Eaton is doing in a situation like that. As remarkably efficient as the Nats have been in stealing bases this season (thanks largely to Trea Turner and Michael A. Taylor), the team has had one bone-headed base-running blunder after another. The Nats have become masters of the TOOTBLAN – Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop.
5. Pedro Severino went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in the 11-0 loss at Tampa Bay on Monday night and 0-for-2 with two strikeouts in the 1-0 loss at the Rays on Tuesday afternoon, dropping his OPS for the season to a woeful .487. Ex-Nat Wilson Ramos in the 11-0 loss at Tampa Bay on Monday night smashed two homers as the Rays’ clean-up batter: one-out first-pitch solo homer off Justin Miller in the bottom of the fourth and a one-out first-pitch two-run homer off Tim Collins in the bottom of the sixth. We’ve talked quite a bit about the Nats wanting to trade for Miami catcher J.T. Realmuto. Well, Ramos, who is set to be a free agent this coming offseason, would cost a lot less in a trade and had an .803 OPS this season coming out of his Rays’ two-game sweep of the Nats.
6. Juan Soto batted in the clean-up spot as the starting left fielder in both games in the two-game sweep at Tampa Bay, making it six consecutive games now that he has been the Nats’ cleanup batter. And Soto was one of the few offensive bright spots for the Nats. He in the 11-0 loss at Tampa Bay on Monday night had a two-out full-count single in the top of the ninth off having been down in the count 1-2 and a walk. And Soto in the 1-0 loss at the Rays on Tuesday afternoon had a single and a walk.
7. Gio Gonzalez was horrendous in the 11-0 loss at Tampa Bay on Monday night, allowing six runs in one inning on a grand slam, a double, a single, five walks and a wild pitch in the shortest start of his career. He threw just 29 of his 62 pitches for strikes, continuing a recent strend of not throwing enough strikes. Gio tossed a scoreless first before completely unraveling in the bottom of the second, which he began by allowing seven consecutive Rays to reach base before being relieved by Justin Miller. Here’s what went down: full-count leadoff walk of C.J. Cron, full-count double by Jake Bauers, full-count walk of Carlos Gomez, run-scoring wild pitch, bases-loaded full-count walk of Adeiny Hechavarria despite him having been down in the count 0-2, bases-loaded full-count walk of Willy Adames, full-count grand slam by Kevin Kiermaier (his first homer in 18 games this season), single by Matt Duffy on a 1-2 pitch. Yes, Gio went full-count on each of the first six batters in that six-run second. Gio now over his last four starts: 17 runs in 14 1/3 innings (10.67 ERA).
8. Justin Miller, Tim Collins and Matt Grace combined to allow five runs in seven innings in the 11-0 loss at Tampa Bay on Monday night. Miller, who had tossed 10 2/3 scoreless innings with 21 strikeouts versus no walks to begin his Nats career this season, now has allowed six runs in eight innings with eight strikeouts versus five walks over his last five appearances.
9. Kelvin Herrera tossed a scoreless eighth in the 1-0 loss at the Rays on Tuesday afternoon despite giving up a two-out single to ex-Nat Wilson Ramos and then a full-count walk to Johnny Field. Herrera, who came to the Nats having issued just two walks in 25 2/3 innings with Kansas City this season, now has issued two walks in four innings with the Nats.
10. Things just continue to get worse and worse for the MLB-worst Orioles. First of all, they had to place their best starting pitcher this season, Dylan Bundy, on the 10-day disabled list on Tuesday due to a left-ankle sprain suffered while rounding third base off his leadoff single in the top of the fifth in the 7-5 win at Atlanta last Saturday. They then placed Darren O’Day on the 10-day DL on Wednesday with a left-hamstring strain suffered while trying to field Jean Segura’s eighth-inning bunt in the top of the eighth the 3-2 loss to Seattle on Tuesday night. O’Day began the inning by giving up a leadoff double to Dee Gordon and ultimately was charged with two runs thanks to Tanner Scott giving up a two-run single to Kyle Seager on an 0-2 pitch. The O’s re-signed O’Day to a four-year. $31 million in Dec. 2015. He has struggled ever since, and he has been hurt a ton ever since. O’Day dealt with a right-hamstring strain and right-rotator-cuff strain in 2016 and a hyperextended right elbow earlier this season.
11. And it’s not just these latest injuries for the O’s. Potential trade chips continue to lose value. Zach Britton in the 8-7 11-inning loss to Seattle on Wednesday night gave up a game-tying two-run homer to Kyle Seager in the top of the ninth, raising Britton’s ERA to 7.04 over 7 /23 innings this season. Alex Cobb in that game got shellacked again, allowing five runs in 4 2/3 innings to raise his ERA this season to 6.75 and WHIP to 1.67. Andrew Cashner in the 5-3 loss to the Mariners on Monday night allowed three runs in six innings, giving up a two-out full-count two-run single to Dee Gordon in the top of the second during a stretch of allowing five consecutive Mariners to reach base with two outs (three singles and two walks). Cashner then gave up a two-out full-count solo homer to ex-Nat Denard Span in the top of the sixth. Cashner now has a 4.70 ERA and 1.62 WHIP over 15 starts this season.
12. USA Today MLB insider Bob Nightengale had a report on Wednesday labeling the Dodgers as the clear favorites to trade for Manny Machado. Good. The sooner that the O’s get to selling off assets, the better. And how about Machado getting booed on Tuesday night during the 3-2 loss to Seattle? He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, dropping his OPS for the season to .923 off it having been at 1.031 after an 8-5 loss to the Yankees on June 2. The boos came after Machado couldn’t be bothered to run hard to first base after grounding into a bases-loaded double play with no outs. Machado overall is having a tremendous contract season, but he is cocky and is definitely too-cool-for-school at times. And some of that absolutely is on the O’s. I still can’t get over how they just gave into him and allowed him to move to shortstop this season, what is a contract season that is almost certainly to be followed by him leaving the team. The Orioles’ defense has been horrendous this season, and Machado moving away from third, at which he was very good, to shortstop, at which he hasn’t been as good, has been a big part of the bad defense. The O’s have tried so many different guys at third base this season, and really nobody has stuck. I do think that Machado eventually will be a good defensive shortstop, but his move to the position has been to the detriment of the O’s this season. And the team just inexplicably gave into him. And don’t think for a second that this isn’t at least part of him not always running out grounders and also doing something like no-showing Orioles FanFest as he and his BFF Jonathan Schoop did this past January.