Jun 16, 2014, 10:24 AM EDT
Nats return home after long trip - The Nationals just completed their longest West Coast trip of the season, a 10-day gauntlet that ran them through San Diego, San Francisco and St. Louis. It started off well, as the Nats swept the Padres and took three of four against San Francisco. But then came the Cardinals who dominated the Nats just as they have ever since their playoff series in October of 2012.
The Nats are off Monday before a pretty important stretch of their season begins. They play two against the upstart Astros – a team they crushed in Houston back in April – before hosting the Braves for four games. The Nats and Atlanta are currently neck and neck in the standings, making this upcoming series a big one in the NL East. Much like the Cardinals, the Braves have had the Nats’ number over the past two seasons. Since the beginning of last year, the Nats are just 7-18 against them.
After the Braves series, the Nats play three at Milwaukee, current owners of the third-best record in baseball. They also host the Rockies later this month. The road ahead is not easy, so they might want to pull it together soon.
Gio set to return - After making two minor league rehab appearances, Gio Gonzalez is scheduled to start against the Houston Astros on Wednesday. The lefty has not pitched for the Nats since May 17 when he went out with left shoulder inflammation, and before that he was ineffective. Through nine starts this year, Gonzalez has a 4.62 ERA. That number went above four thanks to some rocky outings before he hit the disabled list, so it’s possible his injury was the reason.
Gonzalez is now healthy, but wasn’t exactly great in his two minor league outings. In his first start he allowed eight earned runs, including a grand slam. And though he was better his second time out, he still walked four batters in four innings. The Nats will need Gonzalez to be the guy who went 32-16 with a 3.12 ERA from 2012 through 2013 when he comes back. Their rotation has been among the best in baseball over the past few weeks and Gonzalez, in theory, should make them even better.
Offense needs to come around - Ever since Wilson Ramos went down with a right hamstring injury on June 10, the Nationals’ offense has gone completely cold. They are 1-4 since he hit the DL and have scored a total of four runs over their last four games. Right before he went out they were scoring with the best in baseball, but are now looking more like the team that struggled through the month of May.
Until Ramos gets back, the Nats will have to make do with what they have. They will also have to face some good pitching along the way. The Astros are only here for two games this week, but on Tuesday lefty Dallas Keuchel will start. The 26-year-old is 8-3 with a 2.38 ERA this season.
After Houston leaves, the Braves will come to town with the third-best rotation ERA in baseball (3.24). If the Nats are to get going soon on offense, they’ll have to do it against some quality arms.
NL East Standings
Offensive game of the week: Jayson Werth 6/11 vs. Giants – 2-for-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB
Pitching game of the week: Doug Fister 6/10 vs. Giants – 7 IP, 8 H, 0 R, BB, 3 SO, 97 pitches, 66 strikes.
Quote of the week:
Hitting coach Rick Schu on Ian Desmond via MLB.com:
He’s special. Every time he steps to the plate, he can get you back into the ballgame with one swing. It’s something you can’t teach. He’s got the gift from God and thunder in those hands and he’s exciting to watch.
Tweet of the week:
I hope everybody had a Happy Father’s Day…
Happy Fathers Day and Birthday to my Pops..Can’t thank him enough for everything he has done for me..My true Hero! pic.twitter.com/UwiEe9Bk9j
— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) June 15, 2014
MON – OFF
TUE – 7:05 p.m. vs. Houston Astros (Roark)
WED – 7:05 p.m. vs. Houston Astros (Gonzalez)
THU – 7:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (Zimmermann)
FRI – 7:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (Strasburg)
SAT – 7:15 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (Fister)
SUN – 1:35 p.m. vs. Atlanta Braves (Roark)
NL EAST STANDINGS
Through Monday's games
NL PLAYOFFS STANDINGS
y-Clinched playoff berth
Through Monday's games
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Marlins at Nats (DH), 1:05 p.m., 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Marlins at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Marlins at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
(End of regular season)
Full season schedule
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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