Aug 25, 2014, 1:19 PM EDT
Nine-game road trip – The Nationals begin a three-game series in Philadelphia Monday night, the first leg of a nine-game road trip that will take them through Seattle and Los Angeles to play the Dodgers. The Phillies have been a mess this season and are in last place. The Nats, however, are only 8-5 against them in 2014. The Phillies haven’t just laid down in division games this year.
After Philly, the Nationals will head northwest to battle the Mariners, current holders of the second AL Wild Card spot. Seattle has been a nice surprise this season, but the Nats will miss Felix Hernandez. That’s quite a break. They will see Chris Young, though. The former Nats minor leaguer is 12-6 with a 3.17 ERA this year.
After Seattle it’s the L.A. Dodgers in a showdown of the two best teams in the National League. The Nats will see Clayton Kershaw in that series with a Game 2 matchup of Kershaw vs. Doug Fister on the docket. That should be a good one.
The Mariners (71-58) and Dodgers (74-58) represent the two best teams by record left on the Nationals schedule. The Braves and Marlins will be tough down the stretch, but this upcoming trip could be the biggest test for the Nationals remaining before October.
Cabrera’s injury – Asdrubal Cabrera left Sunday’s win with minor tightness in his right side, an injury the Nats hope is not serious. At this point it is unclear if he will miss any time, but the possibility is there.
Cabrera has been a very nice addition for the Nats since coming over at the non-waiver trade deadline. In 20 games he’s batting .264 with five doubles, two home runs, 10 RBI, a triple and 11 runs. He has a .365 on-base percentage and 12 walks to 10 strikeouts. His defense has also been a nice surprise.
If Cabrera needs to take a few days off, the Nats do have Danny Espinosa. Espinosa hasn’t enjoyed the greatest season, but he does provide sound defense and did have two hits including a home run on Sunday.
September call-ups – A week from now will be the first of September, a day rosters around Major League Baseball are allowed to expand to include players currently in the minor leagues. The Nationals will likely bring up between six and eight guys, all for different reasons and roles.
The biggest sure-bets for September are Aaron Barrett, Michael Taylor and Blake Treinen. At this point, it would be very surprising if any of those three were not brought in. Steven Souza, Jr. will also join the team sometime soon off the disabled list. A third catcher is a good bet, as well.
Who the Nationals bring up beyond that list is harder to tell. Tyler Moore probably has a good shot of coming up. Taylor Hill debuted back in June and has enjoyed a solid season at Triple-A Syracuse. Perhaps he gets the call.
I made some predictions a few weeks back and threw lefty reliever Matt Grace’s name out there. He’s a former 8th round pick who has a 1.25 ERA across 46 appearances with Harrisburg and Syracuse this season.
It may not be Grace, but do expect the Nationals to call up somebody we’ve never seen before. And it if is Grace, or somebody like him, don’t be surprised if he gets a real opportunity. Christian Garcia’s run in 2012 is a good precedent for that.
NL East Standings
Offensive game of the week: Bryce Harper 8/24 vs. Giants – 2-for-5, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2B
Pitching game of the week: Tanner Roark 8/20 vs. Diamondbacks – 7 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, BB, 2 SO. 99 pitches, 63 strikes.
Quote of the week:
Denard Span on his “alter ego”:
Denard is the guy that is passive, the guy that is afraid to make a mistake… ‘Span is the guy that is a playmaker. Span is the smooth guy, the guy that would talk to a girl.’ It’s like the Urkel and the Stefan [from Family Matters]. I just had to walk off and kind of hype myself up for a second. And then I came back to first and was: ‘let’s go.’
Tweet of the week:
The Nats haven’t really needed any outside help to rally back in games, but on Sunday a pigeon on the field at Nationals Park lent a hand (or a wing):
Rally Pigeon anyone? #Nats
— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) August 24, 2014
MON – 7:05 p.m. at Philadelphia Phillies (Roark)
TUE – 7:05 p.m. at Philadelphia Phillies (Gonzalez)
WED – 7:05 p.m. at Philadelphia Phillies (Fister)
THU – OFF
FRI – 10:10 p.m. at Seattle Mariners (Zimmermann)
SAT – 9:10 p.m. at Seattle Mariners (Strasburg)
SUN – 4:10 p.m. at Seattle Mariners (Roark)
NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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