The Washington Nationals started the month of May hoping that they could leave April and all its futility behind. But as baseball sometimes has it, the team now looks back fondly at the first weeks of spring, with their cooler temperatures, slightly under .500 record, and first place in the division within striking distance.
But six consecutive series losses later, the Nats live in a very different reality after being swept by the Brewers in Milwaukee during the first three games of a seven-game road trip. Washington now sits seven games behind Philadelphia for the division lead, and the schedule ahead does not offer any respite for the struggling team.
The Nationals played for 11-14 in April and the recurrent theme for the month was a struggling bullpen that could not hold significant leads late in the game. The offense, led by an MPV-level performance from Anthony Rendon and big contributions up and down the lineup, managed to snatch a couple of wins from the jaws of defeat to keep the team afloat.
But with the closing days of April and the early days of May came key injuries to Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and Juan Soto. Also in the injured list are pitchers Trevor Rosenthal – who is expected to report to extended spring training – and Tony Sipp. All these injuries come in addition to losing Trea Turner early in the season, who is expected to return to the team sometime in May.
The result of those injuries was, as expected, nefarious. The Nationals have a 2-6 record in May, and they’re looking at two weeks’ worth of games against league juggernauts or division foes.
First, the team kicks off a four-game set against the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine tonight. The Dodgers are winners of seven of the last 10 games and are riding on a three-game winning streak thanks to a sweep of the Braves in Los Angeles. Patrick Corbin (2-1, 3.71) will get the ball for Davey Martinez’ team and oppose Rich Hill (0-0, 3.60) during the series opener.
Anibal Sanchez (0-5, 5.15) will face off against Kenta Maeda (3-2, 4.66) tomorrow, Max Scherzer (1-4, 3.78) will pitch against Walker Buehler (4-0, 4.95) on Saturday, and Stephen Strasburg (3-2, 3.71) will go against Hyun-Jin Ryu (4-1, 2.03) to close out the series on Sunday.
There is not much margin for error for the Nationals if they want to remain in the hunt for October baseball, and as many have predicted, the month of May could very well be decisive.
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