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Posted at 06:46 AM ET, 07/22/2011

The Nationals have to beat the bad teams


The Nationals openly called their series loss in Houston exactly what it was: a missed opportunity. They were facing the team with the worst record, by a healthy margin, in the major leagues, and they squandered a chance to win by losing two straight one-run games. Starting tonight in Los Angeles, the Nationals have another crummy opponent in the Dodgers, and another chance to fix one of their deficiencies: the ability to beat up on weak teams.

The Nationals are just 21-17 against teams currently under .500 this year, which gives them the 20th-best record in the majors against the league’s lesser half. At 43-55, the last-place Dodgers own the third-worst record in the National League, and they’ve lost four of five.

The Nationals themselves fit into the under .500 category – they’re 48-50 after dropping two in a row in Houston and would need a sweep to head home at over .500. The Nationals have a chance to finish above .500 for the first time in team history, a worthy signpost to shoot for in the absence of a playoff race. In order to do so, they’ve got to beat the teams they should, and the Dodgers are one of those.

One quick nugget that I’ll slide in here: The Nationals had a scout watching the Rays-Yankees series earlier this week, according to a source. I’m not sure on the exact focus, but the Nationals want to upgrade in center field and the top of their lineup, and Rays center fielder B.J. Upton has surfaced as a possible target. General Manager Mike Rizzo drafted his brother, Justin, with the No. 1 overall pick as the scouting director of the Arizona Diamondbacks, so he’s familiar with the family.

As always, it’s important to remember that just because a team is discussing or evaluating player something a deal is afoot. Teams are constantly discussing, making calls, scouting, etc. They’ve got Upton on their radar, sure, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily drooling over him. He would be an upgrade, and while the Nationals view him as an elite fielder, they don’t feel he’s an elite player.

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Buffalo 5, Syracuse 2: Jesus Valdez went 1 for 3 with a double. Collin Balester allowed one run in two innings on two hits and no walks, striking out one.

Richmond 8, Harrisburg 5: Bryce Harper went 1 for 5 with strikeout. Tyler Moore went 2 for 4 with a home run and a walk. Derek Norris went 1 for 4 with a triple and a walk.

Potomac was off.

Hagerstown 4, Augusta 2: David Freitas went 1 for 3 with a home run. Kevin Keyes went 2 for 3 with a double.

Hagerstown 3, Augusta 0: Chris Manno pitched a perfect ninth for the save, lowering his ERA to 0.85. Adrian Sanchez went 2 for 3.

Auburn 7, Williamsport 2: Adrian Nieto went 3 for 4 with a home run. Caleb Ramsey went 2 for 3 with a walk. In a rehab start, Brad Meyers allowed one run in 2 2/3 innings on three hits and no walks, strking out two.

By  |  06:46 AM ET, 07/22/2011

 
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