The Nationals arrived in Atlanta this weekend with a 4 1/2-game lead in the National League East and the Braves losers of their previous eight. The Nationals dropped two of the three games — by a combined three runs — and saw their division lead trimmed to 3 1/2 games. It could have been worse for the Nationals but certainly could have been better.
We’ll have more on the series later, also looking forward to the remaining six games between the division rivals. But below are some leftover observations from the weekend in Atlanta:
>>> Jayson Werth’s right shoulder, inflammation in his right AC joint, is something to keep an eye on. Williams noted that Werth feels the discomfort the most reaching for outside pitches. And in Werth’s first at-bat against left-hander Alex Wood, Werth stayed away from swinging at two low strikes on the outer half of the strike zone.
After fouling off a curveball, Werth seemed to be adjusting his right shoulder. He took a close curveball for ball two but then popped a curveball over the plate to right field, a pitch that he would perhaps normally drive. His throw from outfield in the same inning seemed fine, too, and he wasn’t challenged to make a hard throw.
Werth said before the game the shoulder discomfort, the first time he’s dealt with such an injury there, had improved and was playable. He played well and drew three walks, including an intentional one. Monday’s day off will help Werth rest the inflammation but he may be managing this injury for a bit.
>>> The Nationals were hurt this series the most, again, by two of Atlanta’s hitters: Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton. Freeman is hitting .481 (25 for 52) with four home runs and eight RBI in 13 games against the Nationals this season. Upton is hitting .359 (14 for 39) with four home runs and nine RBI in 12 games this season. Both marks are the highest average for each player against any division opponent this season.
The Nationals seemed to attack Freeman on the edges of the strike zone, mostly away, and Upton mostly inside. But both did a good job of staying away from close pitches, fouling off others and hitting mistakes.
Upton’s first home run of the series was on a Stephen Strasburg fastball low and away. His second was on a Gio Gonzalez change-up on Sunday that, again, allowed him to extend his arms and hit the ball hard. In the remaining two series against the Braves, the Nationals need to find better ways to limit the impact of both hitters.
>>> Monday’s off-day will be a welcome one, especially for tired legs and nagging injuries. Because of a make-up game against the Orioles last week, the Nationals were in a stretch of 17 games in 17 days. After Monday, three more off-days remain. The Nationals will play 16 games in 16 days before earning the Aug. 28 off-day. There’s another stretch of 17 games in 17 days in September before the final off-day.
>>> Denard Span continues to hit and shows no signs of letting up. He extended his on-base streak to 35 straight games and hitting streak to 14 games with two doubles on Sunday. Both hits were off tough left-hander Alex Wood no less. During his on-base streak, Span is hitting .396 (57 for 144) with a .463 on-base percentage.
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FROM THE WEEKEND’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 5, Louisville 1: A.J. Cole earned his fourth win by allowing only one run on nine hits over seven innings. Xavier Cedeno fired two scoreless innings. Jeff Kobernus went 3 for 5 and Emmanuel Burriss drove in two runs.
Binghamton 3, Harrisburg 0: James Simmons struck out eight but gave up three runs over six innings. Kevin Keyes doubled, one of four Harrisburg hits.
Hagerstown 5, Kannapolis 3: Wander Suero struck out six and walked three over five innings, allowing two runs on four hits. Ryan Ullman earned the win and David Napoli earned his fourth save, lowering his ERA to 0.35. Narciso Mesa, Carlos Lopez and Wilman Rodriguez each had two hits.
Auburn 10, Vermont 2: Anderson Martinez gave up two runs on five hits over six innings. Chase McDowell and Tyler Mapes combined for three scoreless innings. Raudy Reed homered and drove in four runs. Osvaldo Abreu went 4 for 4 with a homer and three RBI.