After rough start, have the Nationals turned the corner?

By Jeremy Batka

This weekend marks the start of a very important 11 game home stand for the Washington Nationals. If the Nats have even the slightest hopes of post season baseball in 2019, they need to start beating the teams in front of them—but before we get there, how did the Nats get back to playing meaningful baseball?

Let’s think back to Memorial Day weekend- not the hamburgers or hot dogs, but the National’s record and sad state of affairs. Hovering around 10-12 games under 500, far from the first place Phillies, it almost seemed like Davey Martinez’ club was already out of playoff contention before the Memorial Day weekend charcoal had even cooled.

But since losing 4 straight in New York against the Mets, something unexpected has happened, the Nationals started to play better baseball. It started with taking 3-4 from the Marlins in an extended weekend series which led to the Nationals reeling off wins in 12 of their next 17 games. So, what changed so quickly?

Part of the reason for the Nationals underwhelming and downright ugly start to the 2019 season was a rash of injuries including Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman may not be the most shocking name to hit the injured list but you certainly don’t expect his backup, Matt Adams to join him there. Add injuries to Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, and Howie Kendrick and you’ll start to understand why the Nats fell so far below 500.

It wasn’t just injuries though- the nights when the offense provided a few runs they were most often givien back fairly quickly. The bullpen has by far been the greatest weakness of the 2019 Washington Nationals. Boasting the highest ERA in the NL for a long time in the early half of the season; outside of closer Sean Doolittle, they struggled to find an out. You had good starts from Corbin, Strasburg and especially Scherzer wasted due to the inability of the bullpen to get outs.

So as the Nationals enter their most important home stand of the season (so far) which includes matchups against the Phillies and Braves both of whom they are chasing, why should Nats fans have any faith that their winning ways will continue?

The truth is the Nats turnaround (or slight version of…) is a product of simply playing better baseball. The defense is not committing as many errors and the offense is providing timely hits. This, plus Strasburg, Sanchez and Scherzer having some great starting efforts without the bullpen giving the runs right back.

Turner took some time reaching 100% getting back from injury but he enters the long home stand on fire. Rendon is also hitting well lately and getting on base at an All-Star rate. Even the bullpen has produced some help for Doolittle as Tanner Rainey seems to be a strong 7th  or 8th inning option hitting mid to upper 90’s routinely.

Don’t pencil the Nats in the 2019 post season yet but they certainly have started to play better baseball since Memorial Day. Will they be good enough to make a run at the teams in front of them?

After this 11-game home stand, we may have our answer.

State of D.C. Sports

A quick look at what 2018 held for D.C. Sports

By J. Batka


The Capitals were by far the best D.C. Sports story to come out of 2018.  After years of playoff disappointment, Alex Ovechkin and company finally broke through and ended the Washington D.C. championship drought. What ensued was one of the greatest parties D.C. has ever seen which included fountain swimming, Stanley Cup keg stands and one epic Nationals game that saw the team crush beers until the final out.

After an off season filled with partying, the Capitals could have been forgiven for a “championship hangover” going into the 2018-19 season. That’s the real kicker; the Caps are red hot and show no signs of slowing down. Truly, the Caps are the pride of D.C. sports…. Now for the other teams.


For years the most popular team in the D.C./ tri- state area was by far the Redskins. But 2018 just may go down as the year that the fan base officially quit. TV ratings were down, ticket sales continued to decrease and the number of opposing team’s fans seem to double or even triple in the past 3 years climaxing in one terrible home field “advantage” in 2018.

What makes the Redskins 2018 season even more bitter to swallow is that this team was in first place. Sitting at 6-3, the Alex Smith led Skins seemed destined for at least a wild card spot in the playoffs. However, after Smith’s season ending injury, which eventually led to Mark Sanchez starting a MEANINGFUL game in December, it was clear this team would miss the playoffs for the 4th time in 5 years under Jay Gruden.

But probably the most jarring thing that Redskins fans should be worried about is the recent front office firings. Like a cold-hearted Montgomery Burns, Dan Snyder fired multiple business personal less than a year into their employment. Shows them for trying to fix the team! Unfortunately, between an arrogant front office and many quarterback issues leading into the offseason, 2019 is not looking bright for the Redskins.


The highlight of the D.C. baseball summer was by far the successful hosting of the All-Star Week festivities which culminated in Bryce Harper wining the homerun derby in dramatic fashion. The winning of a meaningless contest being the highlight of your season tells you all you need to know about how the Nationals faired in the games that mattered. 2018 saw the rise of a young and talented Atlanta Braves team who eventually went on to win the NL East. The Phillies also looked like contenders for the majority of the season and have money to spend this offseason, how aggressively they spend that money has yet to be seen. The point is that the Nationals are no longer the perennial favorite to win the NL East and contend for a world series; other teams are catching up if they haven’t already.

Of course, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room, the free agency of one Bryce Harper. Harper may decide to leave D.C. and if that happens the Nationals are actually in a good position for life without Harper. One of the good stories that came out of 2018 was the emergence of young outfield star Juan Soto. Combined with Adam Eaton, Victor Robles, and Michael A. Taylor, Soto would lead a crowded outfield sans Harper. Adding Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez will go a long way in bolstering a starting rotation that frankly underperformed (unless your name is Max Scherzer) in 2018.


What can you say about the year that was 2018 for the Wizards that you can’t say about 2017? Lets see if all these check out…

  1. John Wall is hurt
  2. The team plays no defense
  3. Ernie Grunfeld continues to make trades that seem like he is picking names out of a hat.
  4. Beal is reportedly unhappy
  5. They could play well enough to get close to the 8 seed in the East which will lead to no major changes in the offseason and another year of the “we are good on paper” argument.

Is that about right? The Wizards seem to be caught in mediocrity and for the first time in years, there is no Lebron James led team in the East that makes the finals every year. Unfortunately the Wizards are unable to bring in high quality talent. This past year Grunfeld went out and got Austin Rivers to help out the bench. Rivers was traded well before the All-Star break because, eh why not? The Wizards need to blow it up and start again, if they were smart, they would be doing everything in their power to tank for Zion Williamson but that would require them leaving mediocrity, a place their owner Ted Leonsis, seems to be happy with.

2019 should continue to be bright for the Caps. The Nats continue to reload and have a chance at a good 2019 if they can compete with the Braves. The Wizards and Redskins however…. well let’s check back in 2020 shall we?