Nationals Notebook: Season ends with disappointment, but hope

The long Nationals nightmare ends this week.

The long Nationals nightmare ends this week. But not yet, thanks to the lockout their series with the New York Mets was tacked on to the end of this year’s regular season schedule.

We get three more games of a 100-plus loss team after the first weekend of October.

Unlike last season, 2022 did not begin with championship hopes. But like 2021, another last place finish is in the books.

If one wants to play the optimist there are plenty of pieces on the field for a future contender, from Keibert Ruiz to C.J. Abrams. Lane Thomas and Luis Garcia are nice complimentary players as well, and nobody can take away the two months Joey Meneses (. 327 with 13 homers and 34 RBI in his first 53 MLB games) has enjoyed.

The question moving forward: What sort of starting pitching Mike Rizzo and company can cobble together for 2023?

The 2012-19 contenders were built on starting pitching and until the team builds another decent rotation, they’ll be merely pretenders.

Luis Garcia hit .350 while driving in seven runs this past week to cement his future hold on second base. (AP/Nick Wass)

Ain’t Missing You — San Diego clinched a Wild Card berth Sunday with Milwaukee’s loss, allowing the duo of Juan Soto and Josh Bell the opportunity for October redemption after underwhelming regular season stretches with the Padres since being traded out west.

Over 50 games, Soto’s hitting .244 with six homers and 16 RBI while Bell’s batting .198 with three homers and 13 RBI. Since the day of the trade, San Diego is 28-26.

Digesting the Division — Atlanta (100-59) sweeps into first place of the NL East and takes a two-game lead over the New York Mets (98-61) with three to play. And to do so, they had to get the better of Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom.

The Braves (who hold the regular season series tiebreaker) own the No. 2 seed while the Mets would get the No. 4 seed. Philadelphia (86-73) has the last playoff spot all but sewn up, holding a two-game lead over Milwaukee (and the tiebreaker) with three games remaining.

Miami (67-92) is on track for 2025 while the Nationals (55-104) bring up the rear. Again.

O’s Woes — Sadly, the summer surge (from July 3 to Sept. 3 the Birds went 36-17) wasn’t enough to power the plucky team from the Charm City into the postseason, as the Orioles’ playoff hopes ended Friday.

But given the state of this team these last few seasons just to get to the final day of September in contention (albeit with the expanded format) was an achievement in and of itself. And the pieces are in place to compete — at least until Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson hit free agency.

Plus, they won’t have to play 19 games against the Yankees, Rays, Jays and Sox next year thanks to the new scheduling. It’s morning at Camden Yards!

Last Week’s Heroes — Luis Garcia hit .350 with a team-high seven RBI, while Joey Meneses batted .333 and Luke Voit drove in five. Kyle Finnegan posted a win in relief, while Steve Cishek notched three scoreless innings over three outings.

Josiah Gray hasn’t recorded a win since July, but allowed one run over six innings in his last start of 2022.

Last Week’s Humbled — Minor League call-up Tommy Romero allowed eight runs over 3.2 innings before being sent down, while Anibal Sanchez allowed four runs over five frames in his start. Riley Adams hit .077, while Victor Robles batted .091. Alex Call kept them company by hitting .133.

Game to Watch — Wednesday afternoon the season wraps up against the New York Mets, as Erick Fedde is slated to start. No longer a prospect in the system waiting for his chance, it’s time to see whether or not Fedde is a fixture in the future — or just another player passing through.

Game to Miss — Paolo Espino would be central casting’s “player passing through.” And sadly, in a season where so much has gone wrong, Espino has had to fill in the gaps on the mound, starting 18 games while appearing out of the bullpen in 23 more outings.

He’s 0-8 with an ERA of 4.30 entering his Tuesday start against the Mets.

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