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Nationals Notebook: CJ Abrams heading to Texas for All-Star Game

Washington Nationals shortstop CJ Abrams (5) throws to first base to put out New York Mets' Ben Gamel during the fifth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 4, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)(AP/Nick Wass)

The Washington Nationals’ series with St. Louis won’t wrap up until Monday evening and, while they stand five and a half games behind the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot after Sunday’s 8-3 loss, there is plenty of optimism 90 games into the 2024 season.

You see, for the first time in a while, the future ceiling of this club can actually be seen in Washington on a nightly basis.

James Wood’s debut last week (it wasn’t “The Way We Were like his actor semi-namesake, but the rookie went 1-4 with a walk) was the latest Major League promotion of a prime prospect. We’ve seen position players Nasim Nu帽ez and Trey Lipscomb make their big league debuts this season while pitchers Mitchell Parker and DJ Herz have also posted their first MLB starts.

Saturday’s 14-6 win over St. Louis saw Washington post a lineup with the average age of 25. Nobody is blocking off vacation time for early October, but the summer of possibilities carries an anticipation we haven’t really seen in some time.

One of the young players who’s part of the new nucleus will be busy during the All-Star break as shortstop CJ Abrams is heading to Arlington, Texas, as a reserve for the National League team.

“Man, it’s exciting, I know,” Abrams said Sunday afternoon after learning of his selection. “I’m just grateful for everybody in this clubhouse. For my family, friends, and the fans. I’m excited to represent the Nats in Arlington.”

Abrams ranks sixth in runs scored and fourth in RBI for shortstops (counting only plate appearances when the player is at short as opposed to a different position, designated hitter, or pinch-hitting). Since taking over the leadoff spot in the batting order last year at this time Abrams has been a spark for the lineup, currently ranking fourth in RBI from the leadoff position.

“He’s the guy who makes us go,” manager Davey Martinez said Sunday. “Since the middle of last year when I put him in the leadoff spot, he’s really taken ownership and gets us going.”

As Abrams continues to mature in his role at the plate and as the defensive linchpin of the infield, there will be more quality players around the shortstop. In future visits to the midsummer classic, Abrams likely won’t be as lonely.

All-Star Thoughts: The Nationals had other candidates for the team’s spot in Arlington this month, with Jake Irvin’s 2.80 ERA ranking fifth best in the NL and Kyle Finnegan ranking second in the league with 23 saves. But on a team that’s under .500, All-Star selections are few and far between.

Digesting the Division: Philadelphia (58-32) dropped two of three games to Atlanta (49-39) over the weekend as their NL East lead dips to eight games. While Ozzie Albies owned the weekend (5-11 with five runs and four RBI), the Braves’ Reynaldo Lopez’s six shutout innings Sunday dropped the right-hander’s ERA to an MLB-best 1.71. He’s got company, though, as four of the 10 best starter ERA’s in all of the big leagues belong to Braves or Phillies pitchers (Ranger Suarez, Zack Wheeler, and Chris Sale join Lopez in the uppermost tier).

The New York Mets (44-44) are in Seinfeldian “Even-Steven” territory again after splitting a four-game series in Washington. While their big bats are having decent seasons, their home run leader Pete Alonso’s hitting .200 in seven games against the Nats while the Mets top RBI man Brandon Nimmo has driven in only a pair over six games. Washington (42-48) faces the Mets three times this week. Miami (32-58) snapped a five-game losing streak Saturday. The Marlins have now posted five losing streaks of five games or longer this year, one way to stay in the cellar.

Break up the Birds: Baltimore (57-33) owns a three-game cushion over the slumping New York Yankees who have lost 15 of 20, including a come-from-ahead extra-inning defeat to Boston on “George Costanza Bobblehead Night” in the Bronx (perhaps they should have honored Mr. Wilhelm?). While Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman were voted to the All-Star team as starting position players the only reserve/pitcher to be named to the initial AL team was Corbin Burnes (9-3 with a 2.32 ERA). The case could have easily been made for Anthony Santander and Jordan Westburg as well as pitchers Grayson Rodriguez and Craig Kimbrel and for a team that’s tied for the best record in the AL (Cleveland was percentage points ahead of the O’s Sunday night) one feels they’ll have one or two additions between now and next Sunday.

Diamonds Direct Diamond King:聽Jesse Winker is not a part of the team’s long-term plans, meaning he is likely a former National at the end of this month. But the offseason pickup has paid dividends in the middle of the lineup and last week he hit .421 while scoring eight runs and driving in four. He also hit a solo homer to provide the difference in a series split-salvaging win over the Mets on Independence Day, proudly wearing the Uncle Sam hat for quite some time after rounding the bases.

Last Week’s Heroes:聽Luis Garcia Jr. hit .500 with three home runs and eight RBI while Keibert Ruiz went .364 at the plate with five RBI. And James Wood? The former prime prospect batted .304, scoring four runs while driving in six. He also belted his first Major League homer. Jake Irvin struck out eight over eight scoreless innings on Independence Day to help the Nats secure a split of their series with the New York Mets. Jacob Barnes went 2-0 while posting three scoreless innings over two relief outings.

Last Week’s Humbled:聽Hunter Harvey allowed six runs over 3.1 innings, posting a loss and a blown save. Robert Garcia coughed up four runs over 4.2 frames while Mitchell Parker surrendered five runs over six innings in his lone start. Harold Ramirez went 1-9 at the plate while Ildemaro Vargas batted 2-16, and Nick Senzel hit 2-12 before being designated for assignment.

Game to Watch: On Sunday, the Nats wrap up the first half of their season in Milwaukee with a major mound matchup. Jake Irvin (7-6, 2.80 ERA) faces Colin Rea (8-2, 3.34 ERA). Sometimes, the last game before the break is a relief (check out the last two years) but this time it’s one that might whet our appetite for the second half of the season.

Game to Miss: Between Grimace and “OMG!,” I am kind of tired of the New York Mets at this point (although it is a catchy tune). The Nats play three games at Citi Field this week and I’m obligated to watch David Peterson’s start Thursday afternoon, so I’m going to skip Patrick Corbin’s turn Wednesday night. Instead, check out my appearance on “Toyota SportsTalk” with Scott Abraham on WJLA-24/7 at 9 p.m. We’ll be talking about the Nationals.

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Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at 91欧美激情 since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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