After losing five of their last six games of a seven-game home stand – including a three-game sweep by the Texas Rangers and two of three to the middling Atlanta Braves – a trip to the suddenly resurgent New York Mets seemed like a recipe for disaster for the Nationals. Bullpen issues continued and a couple of terrible starts from members of the rotation gave pundits more reason to be concerned. Yet, after winning three straight at Citi Field against the Mets, the Nationals simultaneously righted the ship and put a slight halt on the rise in the National League East standings for the Mets.
In Game One against Atlanta, Tyler Flowers hit a go-ahead three-run home run off Matt Albers in the ninth inning and Atlanta came from three runs down to beat Washington, 11-10, as Stephen Strasburg pitched five uneven innings in one of his worst starts of the season. The Nationals lost despite pounding out 17 hits, including three, each, by Trea Turner, Brian Goodwin, Michael Taylor and Adam Lind. Turner, Goodwin and Bryce Harper all homered.
In Game Two against Atlanta, Ryan Zimmerman returned from back soreness to hit his 18th and 19th homers and tie a career franchise record, as the Nationals scored five runs in the sixth inning in a 10-5 victory. However, Washington, nevertheless, lost the series in Game Three by a 13-2 score. Atlanta was in control from the start against starter Tanner Roark (6-4), who gave up two runs before he recorded an out in the first inning, an inning where he gave up a total of three runs.
In Game One of the Mets series, Gio Gonzalez (6-1) continued his solid 2017 season as he gave up few hits in seven innings, and improved to 10-1 at Citi Field in the 8-3 win. Bryce Harper crushed his 17th homer of the season, hammering this home run so sweetly, it sailed over the head of Mets right fielder Jay Bruce–twice. Harper’s home run left the bat at 116.3 miles per hour, his hardest-hit ball since Statcast began tracking in 2015.
Max Scherzer’s fifth consecutive game reaching double digits in strikeouts limited the Mets to four hits, leading the Nationals to a 7-2 win over New York on the night of June 16. And, Trea Turner hit a leadoff homer and the Nationals backed Stephen Strasburg with three long balls June 17, beating the Mets 7-4 to stay undefeated at Citi Field this season and to claim its third straight victory.
With a couple of weeks remaining before the All-Star break, bullpen help will become available via trade very shortly. It will behoove General Manager Mike Rizzo to make the necessary adjustments ASAP before this season becomes a waste because of a fixable problem.
Dion J. Johnson is editor-in-chief of Champagne in The Locker Room.