BALTIMORE – If the Washington Nationals want to make a move in the National League East, this might be the week.
The Nats were scheduled to take on second-place Philadelphia in a four-game series starting on June 17 and then the division-leading Atlanta Braves in a three-game set beginning June 21.
Washington split a four-game series with Arizona last weekend, that left them sitting in fourth place 8 ½ games out of first. But playing the top two teams in the division gives Washington a shot at making some noise, Manager Dave Martinez said.
“For me, this is a big week,” Martinez said. “We got a chance to make up some ground here.”
But it will not be easy. They will be playing two of the best teams in the National League and although Washington comes into this series having won 14 of its last 21 games and needs to keep up that pace during these two series.
The Nationals are coming off of a 15-5 win on June 16 in the series finale against the Diamondbacks. Matt Adams led the way after he belted a grand slam plus a three-run home run for a seven RBI in the victory.
On June 14, pitcher Max Scherzer struck out 10 batters in seven innings to win his third straight start in a 7-3 victory over Arizona. The right-hander has moved past Bob Feller and Warren Spahn into 27th place on the all-time list for strikeouts. The pitcher was happy to hear the news when told about it after the game.
“Sweet, let’s keep going,” Scherzer said.
He is now 5-5 this season as the Nationals have scored three runs or less in 10 of his 15 starts. However, after breaking his nose during batting practice on June 18, Scherzer may miss his weekend start against Atlanta, Martinez said.
Orioles fall in Boston
The Baltimore Orioles headed to the West Coast last week for a one-week road trip after a disastrous homestand where they lost five of six to Toronto Blue Jays and then in Boston.
The Red Sox finished the deal by sweeping three games from the Orioles, the last one being a tough 8-6 loss in 10 innings on June 16. Baltimore had taken a 3-2 lead in the eighth thanks to two steals from Jonathan Villar, who then scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.
Stevie Wilkerson followed up with a triple and came home on a Hanser Alberto single.
But Boston answered in the ninth with a Marco Henderson home run off pitcher Mychal Givens, sending the game into extra innings. Givens would then give up another home run off of Rafael Devers to start the 10th inning.
David Hess came on but would also give up two two-run singles as Boston led by five runs.
The Orioles managed to score three runs in the 10th but it was too late to mount a comeback.
Manager Brandon Hyde, who got tossed earlier in the game for arguing an interference call, said his team has been dealing with difficult losses.
“We’ve had our share of tough losses this year,” Hyde said. “I’ve never seen a club go through so much in the first few months of the season. A lot of good things happened (in this game). It just didn’t end well.”
In a midweek break from league play, D.C. United rallied for two late goals to edge the Philadelphia Union 2-1 in extra time in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup at Audi Field on June 12.
After going scoreless for 90 minutes of regulation time, the Union got on the score sheet first in extra time in the 113th minute as Anthony Fontana beat backup goalkeeper Chris Seitz. Five minutes later, defender Chris McCann power through with a thunderous header off a corner kick for a D.C. goal to tie the game.
United would be awarded a penalty kick after midfielder Luciano Acosta was brought down inside the penalty area. English striker Wayne Rooney buried it in the final moments of the second period of extra time to lock up the victory.
“We had a few half decent chances and showed good character at the end to come back and get the win,” Rooney said. “Overall (in) a cup game, the most important thing is to get yourself through to the next round, so that’s what we did tonight.”
United will host New York City FC on June 19 in the round of 16 of the single-elimination tournament. D.C. are attempting to win their fourth U.S. Open Cup trophy in club history.