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Monday, June 3, 2019

Nationals may finally be starting to heat up as June arrives in NL East

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It was a good week for Max Scherzer and the Nationals

This past week of action in Major League Baseball saw us pass Memorial Day and moved into the month of June. While the Philadelphia Phillies (33-26) remain in first place in the National League East Division standings, their lead has grown more tenuous.
Over this past weekend, I released my first MLB Power Rankings of the 2019 season. Fans of the team might be surprised to find that the Phillies ranked just 15th, exactly in the middle among the 30 teams.
This wasn’t an effort to be overly critical, provocative, or sensationalist. My Power Rankings are not at all based on my feelings. They are a statistics-based evaluation of where each team stands when factoring in offense, defense, and pitching factors, as well as their win-loss records.
The Phillies have remained atop their division largely because the other four teams haven’t done much to distinguish themselves this season. My rankings found the Braves as the top statistical team in the division, finishing four places above the Phillies at 12th overall in MLB. Meanwhile, the Mets, Marlins, and Nationals all ranked 22-23-24 in that order.
That the Phillies only turn out to rank as a middle-of-the-pack ball club should be cause for concern at this point. The team has major holes to fill in the starting rotation and on the bench, and has to find some way to overcome the plethora of injuries which have steadily eroded their bullpen depth.
And now, thanks to the arrest of their starting center fielder of the last five years on domestic assault charges, an incident that almost certainly has spelled the end of Odubel Herrera‘s time in Philly, the club powers-that-be have a hole in their starting lineup as well.
Currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak that is their longest of the season, the Phillies are now in San Diego for three games to end a 23-game stretch of the schedule that may be their toughest of the entire year. They are now 10-10 in that hard-fought month, which on balance is nothing of which to be ashamed.
The Phillies are a first-place baseball team. They have been perched atop the divisional standings for all but seven days in this 2019 regular season. But there remains a long summer ahead. Four months of grueling play. If they don’t address the holes, they will not remain on top for very long.
As always, my NL East Beat report reveals how each of those Phillies divisional rivals fared over the course of the past week: games scores, pivotal performers, key injuries, and other important updates on each team are included.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST DIVISION STANDINGS


EAST DIVISION

    East Division
    TeamWLW-L%GB
    Philadelphia Phillies3327.550--
    Atlanta Braves3227.5420.5
    New York Mets2831.4754.5
    Washington Nationals2633.4416.5
    Miami Marlins2136.36810.5

    ATLANTA BRAVES (2 – 3)

    Summary: The defending NL East champions had a losing week and still picked up a half-game in the standings on the Phillies, moving within one game of the division lead.
    They dropped the first three games of the week, two to the Mets and their series opener with the Detroit Tigers. Their offense then awoke to put 17 runs up on the scoreboard, allowing them to beat down the Tigers and win the final two games.
    Key injuries: Center fielder Ender Inciarte has a lumbar strain and is said to be weeks away from resuming baseball activity. Righty reliever Darren O’Day has missed two months with a forearm strain for two months and has not yet begun throwing.
    Upcoming: Following an off-day on Monday, Atlanta goes on the road this week. They will travel to face the host Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park for three games, and then down to Marlins Park for three over the weekend in Miami.

    MIAMI MARLINS (5 – 2)

    Summary: While the Fish are still in last place, they have played much better baseball of late. They have won 11 of their last 16 games, and now have three American League teams with a worse record than theirs.
    The Marlins took the finale of a four-game wrap-around series with the Washington Nationals on Monday after dropping the previous three last weekend. Then they captured two of three games against both the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants to fashion the NL East’s top record over the week.
    Key injuries: First baseman Neil Walker, who had been the club’s most consistent hitter over the first two months, hit the IL with a right quad strain. He is out for an undetermined length. Righty reliever Drew Steckinrider remains out with a flexor strain in his right forearm and hopes to return at some point after the all-star break.
    Upcoming: Miami is off on Monday, then travels to Milwaukee for a three-game set with the Brewers. After that, the Marlins return home to start a nine-game homestand, beginning with a visit from the Braves over the coming weekend.

    NEW YORK METS (2 – 5)

    Summary: The Mets suffered through an unsuccessful week out west, dropping three of four to the Los Angeles Dodgers and then two of three to the Arizona Diamondbacks. In each series, one of their losses came via walk-off fashion.
    Key injuries: Second baseman Robinson Cano missed the entirety of last week with a left quad strain. He is expected back in action this week. Super-utility man and Phillies-killer Jeff McNeil was lost to a hamstring strain and is likely to be out for this week, though he could return on the weekend. Infielder Jed Lowrie has a sprained left knee capsule and Grade 1 hamstring strain and has been moved to the 60-day IL. Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes will miss the rest of the season following right ankle surgery.
    Upcoming: Following a Monday off-day in the schedule the Mets will be home all week at CitiField, hosting the San Francisco Giants and then Colorado Rockies for three games each. It will the the start of 12 straight games in the Big Apple, with the only two “road” tilts coming at Yankee Stadium next week.

    WASHINGTON NATIONALS (4 – 2)

    Summary: The Nationals have appeared to be a sleeping giant, battling numerous key injuries while they got off to perhaps baseball’s most disappointing start to the season. However, the Nats have now won seven of their last nine, and could possibly be righting their ship.
    After dropping last Monday’s tilt to Miami at home, Washington traveled down to Atlanta and back up to Cincinnati. They swept the Braves in two games, then captured two of three in Cincy over the weekend. Now seven games behind the Phillies, it is the closest they have been to the top of the division since May 18.
    Key injuries: First baseman Ryan Zimmerman remains out as he battles plantar fasciitis with no exact timetable for a return. Their 5th starter, Jeremy Hellickson, is out indefinitely with a shoulder strain. The bullpen also remains dinged depth-wise with righties Trevor RosenthalKoda Glover, and Justin Miller all on the IL.
    Upcoming: The Nationals have Monday off and then host the Chicago White Sox for a pair of Interleague games. Washington then heads out on the road for a week. They start it by following the Phillies in to San Diego, where they will take on the Padres in a four-game long weekend series.



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