By Arthur Cribbs/The Sports Pulse Contributor
WASHINGTON – Entering the week of Aug. 28 with an 11-17 record, the Washington Nationals looked poised to turn their season around on the road, with a series in Boston, followed by four games in Philadelphia.
However, the defending champions struggled, losing their last six games heading into the weekend.
Washington Nationals: 10
Boston Red Sox: 2
The Nationals faced off against the Boston Red Sox in the battle of two teams with bad records.
On the field, Washington broke open the scoring in the third inning, on a two-run double by Trea Turner. It was quickly followed up with a two-run home run by Juan Soto. Howie Kendrick would then follow suit with a solo home run of his own, giving the Nationals a 5-0 lead.
Washington continued their offensive explosion to rack up 10 runs, notably in the eighth inning with a home run over the centerfield wall by Josh Harrison.
Turner and Victor Robles led the team with three hits apiece, as Turner extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
The offense was more than enough with Max Scherzer on the mound. He won his third game of the season, allowing just one run over six innings. Scherzer also matched a season-high with 11 strikeouts in the game. The outing marked Scherzer’s 97th career double-digit strikeout game, tying Sandy Koufax for fifth all-time in such games.
“It’s been a lot of hard work over the years,” Scherzer said. “The fact that you can even mention me in the same breath as him, it’s an honor.”
Boston Red Sox: 5
Washington Nationals: 3
Looking to continue the momentum from the series opener, the Nationals added a fresh face, acquiring former Red Sox infielder Brock Holt on Saturday.
Early in the second game, Washington threatened in the first inning with a leadoff double by Turner but were unable to bring him home. The Red Sox responded with a three-run home run in the bottom half of the inning and another run in the second frame.
In the third inning, the Nationals responded with three runs, capped off by an RBI double by Kendrick, who later scored on an Adam Eaton single. The Nationals would nearly score again in the fifth inning, but Kurt Suzuki was thrown out at the plate, trying to score on a single by Turner.
Turner led the offensive with a 5-5 night at the plate.
“I think tonight I just was just as good at executing that kind of game plan,” said Turner.
Despite Turner’s hitting performance at the top of the lineup, the offense was not enough as starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez picked up his fourth loss of the year. After tossing his best performance of the year in his last start, he allowed five runs in five innings.
Boston Red Sox: 9
Washington Nationals: 5
The Red Sox fired a pair of early home runs to take an early 5-0 lead by the third inning. The Nationals answered with a couple of runs in the second inning on an RBI single by Soto and a sacrifice fly by Asdrubal Cabrera.
Trailing 8-2 in the fourth inning, Harrison hit his second home run of the series. In the following inning, Eric Thames went deep over the right-field wall for a solo home run. Eaton cut the deficit down to three runs after an RBI triple, but the Nationals fell short in winning the series finale.
Austin Voth’s struggles on the mound continued as he took the loss after allowing five runs in just two innings. He is now winless in six starts this year, with a 7.99 ERA.
“We have to reassess what is going on with him. He’s falling behind,” Manager Dave Martinez said. “We need to get more out of him.”
Philadelphia Phillies: 8
Washington Nationals: 6
After losing two straight games to close out their series in Boston, the Nationals headed to the City of Brotherly Love for three games against the Phillies. Aug. 31 also represented the trade deadline, but Washington elected to stood pat and not move any pieces.
Right-hander Erick Fedde surrendered solo home runs in each of the first two innings. He also allowed an additional four runs in the fourth inning as the Phillies extended the lead to 6-0.
The Nationals rallied back with a two-run home run in the fifth inning from Soto and a pair of solo shots in the seventh inning by Michael A. Taylor and Turner. Philadelphia extended the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning and even after another home run by Soto in the ninth inning, the Nationals offense fell short for their third consecutive loss.
Turner and Soto led Washington’s offense atop the batting order with a combined six hits and five runs scored. They both are leading the league in batting average and while he missed the early parts of the season, Soto ranks in the top 10 in home runs.
“They are seeing the ball well; they are hitting the ball well,” Martinez said. “They are feeding off each other right now.
Fedde picked up the loss, allowing six runs over six innings of work.
Philadelphia Phillies: 6
Washington Nationals: 0
Both teams began the second game of the series with solid pitching, holding each other scoreless through the first four innings. Philadelphia scored two runs in the fifth inning against Patrick Corbin, before adding four runs in the sixth off relief pitcher Kyle Finnegan.
Corbin picked up the loss with two runs allowed in his five innings of work.
Washington had no answer to starter Aaron Nola. The lineup recorded four hits and was shut out for the second time this season. Turner went hitless, ending his 16-game hitting streak. With the loss, the Nationals lost seven of their last eight games.
“We have to keep our heads up; we have to stick together and come back tomorrow and play good, clean baseball,” said Martinez.
Philadelphia Phillies: 3
Washington Nationals: 0
With both teams scoreless through three innings, Philadelphiajumped on the scoreboard first with two runs in the fourth inning. Jay Bruce added to the Phillies’ lead with a solo home run in the sixth.
Scherzer picked up the loss despite a quality start where he allowed three runs over six innings. Washington’s lineup was silenced by Phillies starter Zack Wheeler as they were limited to four hits and shutout for the second consecutive game.
“I’m really trying to focus on location, but sometimes I get caught nibbling just a little bit too much when I should be aggressive,” said Scherzer.
Turner went hitless and never made it onto base, ending a streak of reaching base in 23 consecutive games. Kurt Suzuki, who hit the lone extra-base hit for the Nationals with a ninth-inning double, extended his hitting streak to 12 games.
Sept. 3 (10 innings)
Philadelphia Phillies: 6
Washington Nationals: 5
Looking to avoid a four-game sweep in Philadelphia, the Nationals jumped to an early 2-0 deficit but answered in the third inning on a two-run inside-the-park home run by Turner. Turner’s home run marked the first runs scored by the team since Aug. 31.
With the game tied 4-4 in the seventh inning, Taylor hit a go-ahead home run, giving Washington its first lead at any point during the Philadelphia series.
The lead was short-lived as the Phillies forced the game into extra innings. Alec Bohm produced late-game heroics with a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 10th inning.
Starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez lasted 3.1 innings, allowing four runs (one earned) on eight hits.
After winning once all week, Washington will face stiffer competition as the season beings to wind down.
They will head to Atlanta for four games against the Braves, who stand atop the NL East standings. The Nationals will then return home for two games against the Tampa Bay Rays, who sit at first place in the AL East. Washington ends the week hosting the Braves for a weekend four-game homestand.