Nationals in a hole, and this year they’re short on time

MLB

For a second straight season, the Washington Nationals are off to an awful start.

There may be no coming back from this one.

A 10-3 loss to Atlanta on Sunday dropped the Nationals to 14-25 on the season. Washington famously started 19-31 last year before going on to win the World Series. In this shortened season, the Nationals don’t have much time to right themselves. Even with an expanded postseason, Washington is five games behind the final playoff spot in the National League.

In the NL, only Pittsburgh (13-26) has a worse record than Washington. The Nationals have had some bright spots – Trea Turner (.365) leads the majors in hitting, and Juan Soto (.354) would be close behind if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.

Other numbers aren’t as pretty. Washington has a 5.27 ERA as a team – even Max Scherzer’s is just a tick under 4.00. Stephen Strasburg made two starts and is now out for the season. Anthony Rendon left in the offseason.

Actually, this year’s Nationals kind of resemble Rendon’s new team, the Los Angeles Angels – with a couple guys playing like MVP candidates while the team as a whole struggles.

The defining moment so far in Washington’s frustrating season may have come Sunday, when general manager Mike Rizzo was ejected for yelling at umpires from a luxury suite.

CUTTING IT CLOSE

While the Nationals have struggled from the start, the New York Yankees figured to be in the clear for a postseason spot after their 16-6 start.

But these next few weeks have suddenly become serious for the Yankees, who have won just five of their last 18 games and are in third place in the AL East. New York just lost three of four to Baltimore, and the Yankees lead the Orioles and Tigers by only two games for the final playoff spot in the American League.

Houston actually has the same record as New York, but the Astros are comfortably in second place in their division, making their postseason position less precarious. Houston just dropped four straight against the Angels.

TRIVIA TIME

The San Diego Padres were awfully busy prior to this year’s trade deadline, making a series of deals in which they acquired Mike Clevinger, Mitch Moreland and Trevor Rosenthal, among others. The Padres, who added free agent star Manny Machado prior to last season, are in second place in the NL West and in good shape to make the playoffs.

This recent aggression by San Diego is probably a welcome sight for fans of the Padres, who haven’t always been buyers in the trade market. In 1993, San Diego executed an infamous fire sale, dealing Fred McGriff and Gary Sheffield in the middle of the season.

The Padres did acquire one future star in the deal for Sheffield, however. Who was he?

HIGHLIGHT

Luis Robert looks like he’ll be pulling off defensive gems for the Chicago White Sox for years to come. He made a sensational diving catch against Kansas City on Maikel Franco’s drive to right-center field.

Robert, who had been positioned over in left-center, had to cover 86 feet in 4.5 seconds to make the catch, according to Statcast.

LINE OF THE WEEK

Even at Coors Field, this performance by San Francisco’s Alex Dickerson on Tuesday night stood out: three homers and two doubles in a 23-5 win.

Dickerson tied a franchise record set by Willie Mays for total bases in a game,

TRIVIA ANSWER

Trevor Hoffman, then a 25-year-old rookie, came over to San Diego from Florida in the trade for Sheffield. He would go on to become a six-time All-Star for San Diego and, eventually, a Hall of Famer.

Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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