The 2022 season, and the Nationals’ place in it, is starting to crystallize now, over two weeks into the season. There have been some surprises for sure—the Mets, so far, are not Mets-ing, the Angels may finally be good this year, and the Rockies led the NL West for one glorious moment. But for the most part, things have stayed relatively consistent, with the Nats expectedly taking all the hits of a rebuilding team. It’s a long season with over 140 games left to go, but I feel confident assuming that the Nationals’ 2022 season will go something like what we’ve already witnessed: awesome, blowout wins of 11-2, followed by embarrassing, very large blowout losses of 16-4.
This weekend, the Nationals (6-9) host the Giants (8-5) for a three-game series. While we will escape their terrifying ace Carlos Rodón (don’t worry, we’ll see him in San Francisco in two weeks, we weren’t about to get off that easy), the rest of their rotation is no less formidable, with the fifth-best ERA in baseball. Plus, the Giants may be ready to kick butt and take names after dropping three of four to the Mets in New York. Read below for a preview of the three-game homestead!
Friday, April 22, 7:05 PM EST (MASN): LHP Patrick Corbin (0-2, 7.50) vs. LHP Sam Long (0-0, 0.00)
I am stressed about Patrick Corbin. Although he was somewhat passable on Opening Day, he has since struggled mightily. In his last start on April 17, for example, he was not the ace we needed him to be: although he went 5.1 innings, he allowed 3 hits for 2 runs, walking 3 and striking out 4. Against the Pirates. And somehow, that was one of his better starts this year: the loss on April 12 to the Braves, where he only went 2.2 innings and allowed 9 hits for 6 runs in an eventual 16-4 loss, haunts us all. Shack wrote an excellent piece last week about what could be contributing to Corbin’s struggles, pinpointing his pitch movement and inconsistent release point as one possibility.
Long, meanwhile, will be making his first start of the 2022 season tonight. He’s replacing Alex Cobb, who left his start against the Mets on Tuesday with a right groin injury and is now on the 10-day IL. In his three appearances so far, he’s done well: he’s struck out three and allowed only one walk, no hits, keeping his ERA at a cool 0.00. However, that’s across only 2.1 innings, and he has yet to be tested this season as a starting pitcher. In his rookie season last year, he played in 12 games, starting 5 of those, and ultimately had an ERA of 5.53—comparable to Corbin’s 2021 ERA of 5.82, albeit across fewer starts.
I’m not sure how bad Corbin will be tonight, and Long is a bit of an unknown quantity in this game. Nevertheless, I do believe optimistically that the Nationals will win at least one game in this series. If that’s going to become reality, it has to be this game—the next two pitching matchups are just too tough.
Prediction: Nationals win, 5-3. Corbin has a slightly better than expected night, but still nothing special, and our offense triumphs as Long struggles in his first big start of the season. Prediction for Corbin’s final line: 5.2 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts.
Saturday, April 23, 1:05 PM EST (MASN): RHP Josiah Gray (2-1, 3.14) vs. LHP Alex Wood (1-0, 1.93)
Help us, Josiah Gray, you’re our only hope. Gray is quite possibly the best starter we have right now, and so even though I think our best shot for a win is Friday night, our best shot for a competent pitching performance is Saturday afternoon. In his last performance against the Diamondbacks on April 19, during the afternoon rescheduled game, Gray went 5.1 innings and only allowed 1 hit and 1 run. He also only allowed one walk and struck out a fantastic 8 batters. If he can repeat that type of performance—or his performance from April 14 game against the Pirates, where he allowed 1 hit and 3 walks but zero runs—I think he might be able to make it to 6 innings this time around.
And we’re going to need all the help we can get, considering who we’re facing. Alex Wood has made only two starts so far, but each has been excellent by the Nationals’ standards. In his last start, on April 21 against the Guardians, he pitched 5 innings for 4 hits, no runs, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts. His start before that was less auspicious: in 4.1 IP, he allowed for 5 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts. He’s increased his velocity this season, with his sinker averaging 92.5 mph, his changeup averaging 86.5 mph, and his slider averaging 84.7 mph. Each has increased by between .7 and 1.2 mph.
I think Gray has the potential to have a nice night here, but I don’t think the Nationals will ultimately come out on top against Wood’s pitching.
Prediction: Giants win, 6-2. Gray does well with a final line of 6 IP (I’m being optimistic), 3 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts. The bullpen, which has been better than expected so far, finally loses its luck and takes care of those four additional runs.
Sunday, April 24, 1:35 PM EST (MASN): RHP Joan Adon (1-2, 5.87) vs. RHP Logan Webb (1-1, 2.55)
I am not sure which version of Joan Adon we’ll get on Sunday, which will be his fifth ever start in the majors. We very well could get the version we saw in the night game on April 19, when he became our first starter to go six innings. In that game, he allowed 3 hits but zero runs, with an additional two walks and five strikeouts. He worked himself out of a few jams, with Víctor Arano coming in at the sixth to clean up the last one. However, we could also get the version we saw the week before, on April 14 against Pittsburgh: in our 9-4 loss, Adon made it only 4.2 IP with 9 hits (including two home runs), 6 runs, 3 walks, and 5 strikeouts.
That said, it doesn’t really matter what version of Adon we get on Sunday. Logan Webb will be starting, and he has been consistently incredibly no matter who he’s facing. His last game on April 19 being a loss to the Mets doesn’t really count—in a duel against our old buddy Mad Max, even the best pitchers might get the yips, and Webb was no exception with 3.2 I, 6 hits, 3 runs, and 3 walks. But his start on April 13 against the Padres more than made up for his later performance, as he went 8 innings with 4 hits, 1 run, no walks, and 7 strikeouts. Can you imagine a Nats pitcher going 8 innings?(!) Webb also pitched excellently during the Giants’ home opener on April 8 against the Marlins, with only 5 hits, 1 run, and 1 walk in 6 IP.
I think we will unquestionably lose this one, and Webb will shut down our offense decisively. The question here is, by how much?
Prediction: Giants win, 5-1. I think Adon won’t have a great start and will be responsible for the entirety of the damage, with our bullpen able to contain it after. Webb will be too much for our struggling offense to handle. Prediction for Adon’s final line: 4 IP, 8 hits, 5 runs, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts.
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