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Jun 19

Another Failed Test, But No Time to Wallow

Another big weekend series against one of baseball’s top teams, another setback.

Instead of showing that they can play with the hottest team in baseball, the Nats let the New York Yankees have their way at Nats Park, losing two games that weren’t even close and a 14-inning heartbreaker that showed there is still considerable distance between themselves and the top teams. This is the third straight month that the Nats have been put on the national stage against a division leader is playing well, and in those 9 games, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles and now the Yankees, the Nats are 1-8.

Thanks to the ineptitude of the rest of the NL East, though, the Nats are no worse off than they were entering the weekend, although their 4 1/2-game lead over the New York Mets is no longer the biggest in baseball. But they are still in first place, and there’s no time to wallow in the weekend sweep.

Up next are the Tampa Bay Rays, who are everything the Nats want to be — former division doormats who built a solid foundation of pitching and defense though the draft, and have two division titles, three postseason appearances and a pennant to show for it.

They Rays’ similarities t the Nats are startling. Their starting pitchers have an AL-best 3.58 ERA, and are coming off a stretch where they allowed four runs in three games and tossed two shutouts in taking two of three from the Marlins. The author of one of those blankings, Matt Moore, will face Gio Gonzalez in the series finale on Wednesday.

At the plate, the Rays don’t boast much more power than the Nats, with a middle-of-the-pack 67 homers to the Nats’ 64, but they have scored 40 more runs than the Nats on the season, while the Nationionals have a higher team batting average .242 to .235. The Nats might also be able to exploit the rays’ defense — Tampa Bay has made 58 errors on the season, second most ion the AL and 20 more than the Nats.