It’s been quite a few days for the Washington Nationals. They have a new owner, left fielder Alfonso Soriano has yet to be traded and they look to extend their winning streak to five games Wednesday when their three-game series continues against the San Francisco Giants.
Since the acquisition of the Nationals by the Lerner Group from Major League Baseball became public on Friday, Washington has gone 4-0, including an 8-6 win Tuesday against the Giants (51-49).
The Nationals used a five-run third to open a 7-2 lead, but the Giants closed within 7-6 by the eighth inning as Ray Durham hit two home runs. But that was as close as the Giants would get, however, as Ryan Church hit an RBI sacrifice fly to provide an insurance run for Washington (44-56), which has won six of its last eight.
“We’re getting pretty good starting pitching, the hitting has come together, we have timely hitting throughout the lineup, and we’re playing good defense,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “I like the way we’re playing right now, absolutely.”
Soriano—the most sought-after player heading towards the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline—was 0-for-3, hit by a pitch and scored a run. He is batting .421 (16-for-38) with four homers since the All-Star break, putting aside the distractions of constant trade rumors with strong offensive play.
“The last seven days, I’ve seen my name (linked) with five different teams, so I’m laughing,” Soriano said. “I know and I understand it’s a very difficult decision for the team.”
The lack of action was welcomed by his teammates, who would like to see Soriano, who leads the team in hits, runs scored and home runs, remain with the club.
“He’s been our heart and soul this year,” said second baseman Jose Vidro, who went on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a strained left hamstring. “Everybody wishes he could stay here with us.”
The Nationals will look to tie a season-high, five-game winning streak set from May 31-June 5 as they send Pedro Astacio (1-1, 5.75 ERA) to the mound. Astacio has struggled to find his form after missing the first three months of the season with a strained right forearm.
He did not receive a decision in either of his last starts, including last Friday against the Chicago Cubs in Washington’s 7-6 win. The veteran right-hander allowed three runs and six hits in a season-high 6 1-3 innings.
Astacio is 6-4 with a 4.12 ERA in 22 appearances against the Giants.
San Francisco will counter with Noah Lowry (5-6, 4.45), who bounced back following one of his worst starts of the season with a solid performance last Thursday against the San Diego Padres in a 9-3 win. He carried a shutout into the ninth inning before allowing three runs, struck out a season-high six and was lifted two outs short of a complete game.
“I felt pretty good going into the ninth inning,” said Lowry, who missed all but one start in April because of strained side muscle. “In that last inning, I just didn’t make the pitches and it cost us a couple of runs. But it’s a win and that’s all that matters. Of course I wanted to go out in that ninth inning and finish it, but I’m just glad we won.”
Lowry lost his only start to the Nationals, yielding four runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 9-3 defeat last season.