MLB’s Trading Deadline saw the Nationals make multiple moves-each for a bullpen bandage (as opposed to previous bandaids or napkins like Javy Guerra and Dan Jennings).  Dan Hudson, Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland (yes, that guy) come to DC to patch up the worst bullpen in the big leagues.  And while the Nats still need to get solid starting pitching plus continue to produce on offense to make the middle relievers worthwhile pickups, it’s a step in the right direction even in the middle of a week where the team dropped four of six to now lose three straight series.

Digesting the Division- Atlanta (66-47) went 4-3 last week with a huge road series win at the Nationals.  While the Braves aren’t running away with the NL East (they’re 12-10 since the All Star break), they aren’t imploding either (6-4 against division foes since the hiatus).  Philadelphia’s 3-3 week moves Bryce Harper’s Bunch into a second-place tie with the Nats, just in time to visit fellow Wildcard contenders Arizona and San Francisco.  The New York Mets (55-56) had the best week in the division at 5-1, and their trade for Marcus Stroman keeps them in the conversation for some time.  Miami’s irrelevance was underscored at the deadline as Derek Jeter spent all of 2018 getting rid of their servicable players.  Dark days, indeed.

Wild Wildcard Race-  three and a half games separate seven teams competing for two playoff spots.  While St. Louis and Milwaukee are also involved in the NL Central race with the Chicago Cubs, it’s Wildcard or bust for Arizona and San Francisco (barring a collapse of epic proportions by the Los Angeles Dodgers).  While right now it’s the Cardinals followed by the Nats and Phillies, expect weekly and even daily changes to the pecking order over the final 50 games of the season.

O’s Woes- the Birds are 38-73 after a 3-3 week that has them now on pace to win 55 games; while a sub-100 loss campaign remains a possibility they’d have to finish 25-26 to get there.  This week’s bright spot in the Charm City is Trey Mancini, who’s already reached a career high with 26 home runs and is on pace to pass his career mark of 78 RBI while counting down the days to when he’ll eventually sign years from now as a free agent with Atlanta.

Harper’s Weekly- Bryce batted .111 as his average drops to .248.  He’s still on pace to hit 28 homers and 107 RBI while the free-swinger remains on track to strike out 190 times.  He also has seven weeks to prepare for a potential showdown with Hunter Strickland, who hit Harper in the hip on Memorial Day 2017 in retaliation for two homers hit in the 2014 playoffs.  What are the odds they face one another once in the four-game September series?

Last Week’s Heroes- Anthony Rendon hit .304 with a pair of homers and 9 RBI (SIGN HIM IMMEDIATELY) while Howie Kendrick went 5-for-10 at the plate and Juan Soto belted 3 home runs.  Joe Ross (!?!) one week after getting roasted by the Los Angeles Dodgers at home tossed 5.1 scoreless innings at Arizona (an infield single ruining the no-hit bid), while Tony Sipp, Daniel Hudson and Roenis Elias were all sharp out of the bullpen.

Last Week’s Humbled– after being named July’s NL pitcher of the month, Stephen Strasburg hiccuped by allowing nine earned runs over 4.2 innings against the Diamondbacks. Patrick Corbin had a less than ideal start in the rubber game Sunday. Anibal Sanchez allowed four runs over five innings against Atlanta.  And Roenis Elias suffered a strained hamstring running out a grounder.  At the plate, Yan Gomes batted .091 while Victor Robles hit .063.

Game to Watch- Friday the Nats face the New York Mets with Stephen Strasburg attempting to regain his July groove (5-0, 44 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.14) against the Mets deadline-week pickup Marcus Stroman (6-11 but with a 3.07 ERA this year).  Will the Nationals still be in the Wildcard lead?

Game to Miss- Wednesday the team wraps up its series with San Francisco, who starts “Shaun Anderson”. Not to be confused with former Navy scoring machine “Sean Anderson” or current WTOP PM Drive Anchor “Shawn Anderson”.  I’m not ready to have multiple worlds collide…even on a weekday afternoon.