The motivation for the San Diego Padres is to solidify their hold on a playoff spot.
The Washington Nationals, who hold the worst record in the major leagues, have other priorities.
The Nationals would like to upstage the Padres and their former teammates who arrived with plenty of fanfare for a three-game series that wraps up Sunday afternoon in Washington.
“They play hard and they play to the end,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said of his team.
The teams have split the first two games, with the Padres winning in a 10-5 blowout Friday night and the Nationals responding from a three-run hole to claim a 4-3 victory Saturday night.
Outfielder Juan Soto and first baseman Josh Bell were the main parts of the huge trade-deadline deal between the teams less than two weeks ago. They went from the Nationals to the Padres.
The duo ended up right back in Washington for this series, and they’ve largely been showered with adoration from Nationals fans.
“I had some great moments here, but now we’ve got to just keep going,” Soto said. “(The Nationals) did the best thing for them and I’m happy. No hard feelings.”
Soto has provided an RBI single in each game of the series, going a combined 3-for-9 with two walks. Bell is 0-for-9 with two walks in the two games.
“I can look back at my time here (with the Nationals) and be at peace about it,” Bell said.
Perhaps the newest hero for Nationals fans is 30-year-old rookie Joey Meneses, whose opportunity largely arose because of the roster changes made following the trade deadline. Meneses has smacked five home runs in his nine games in the major leagues, including a game-tying homer Saturday night.
“He’s got a great two-strike approach,” Martinez said. “When he’s ahead of the count, he tries to drive the ball and it has been really good. A lot of fun watching him go out there and compete.”
Nationals veteran Nelson Cruz registered his 2,000th hit in the Saturday game.
San Diego center fielder Trent Grisham has homered in each game of the series so far. Padres manager Bob Melvin said he likes what Grisham is providing near the bottom of the lineup.
“The average (.201) doesn’t look good, but the production does,” Melvin said of Grisham, who has 15 homers and 46 RBIs.
The Nationals are 2-8 in their last 10 games. Their only series win since late June came when they took two of three from the host Los Angeles Dodgers from July 25-27, so they would enjoy doing the same against another of the National League West’s top teams.
Sunday’s scheduled starting pitcher for the Nationals is Paolo Espino (0-4, 4.04 ERA). Despite the right-hander’s record, Washington has won three of his past four starts.
Espino gave up three runs in 2 1/3 innings in his only career appearance against the Nationals, resulting in a no-decision on July 16, 2021.
Blake Snell (4-6, 3.96 ERA) will head to the mound for the Padres. The left-hander had a personal stretch of four consecutive winning decisions end on Monday when he took a 1-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants. Snell allowed one run on six hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out eight.
The former American League Cy Young Award winner has surrendered only one home run in his past five outings covering 26 1/3 innings.
Snell is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in two all-time starts against the Nationals.
–Field Level Media