If this weekend is a showcase for the Washington Nationals’ Juan Soto and Josh Bell as their names continue to surface in trade speculation, they’re putting on pretty good shows.
The Nationals are trying to concentrate on picking up more wins, but the potential that these could be the sluggers’ final days in Washington uniforms is part of the undercurrent.
A three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals comes to a close Sunday afternoon in Washington.
“Focus on just playing baseball. That’s all we can do,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “I tell these guys every day, ‘Let’s control the controllables’ and let’s see what happens. … Play the game and have fun.”
The Nationals have won four of their last six games, with two of those victories coming by one run. That includes Saturday night’s win over St. Louis.
Four of Washington’s last nine victories have come by one run, so they might be getting a better handle on how to respond in close games.
In Saturday’s game, Bell smacked a game-winning three-run home run in the seventh inning to help complete a comeback. Soto walked three times, singled once and scored two runs.
The Cardinals received good production from shortstop Paul DeJong in his first game following a promotion from Triple-A Memphis. He belted a two-run home run and a sacrifice fly.
DeJong was in the lineup after shortstop Edmundo Sosa was sent to the Philadelphia Phillies in a trade Saturday.
“Seeing him not be with us is not ideal, but we needed space on our roster and it made sense,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said.
Sunday’s game could be the last game for the Cardinals before catcher Yadier Molina returns from a right knee injury. He has been playing in rehabilitation outings with Memphis.
The Nationals will be checking the status of outfielder Victor Robles, who has homered in three of his last nine games. He left Saturday night’s game after eight innings because of hamstring cramping.
Right-hander Andre Pallante (3-4, 3.53 ERA) is the listed St. Louis starter. This will be the rookie’s 10th start out in his 28th game in the majors. He has never faced the Nationals.
Pallante has surrendered at least one home run in six of his last eight outings.
The Nationals are going with right-hander Josiah Gray (7-6, 4.45 ERA), who has won just once in his last seven starts. Yet he has a nine-game streak of lasting at least five innings.
This is a change of plans after right-hander Paolo Espino, who had been listed as Sunday’s likely starter, was moved up a day and worked Saturday when Erick Fedde went on the injured list.
Still, Gray will be on normal rest because the Nationals were off Thursday, and he’ll take on the Cardinals for the first time in his career.
Juggling the pitching assignments doesn’t mean there’s major concern regarding Fedde.
“We’re being more cautious than anything,” Martinez said.
–Field Level Media