The Washington Nationals hold the worst record in the majors, but the scuffling club does have a compelling home series on the docket this weekend.
That's because the San Diego Padres are arriving for three games beginning Friday night. The Padres stocked up on Washington players in last week's blockbuster trade, meaning Juan Soto and Josh Bell will have a very quick homecoming.
While that might be awkward for Washington fans, it's certainly a blessing for the Padres as they try to push toward a spot in the National League playoffs. The Padres had lost five in a row before winning their last two games.
Soto and Bell have bolstered a San Diego lineup that already seemed sufficiently stocked.
"We have the ability up and down the lineup to put up bigger innings," Padres manager Bob Melvin said. "This team now has the ability to have big innings. It has the ability to run the bases, play defense."
Like Washington, San Diego also was idle on Thursday. On Wednesday, the Padres benefited from a six-run third inning and seven-run sixth in a 13-7 victory over the San Francisco Giants.
That was evidence of the type of production that can come from the new-look lineup.
"There's a different feeling now to where, when you're down, you don't feel like it's going to take a lot to come back," Melvin said. "It can happen at any point in time now."
Soto has gone deep once and Bell is without a home run since joining the Padres.
The Nationals have lost seven of their last eight games since winning the day that the trade went down. While Washington lost considerable offensive firepower in the deal, it's been pitching that has hampered the Nationals in recent games as it allowed six or more runs in six of their last eight defeats.
The Nationals are back home from a 1-6 road trip.
While the Padres are reveling in the new star power, the Nationals are getting good vibes in different ways. Outfielder/first baseman Joey Meneses, a 30-year-old rookie, has homered in four of his seven games with the Nationals.
"He's having a lot of fun out there," manager Davey Martinez said. "He enjoys it. He waited a long time. He's getting an opportunity and he's making the best of it."
Washington infielder Luis Garcia has missed time with a sore right knee, but the team's day off might have been enough to allow him to get back in the lineup.
"He felt a little better," Martinez said. "We'll see how he feels come Friday."
Right-hander Mike Clevinger (3-4, 3.60 ERA) goes to the mound for the Padres, though he has won only once in his last five decisions. In his only career meeting with the Nationals, he was shelled for six runs in 5 2/3 innings while with Cleveland in a loss in his final outing of the 2019 season.
Washington right-hander Cory Abbott (0-1, 5.68) will be making his third start in the big leagues this season on Friday.
Abbott failed to finish the fourth inning in his last start, when he was charged with seven runs in a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. He gave up three runs (one earned) in 1 1/3 innings of mop-up relief last year in his only matchup with the Padres.
The Nationals will have reinforcements for the bullpen, with newly acquired veteran Jake McGee joining the team for Friday's game.
The Nationals and Padres will have another series when they meet for four games in San Diego from Aug. 18-21.
--Field Level Media