Nats drop series to Reds, but show positive signs

The Washington Nationals dropped the last game of their series with the Reds, 6-5. Ouch. One pitch away from a 5-3 victory and an opening series win in Cincinnati, and then … double, homer, homer, and the Nats’ flight home got a lot less lively. But painful as the end of the third game was, the Nats have plenty of reasons to be optimistic as they get ready for the home opener against the hot Pittsburgh Pirates.

Trey Lipscomb shines in Major League debut

At the top of that list: Trey Lipscomb. In an awful stroke of luck, Todd Senzel, eager to play third against his former team, fractured his thumb in pregame warmups before the opener. That brought Lipscomb, who hit .400 in spring to lead the Nats, up from the minors for the second and third games of the series. Lipscomb flashed the glove and arm that made him last year’s minor league defensive player of the year. At the plate, the kid picked up right where he was in Florida, going 3 for 7, including an opposite-field solo homer to give the Nats a 4-3 lead late in the game Sunday.

Vets lead the way

Offseason acquisition Jesse Winker stroked five hits against his former team and played solid defense in left. Joey Meneses also started hot with five hits in the series. Keibert Ruiz, Eddie Rosario and Lane Thomas each drove in three runs. Leading off, CJ Abrams had only two hits in the series but drew three walks and scored four runs.

Pirates swept Marlins

The Nats will need to shake off the disappointing end to the Cincinnati series quickly and thoroughly, as they host the Pirates in Washington’s home opener Monday. The Pirates had a dandy long weekend in Miami, sweeping four games from the Marlins. Pittsburgh’s bats were on fire in that series, and half a dozen Bucs bring .300+ batting averages to DC.

Gore to start home opener

Lefty MacKenzie Gore, whose 7-10 record in his rookie season last year included flashes of brilliance, will need to be at his best to cool off the Pittsburgh bats.  He and the likely starters for the second and third games, Trevor Williams and Josiah Gray, will be facing an imposing but heavily right-handed Pittsburgh lineup. It’ll be a tall order, but I predict the Pirates will depart Washington with at least one loss.

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