The Washington Nationals won on Thursday, edging the Cardinals by a 2-1 score to improve their record to 13-17. Despite the victory, the Nationals announced afterward they had fired pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, replacing him with Paul Menhart. The Nationals had reportedly grown displeased with how Lilliquist prepared his pitching staff:
Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist has been fired. Rizzo said there were “preparation issues” and team wanted a new message and voice. Longtime coordinator Paul Menhart will take over starting tmrw.— Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) May 3, 2019
Lilliquist may be gone, but the fourth-place Nationals have plenty else to be annoyed about.
For a sampling of what ails the Nationals, consider that Juan Soto has missed the last couple games due to injury, putting his availability in doubt at a time when they're already without Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, and Ryan Zimmerman. That Brian Dozier has been a bust, one who could soon lose his starting gig to Howie Kendrick. That Carter Kieboom hasn't yet found Soto's shortcut to stardom. That Jeremy Hellickson and Anibal Sanchez have done anything but shore up the back-end of the rotation. That the bullpen ranks 29th in the majors in ERA. And that manager Davey Martinez seldom goes a week without telling the media that this or that struggling pitcher went off script.
To make matters worse, the Nationals are about to embark on a lengthy stretch that could dictate their fate. Beginning Friday and extending until May 24, Washington will play 20 consecutive games against clubs with winning records; of those 20 games, 14 of them will take place on the road, including the next 10. Here's how the Nationals schedule lays out:
- At the Phillies, three games
- At the Brewers, three games
- At the Dodgers, four games
- Hosting the Mets, three games
- Hosting the Cubs, three games
- At the Mets, four games
Going .500 over those 20 games would likely leave the Nationals with a losing record heading into June. But yeesh -- that might be the best-case scenario given how they've played thus far and their slate of opponents. As such, there's a real chance the Nationals walk away from this 20-game stretch with a lot of questions about how they'll approach the trade deadline.
It wasn't supposed to be like this for the Nationals. They were supposed to be competitive -- a defensible choice to win the division and perhaps the pennant. Yet disappointment once again is the theme in D.C. Should that continue, don't be surprised if a few others go the way of Lilliquist.