A pair of last-place teams will meet for a three-game series beginning Monday, but one of them is feeling a bit better about things.
The St. Louis Cardinals, last in the National League Central, travel to Washington after taking two of three from the New York Mets while the Nationals, last in the NL East, were swept by the visiting Miami Marlins
Nolan Arenado hit a two-run home run in the first and a solo homer in the ninth, the latter breaking a 7-7 tie, to help the Cardinals take Sunday's rubber match from the Mets, 8-7. The Cardinals lost 5-1 and 7-5 leads before pulling ahead late to win the series
"Could (the win) be (a momentum-builder)? Yeah, but I try not to think about it like that," Arenado said. "We're not in a position where we can start thinking far ahead. We literally have to do it one game at a time and inch our way back. But there is an opportunity there."
Washington is reeling. A May 27 win in Kansas City got the Nationals to 23-29, but they have lost 14 of 18 since
"Obviously, it's frustrating," Washington outfielder Lane Thomas said. "I think it's important to try not to think about that stuff and just keep going and see if we can get a few wins the next few days."
Thomas continued his hot streak Sunday and is 9-for-25 (.360) over his past six games. All 11 of his home runs have come since May 1.
The games against the Marlins were close, but whether it was shaky relief pitching or a lack of clutch hitting, the Nationals were not able to steal a game
On Sunday, Thomas hit a two-run homer to tie the game in the third inning, but the Marlins scored two runs in the fourth and the game was scoreless the rest of the way.
Monday's pitching matchup features St. Louis right-hander Jack Flaherty (3-5, 4.64 ERA) against Washington right-hander Josiah Gray (4-5, 3.19).
Flaherty recently enjoyed a run during which he gave up just two runs in 18 1/3 innings over three starts. However, last time out he was rocked for six runs on 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings of a loss to the San Francisco Giants. He walked three and struck out three.
"As much as we want to be perfect every time out, that's not really the way the game goes; no one's ever been perfect every time out," Flaherty said. "You go out and make pitches, and that's all you can really do. Days when you don't execute are going to end like this."
Flaherty is 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA in four career starts against the Nationals
Gray's ERA has risen from 2.65 to 3.19 over his past four starts. On Wednesday, he gave up four runs on six hits in seven innings of a no-decision against the Astros. He struck out five without a walk.
Gray recently added the sweeper to his pitch arsenal and threw 26 against the Astros -- eight balls and 18 strikes.
"We'll get to a point where I'm throwing that pitch in every count," Gray said. "Just continuing to work with it and I'm really excited with where it was at (Wednesday)."
Gray is 0-1 with an 8.64 ERA in two career starts versus the Cardinals
--Field Level Media