The matchup: Back home after opening the second half of the season with three out of four road games, the Mystics host Atlanta on Friday (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet). Washington (5-17) dropped all three of those away contests, but in between downed Chicago in overtime at the Verizon Center. The Mystics remain last in the Eastern Conference, 3.5 games behind Chicago and New York for the final playoff spot. The Dream (11-11), third in the East, are led by gold medalist Angel McCoughtry and ex-Mystic Lindsey Harding. Playing head-to-head for the first time this season, Washington and Atlanta will meet four times over the final month of the regular season. Last season the Dream took three of five games in the series.Last time out: The Mystics became the latest victim of the sizzling San Antonio Silver Stars, falling 75-72 on Wednesday. Playing their fourth game in six days, the Mystics shot 3 of 13 in the first quarter and were outscored 26-12 in the third. Trailing by 15 points entering the final 10 minutes, Crystal Langhorne and Monique Currie sparked a rally as Washington pulled within six midway through the fourth quarter. Jasmine Thomass 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds cut the lead to three, but San Antonio dribbled out the clock for its 12th straight win."(We) came out in the first five minutes of the second half and just lost our composure and our focus, Mystics coach and general manager Trudi Lacey said. They scored 26 points in that quarter. We fought our way back, missed some shots down the stretch, and didnt close out the game.Langhorne and Thomas paced the Mystics with 17 points while Currie added. The trio combined made 17 of 31 field goal attempts (54.8 percent) from the field while their teammates finished 10 of 31 (32.2 percent).Jumping for Jasmine: Beyond any thoughts of a playoff push, the Mystics second half of the season goal centers on generating consistent and improved production out of their younger players. Thomas, a first-round pick last season, struggled early in the season with her offense and running the Mystics attack. If the last two games are any indication, the Northern Virginia native might be turning the corner.In the win over Chicago, Thomas doled out a career-high eight assists and sank the go-ahead 3-pointer with 16 remaining in overtime. Her 17 points and three 3-pointers against San Antonio matched her season-high.The Dream: McCoughtry, the WNBAs leading scorer at 22.7 points per game, didn't play in Wednesdays 82-71 won over Chicago for personal reasons, the Associated Press reported. The offensively gifted forwards status for Fridays game is uncertain, Dream coach and general manager Marynell Meadors said. Harding, who directed the Mystics attack during the 2009 and 2010 playoff campaigns, is averaging 11.5 points and 3.8 assists.
Coming through in two-out situations isn’t supposed to be an easy task, but the Nationals are making it look especially difficult of late.
The most recent example of those struggles came in Friday night’s 5-3 loss to the Padres, in which the Nats’ lineup couldn’t get the big knock against 23-year-old right hander Luis Perdomo, a rookie starter who came into the game sporting a 7.36 ERA.
“That’s been our nemesis,” manager Dusty Baker said. “People ask me, you know, what do we need? We need some timely, two-out base hits. Not home runs.”
Indeed, when the Nats score big, it’s usually because they powered their way to get there. They entered Friday tied for first in the National League with 132 homers through 96 games. And even against the Padres, two of Washongton's three runs on the night came via solo shots from Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy.
So the issue hasn’t been overall scoring, per se. The issue has been scoring in clutch situations without relying on the long ball. Against the Perdomo and the Padres, the Nats went 1-for-5 with two outs and runners in scoring position, including an 0-for-4 stretch after the first inning. That won’t help their season average in that category (.221), which ranked 21st in the majors prior to the game.
So it’s no mystery to Baker about what has to be fixed.
“At this stage of the game, almost two-thirds of the season gone, we gotta make some changes,” the skipper said of the Nats’ two-out approach. “We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting, and it’s getting frustrating on the guys and frustrating on fans and frustrating to us, too.”
When asked about the Nats' recent offensive woes, Bryce Harper chalked it up to the typical up-and-down nature of the long season.
"I don't think we need to change much at all,” said Harper, who’s 6-for-20 in those situations on the year. "I think we're a great team. I think we're swinging the bats well.
“Sometimes you line out and get out. Sometimes you hit right into shifts. Sometimes you strikeout, sometimes you walk. It's part of the game.”
Perhaps it is just part of the game. But it is also hard to ignore that the Nats have gone 6-for-41 with runners in scoring position over their last five games, four of them losses.
But Baker, ever the optimist, believes it won't take long before his team turns it around.
“I just urge everybody, don’t panic," he said. "Just let us play and we’ll come out of this.”
The Baltimore Orioles are reportedly discussing a trade that would send Ubaldo Jimenez to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Melvin Upton, Jr., according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
The deal, Rosenthal reports, would likely also have to involve a prospect departing Baltimore for San Diego and is "not yet close" to happening.
I wonder if the Orioles have the kind of prospect to make this move. https://t.co/HTdZEB2N4F— Rich Dubroff (@RichDubroffCSN) July 23, 2016
Jimenez has struggled for Baltimore this season, going 5-9 with a 7.38 ERA. Upton, Jr. is batting .259 with 16 home runs and 45 RBIs.
BALTIMORE—Before Friday night’s game, Buck Showalter was asked if Dylan Bundy could remain in the starting rotation for the rest of the season and not exceed the innings limit the manager has in mind.
Showalter said that was possible, and after watching Bundy achieve his first major league win as a starter on Friday night, he’s no doubt eager to see more out of Bundy.
In five innings, Bundy allowed an unearned run on five hits as the Orioles beat the Cleveland Indians 5-1 before 39,358 at Oriole Park.
The Orioles, who lost four straight before winning on Thursday afternoon in New York, scored their most runs in exactly two weeks, and had their first three-run inning since July 5.
Bundy (3-2), who started for the first time on Sunday and allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings at Tampa Bay, pitched well against the Indians.
He gave up five hits in five innings and struck out five.
“That's a real good offensive team over there, so that makes it even more impressive. He was good. He pitched as much as threw,” Showalter said. “He felt good at the end. Started to give me that ‘I can keep going’ look.
Shortly after Showalter indicated his confidence in Bundy as a starter, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette emphasized that the team needed additional starting pitching. Even though the market was thin, perhaps the thinnest Duquette has seen, the Orioles would continue to look for reinforcements.
An effective Bundy would be a huge help. He’s fine with being a starter the rest of the season.
“I mean, yeah, it could be, if he said so. You know, that’s not up to me. I’m just going to keep pitching whenever I’m supposed to, and that can all work itself out at the end of the year,” Bundy said.
Help may be coming in a few days when Darren O’Day, who hasn’t pitched since June 1 due to a strained right hamstring, returns. He allowed a hit and struck out two in his rehab start at Bowie.
If the Orioles decide O’Day doesn’t need a second rehab assignment, he could return on Sunday or Monday, and that would give the bullpen a big boost.
Bundy had just one perfect inning, the fourth, and didn’t walk a batter.
There was one difficult inning, the second when Tyler Naquin doubled with one out. Naquin was held at third when Juan Uribe singled, but Bundy retired Abraham Almonte on a foul pop to third and Chris Gimenez on a fly to center.
In the fifth, with Bundy having thrown 72 pitches through four, Almonte led off with a double and moved to third on a passed ball by Caleb Joseph.
Almonte tried to score on Gimenez’s grounder to short, but headed back towards third when J.J. Hardy threw home. Almonte beat the throw back to third and scored when Carlos Santana hit into a double play. It was the only run for Cleveland (56-39).
“He was really going to pitch effectively tonight. Pitch is the key word. He knew it was going to be a challenge with Cleveland, like it will be tomorrow and the next night for anybody who faces them. But I think in this case, no. I think he was so locked in to what his job description was tonight. I think the first pitch of the game was a changeup. That kind of set the tone. Caleb obviously did a nice job with him,” Showalter said.
The Orioles (55-40) got Adam Jones back after he was down for a day with back spasms. Before the game, Joey Rickard was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised ligament in his right thumb.
Mark Trumbo hit a three-run homer in the first, his 29th, which leads the major leagues, off Trevor Bauer (7-4) in the first to take a 3-0 lead.
Jones’ second-inning sacrifice fly and Manny Machado’s 19th home run in the third, made it 5-0.
“We came up and got a couple runners on base and Trumbo came up and did what he does best. It was good to get that out the way quick in the first inning. We have been struggling with runners in scoring position lately on the road trip so to come out here and do it right away was pretty great,” Machado said.
Odrisamer Despaigne pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings, and came within a pitch of his first major league save, but after he walked Almonte, Zach Britton came in to retire Erik Gonzalez for his 31st save.
NOTES: Juan Uribe was hit in the head by a pitch from Despaigne in the seventh inning and suffered a bruise. … Josh Tomlin (10-2, 3.34) faces Kevin Gausman (1-7, 4.05) on Saturday.