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Trevor Williams, Nationals hold Cardinals scoreless

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WASHINGTON — The afternoon after the Nationals spoke of frustrations this month, they hurdled past their June struggles to a win over the Cardinals, holding them scoreless. The Nats snapped a five-game losing streak and picked up their fourth win of the month with a 3-0 victory on Wednesday at a rainy Nationals Park.

“It felt really good,” manager Dave Martinez said. “I always talk about, forget about what happened yesterday, forget about what happened the day before. We need to be where our feet are and take care of today. These guys came out today like they do every day, they put those games aside and they came back ready to play baseball.

“Today we played a really, really, really good game. I’m proud of the way they went out today.”

Here are three things that helped lead to the Nationals’ first win since last Thursday in Houston and their second time holding an opponent scoreless this season.

Starting pitching
Right-hander Trevor Williams delivered six-plus scoreless innings in his 15th start of the season. He gave up five hits and struck out four without issuing a walk.

“We know he’s going to throw strikes. We know he’s going to compete,” Martinez said. “He did it again today to a team that’s got some really good hitters.”

Thursday was only the fourth time in Williams’ career he did not allow a run or a walk in six or more innings pitched. It also was the first game in which he did not surrender at least one homer since May 13 against the Mets.

“I’m glad the no walks was huge,” Williams said. “I don’t know what my first-pitch strike percentage was (76.2 percent), but I would hope it was pretty high today because the game plan going in was just to attack the zone and hopefully they make weak contact early.

“With the wet field, you never know what can happen. But we’re thankful that we had some great plays behind me, especially early — really early, in the first inning. For us to do that, [to] continue to put a stop to our losing streak was huge for us.”

Oppo offense
CJ Abrams went yard for his seventh home run of the season, and where it landed is even more notable for his offensive development: the shortstop went oppo for only the second time in his career.

“I didn’t think it was going to go out,” Abrams said. “But it left.”

Abrams’ homer off a sinker from right-hander Miles Mikolas traveled 382 feet into left-center field. Abrams has collected nine home runs since making his Major League debut last season with the Padres. He had not belted one to the opposite field since April 14, 2022. He finished the day 3-for-3 at the plate.

“He’s been working with [hitting coach] Darnell [Coles] about staying on the ball,” Martinez said. “The ball jumps off his bat, it really does. So when we can keep him in the middle of the field, he’s going to be really good. And you saw that today — home run, base hit back at the pitcher. That’s the kind of hitter we see in him, that he’s going to hit the ball, and every now and then, he’s going to generate some power and do that.”

Bullpen
The Nationals’ back end of the bullpen suffered a setback when right-hander Carl Edwards Jr., was placed on the 15-day injured list because of right shoulder inflammation prior to the game. Edwards has posted a 3.69 ERA in 32 appearances this season, and he is tied for fourth among NL relievers with 13 holds.

Martinez turned to Mason Thompson in the seventh-inning role. Thompson, who has gotten back on track in June after a stretch of struggles, recorded two outs. Kyle Finnegan was tabbed to cover 1 1/3 frames, escaping a one-out, two-on situation in the eighth to maintain the lead for Hunter Harvey to pick up his fourth save of the season.

Edwards will undergo an MRI on his shoulder this week. In the meantime, the Nationals will look for combinations to navigate the bullpen usage.

“If Mason’s good, he’s going to get the seventh now, and you’ve got Finnegan, Harvey,” Martinez said. “[Jordan] Weems has been throwing the ball well, so Weems is going to have to step up a little bit and pitch some high-leverage situations in the bullpen as well. Now that we have a lefty (Joe La Sorsa), we can match up a little here and there, so that’s good to have.”

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