Welcome to the last Wednesday before the All-Star break. The season really flies, doesn’t it? Time is always at a premium, so let’s dive in. 

Wednesday’s scores

Punchless Nationals fall back to .500

Remember when the Nationals held a team meeting and then took three straight from the Marlins and their season was fixed? Yeah, so much for that. The good stretch has fizzled already. They managed just five hits — four singles and a Gio Gonzalez double — while being shut out in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. 

Since those three wins, the Nationals have lost three of their last four games now, having been outscored 19-10. Getting to play the Marlins, Pirates and Mets heading to the All-Star break was a prime opportunity to get things right and so far they’ve only gone 4-3. A four-game series against the Mets is their chance to make it right. 

For now, though, the Nats are 46-46. They didn’t lose their 46th game last season until August 13. 

Rays sweep Tigers, have won five straight

Aside from some really ugly patches, the Rays have been winning games this season. They swept the Tigers with a win on Wednesday and have now won five in a row. Get this: They have had losing streaks of eight, four, five and eight again, yet sit 48-44 on the season. Four different losing streaks have accounted for 25 losses. Otherwise the Rays are 48-19. Now, obviously the losing streaks count and great teams wouldn’t endure those, it’s just a fun little oddity. 

On the Tigers’ end, they have now lost 18 of their last 22. 

The red-hot Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox enter Wednesday with the best record in baseball at 64-29. They hold the current longest winning streak in baseball at eight. The odds it is pushed to nine seem pretty good, too, as they square off against the 40-53 Rangers and Chris Sale (9-4, 2.36) takes the ball.

What more can you say about the Red Sox right now than that they have been amazing? They have a plus-158 run differential, are on pace for 111 wins and SportsLine figures them for 108 wins. The Yankees are awesome, but the Red Sox currently lead them by 3 1/2 games in the AL East. 

Indians look to end skid

Though they are hardly in danger of losing their lead in the AL Central (it’s 8 1/2 games), the Cleveland Indians have now dropped four straight games after a gut punch of a loss Tuesday. They actually took a 4-0 lead to the ninth inning and lost 7-4 to the Reds. 

Bigger picture, this is the continuation of a lot of hot-and-cold play with the Indians. This four-game losing streak comes after a five-game winning streak, which came after four losses in five games, which came after a seven-game winning streak, which came after four losses in five games, which came after five wins in six games, which came after … nevermind. You get the point. 

In the other dugout, the Reds aren’t quite what the moniker “last-place team” implies at this point. Since May 7, they are 33-24, which is better than everyone but the Cubs, Brewers and Dodgers among NL teams. 

First-place Phillies face tough test; or do they?

For the first time all season, the Phillies are alone in first place with more than a 1/2 game lead. It’s one, but it’s gotta be a nice feeling to have a full game up after spending nearly a week tied for first. They’ll face a tall order in keeping that lead on Wednesday, because it’s Jacob deGrom and his 1.79 ERA they face. 

Then again, maybe it’s not so tall. The Mets are 7-11 in deGrom starts, despite him leading the majors in ERA. They have lost eight games in which he allowed two or fewer earned runs. 

Cubs get Bryant back

Kris Bryant is back in the lineup Wednesday for the first time since June 22. He’s been on the DL with a shoulder injury that appeared to be zapping him of his power. From May 15-June 22, Bryant hit .279 with a .349 on-base percentage — so down a little but not terrible — with a .382 slugging percentage and just one home run. In his previous 11 games, Bryant had six homers and a .756 slugging, so clearly something happened there other than just ebbs and flows. 

Bryant hit a home run in the first game of his two-game minor-league rehab stint, so maybe the rest helped solve things. 

The Cubs haven’t been hurting without Bryant lately, having won nine of their last 11 games. Adding a 100 percent Bryant to that seems pretty scary. 

Quick hits

  • The Twins have placed right-handed reliever Addison Reed on the disabled list with right triceps soreness. 
  • Royals starter Ian Kennedy has landed on the disabled list due to a left oblique strain. 
  • The White Sox have designated reliever Bruce Rondon for assignment and brought Jeanmar Gomez up from the minors. 
  • The Rangers designated outfielder Austin Jackson for assignment just a few days after acquiring him. The Rangers basically took on Jackson’s salary just to grab prospect Jason Bahr and Jackson never reported to the club for duty. 

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