PITTSBURGH - It’s not uncommon for veteran players to get a day game off after a night game. And given the Nationals’ current schedule, with no break between today’s series finale against the Pirates and Friday’s series opener against the Braves, it’s not surprising that Dusty Baker decided to sit both Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman.
Baker explained his thinking behind that move, noting that while Goodwin (owner of a .316 on-base percentage in 57 career big league plate appearances) is not the ideal No. 2 hitter, it made the most sense today given the options available to him.
“He can run,” Baker said. “He generally makes contact. I mean, he’s the best guy for the situation. I mean, Anthony is probably the best guy everywhere. But he can’t bat everywhere. I need Anthony behind Harp. And then, (the Pirates) have got three lefties out in that bullpen, three pretty good lefties. So you notice I’ve got (Matt) Wieters behind Murphy in case they bring in a lefty. You just try to combat guys in different spots in the lineup.”
The point about lefties is significant. If Baker moved Rendon up to the No. 2 spot, he’d end up with Harper, Murphy, Wieters and Adam Lind all lined up in a row, begging Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle to play matchups.
Other news and notes before today’s game ...
* Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner is one of 16 people named to Major League Baseball’s newly reconstituted Competition Committee by commissioner Rob Manfred.
Lerner joins a wide-ranging group of people in baseball, including fellow ownership executives Frank Coonelly (Pirates), Ray Davis (Rangers), David Samson (Marlins) and Tom Werner (Red Sox); baseball executives Sandy Alderson (Mets), Chris Antonetti (Indians), Jerry Dipoto (Mariners), Theo Epstein (Cubs) and Mark Shapiro (Blue Jays); managers Joe Girardi (Yankees), Mike Matheny (Cardinals), Dave Roberts (Dodgers) and Buck Showalter (Orioles); and Hall-of-Fame players Roberto Alomar and John Smoltz on the committee.
“The Competition Committee includes some of the best minds in our game, from a variety of positions and perspectives,” Manfred said in a statement. “The conversations with this group will be rooted in respect for the qualities that make baseball unique and a willingness to consider ways in which we can make the game even better.”
* Though Stephen Drew continues to work out with the Nationals and travel with the club, he still is not ready to go on a rehab assignment. On the 10-day disabled list since April 12 with a strained right hamstring, Drew has seemingly been close to returning for a while, though the 34-year-old has had trouble getting over the final hump necessary to play in games.
“It’s taking longer than we had hoped,” Baker said. “But he hasn’t had any setbacks. Like I told you earlier, when you get older, you heal slower.”
* The Nationals will send Gio Gonzalez to the mound Friday night in Atlanta, giving Max Scherzer one extra day between starts after the ace took a comebacker off his left knee Sunday night. Scherzer will be pitching on five days’ rest when he starts Saturday afternoon at SunTrust Park. Stephen Strasburg will pitch Sunday’s finale.
The Braves’ probables for the weekend series are R.A. Dickey, Bartolo Colón and left-hander Jaime García. Atlanta may be without slugger Freddie Freeman, who is being examined for a potentially serious wrist injury after getting hit by a pitch Wednesday night.
Update: Two innings down today, and the Nationals find themselves trailing the Pirates once again due to a Josh Bell homer. The rookie first baseman belted a three-run shot off Jacob Turner last night, and he belted a two-run homer in the first inning today off Tanner Roark. Roark’s 3-2 pitch wasn’t bad - a curveball down and in - but Bell managed to get to it and send a moonshot into the right field bleachers to give the Bucs a quick 2-0 lead.
Murphy did answer in the top of the second, golfing his own 1-2 curveball down and in from Tyler Glasnow to right field for a solo homer. So the Nats are trailing 2-1 after two innings.
Update II: Things aren’t going in the right direction for Roark, who really struggled in the third inning. He issued three walks, including one with the bases loaded, and has surrendered four runs on the day. Worse, his pitch count is already up to 72. That’s been a problem for the right-hander all season, and he appears to be headed for yet another start in which he doesn’t complete seven innings. Nats trail 4-1 after three.
Update III: This has been a weird game. And there are still (at least) five innings to play. It’s now tied 4-4 after a strange sequence of events in the top of the fourth. The Nats had two on with one out when Lind just missed crushing a three-run homer by inches. It wound up as a one-run double because Wieters was unable to score from first base. And when Michael A. Taylor struck out, it looked like the Nats would squander this opportunity. But then Roark tapped a dribbler back to the mound, and Glasnow wound up throwing the ball away. Just like that, two runs scored and this game is tied.
Update IV: It’s not tied anymore. Just when Roark appeared to be on the verge of getting through a 1-2-3 fifth inning, he served up a homer to John Jaso on a 2-1 fastball. By the time the inning ended, Roark’s pitch count was up to 106. We’ll see if Baker tries to push him any farther today. Meanwhile, the Nats have work to do against the Pirates bullpen, now down 5-4 heading to the sixth.
Update V: Another inning, more runs scored by the Pirates. Roark began the sixth but was pulled after letting the first two batters to reach, with his pitch count at 114. Blake Treinen, pitching for the third straight day, entered and immediately gave up three hard-hit balls (including two doubles). It’s now 8-4 heading to the seventh.
Update VI: That’ll do it. Enny Romero gave up two runs (one earned) in the eighth, leaving the Nationals in a 10-4 hole. And that’s where they wound up at game’s end. They lose two in a row to the Pirates and now head to Atlanta for the weekend.