Game suspended in sixth, to be resumed at 5:05 p.m. Wednesday

The Nationals and Yankees traded blows for 5 1/2 innings tonight on South Capitol Street, all the while knowing a massive storm was approaching and was likely to prevent the full nine innings from being played.

Sure enough, once the heavy stuff began falling in the middle of the sixth and never eased up, the game was officially suspended with the Nats and Yanks tied 3-3, forcing both clubs to return Wednesday and attempt to conclude this game before playing their regularly scheduled series finale.

Nats Park rain delay tarpjpgPer Major League Baseball’s official rules, the game must be picked up from the point it was suspended and completed before the teams’ next scheduled game can begin. So the resumption of this one is now slated to begin at 5:05 p.m., with the finale due to begin as scheduled at 7:05 p.m.

“See you tomorrow,” Gio Gonzalez said, not wanting to offer any more thoughts about his five-inning start until the game has concluded.

Fans who hold Wednesday tickets will be admitted to the resumption of the suspended game, in addition to the regularly scheduled game. Tickets from tonight’s game will not be honored for the resumption of the suspended game.

It’s only the third time in club history the Nationals have needed to complete a suspended game. On May 5, 2009, the Nats and Astros’ game was suspended in the 11th inning, and because that occurred in the final game between the teams in D.C., it had to be completed July 9 in Houston, with the Nationals (as the home club) winning in walk-off fashion.

On July 17, 2015, malfunctioning lights at Nationals Park forced the suspension of a game against the Dodgers with the home team leading 3-2 after five innings. It was resumed the following day, with the Nats prevailing 5-3.

With tonight’s storm approaching but still likely two hours away from the District, the game began on time, but both teams were thinking the obvious: Try to get a lead, in case five innings could be completed and the game became official before the rain arrived.

“We thought it was going to rain, and we were just trying to stay ahead,” manager Davey Martinez said. “And then we tried to score - we pinch-hit for Gio (in the bottom of the fifth) - to see if we could maybe score a run before the rain came. But it didn’t happen. So we resume tomorrow.”

The Nationals wasted little time pouncing on Masahiro Tanaka early on. Anthony Rendon lined a 1-1 fastball from the Yankees starter over the left field wall with two outs in the first, giving the home team a quick lead.

The Nats kept the pressure on in the second inning, getting doubles from Howie Kendrick and Pedro Severino, plus an RBI single from Andrew Stevenson, to open up a 3-0 lead and leave the red-clad portion of the large crowd roaring with approval.

Gonzalez, though, found himself pitching in jams from the get-go, and he somehow escaped unscathed the first two times he put multiple runners in scoring position.

“That’s what he does,” Martinez said. “And he’s good at it.”

Gonzalez couldn’t escape his third jam, though. A miscommunication between Stevenson and Matt Adams on a routine flyball to left-center allowed Didi Gregorius to reach second base with nobody out in the fourth. And when Tyler Austin blasted a 3-2 curveball from Gonzalez to right-center, the Nationals’ lead suddenly was down to 3-2.

One inning later, Gonzalez got himself into another jam, loading the bases with nobody out via two walks and a bloop single. He nearly escaped without any damage, but Austin’s flyball to center was deep enough to bring one run home and leave the game tied.

By the time Gonzalez finished the inning, his pitch count stood at 111, with nobody warming in the bullpen to that point.

“I felt he could get through that inning,” Martinez said. “I bet you Gio could throw 130 pitches if you let him. Hopefully we don’t ever have to go there. But I thought he could get through that inning, and for the most part he did.”

Martinez did hand the ball to Wander Suero for the top of the sixth, and with the wind whipping, the lightning flashing overhead and fans taking cover under concourse, the rookie reliever struck out Aaron Judge looking at a cutter to end the inning.

That’s when the umpiring crew summoned the grounds crew to roll out the tarp, at which point this game went into delay.

They’ll now be forced to pick up where they left off late Wednesday afternoon, with Bryce Harper set to lead off the bottom of the sixth against an as-yet-unnamed Yankees reliever. Suero technically remains the Nationals’ pitcher and could return for his second inning of work in this game even though he’ll have had 20 hours of rest in between.

Once the suspended game concludes, both teams will be allowed to add a 26th man for the 7:05 p.m. game, per MLB doubleheader rules.

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