TORONTO - Davey Martinez went into the weekend with a plan for his lineup, who would get days off and who would get opportunities to serve as designated hitter. But Matt Adams’ injury Friday night and the lineup’s continued struggles forced the Nationals manager to make some tweaks for today’s series finale against the Blue Jays.
With Adams still sidelined - “he’s doing better today,” Martinez said - Daniel Murphy is starting his second straight game at first base. The original plan had Murphy only DHing all week while the Nationals played in American League parks, but the veteran says his surgically repaired knee has held up well and he wants to play in the field.
“I talked to Murph last night after the game; he felt good,” Martinez said. “I made the lineup out, but I waited to post it until this morning, just to make sure he was good this morning. And he said he felt really good. So he’s back in there.”
Murphy looked comfortable at first base during Saturday’s game. He has looked less comfortable at the plate, where he’s 1-for-15 to begin his delayed 2018 season.
“I hit one on the button today; the other three, not so much,” Murphy said after Saturday’s game. “I’m not having very good at-bats. ... I’m either not getting a good pitch to hit, or not putting a good swing on it, and sometimes both. So, try to change that.”
After playing each of the last two days on his surgically repaired knee and ankle, Adam Eaton is out of today’s lineup. Martinez said he didn’t want to subject Eaton to another game on the Rogers Centre artificial turf.
Bryce Harper, meanwhile, is getting a chance to DH today, a change Martinez hopes will help the slumping slugger get going at the plate.
“That’s the way I’m approaching it, just kind of get him off his feet a little bit,” the manager said. “Told him: ‘Just go out there and concentrate on hitting.’ It’s his version of a day off. I asked him, and he said yeah, he’d DH.”
Martinez also instructed Harper to dial back his batting practice, concentrating simply on getting ready for today’s game without taking any extra swings. That’s easier said than done.
“It’s not easy at all,” Martinez said. “Cause you get in this routine, and you want to hit, hit, hit, hit. And then when things go bad, you think you need to hit more. Sometimes less is more. That’s what we explained. So yesterday we cut down on his swings. I think today he’s not going to take that many swings, just get ready for the game. Sometimes you’ve got to just back off. It’s a long season. Just know when to stop. And sometimes things work out better.”
Ryan Zimmerman hasn’t been in the lineup since May 9, after which a strained oblique muscle landed him on the disabled list. Zimmerman was doing some on-field work about a week ago, but he hasn’t been seen on the field in several days.
Martinez insisted Zimmerman hasn’t suffered a setback in his recovery.
“He’s still doing his stuff,” the manager said. “It’s just a very slow-progressing process. But he’s still getting his work in.”
Update: There’s been no lack of offense so far today. For either team. It’s 3-3 after three eventful innings. The Nats scored a pair in the top of the second with only two singles and a walk. How’d they do that? Smart baserunning. Michael A. Taylor stole second, later scoring on Wilmer Difo’s RBI single. Then Difo stole second, took third on a bad throw by catcher Russell Martin and danced off third base enough to draw a balk out of Sam Gaviglio. Not bad. A more conventional rally in the top of the third (Anthony Rendon’s double, Daniel Murphy’s single) plated the Nats’ third run and gave Tanner Roark a cushion. But Roark couldn’t protect the lead. He gave up a solo homer to Randal Grichuk in the bottom of the second. Then came a disastrous bottom of the third in which Roark allowed five straight batters to reach base with two outs, the final two via walks, with two of them scoring. So it’s 3-3, and Roark’s pitch count is 77 on the day before the Nats are guaranteed to play a minimum of 12 innings against the Yankees.
Update II: Roark just never seemed comfortable out there today, and so he made it through only four innings. He allowed another run via two singles and a hit batter, and departed having thrown 97 pitches. Shawn Kelley entered for the fifth and promptly served up a long ball to Grichuk, the outfielder’s second of the day and Kelley’s fifth homer allowed in 14 innings this season, 17th allowed in 40 innings the last two seasons. Nats trail 5-3 now heading to the sixth.
Update III: And the game is tied again, thanks to a sixth-inning rally by the Nationals. Taylor got it started with his third single and fourth stolen base of the afternoon. Brian Goodwin drove an RBI double off the wall in right-center. Difo kep the rally going with a single to center. And Eaton, pinch-hitting for Spencer Kieboom, delivered a perfectly placed double just inside the third base line to bring home the tying run. It’s 5-5 heading to the seventh.
Update IV: And the Blue Jays are back on top after scoring the go-ahead run against Justin Miller in the bottom of the seventh. It came via two singles and a stolen base, and it’s the second straight game Miller has been scored upon after his perfect start to the season. So it’s 6-5 Toronto heading to the eighth, the Nats needing again to rally.
Update V: The good news: The Nats tied the game again with a rally in the top of the eighth. The bad news: They gave it right back in the bottom of the eighth when Ryan Madson allowed back-to-back homers, the first two homers he has allowed as a member of the Nationals bullpen. Just like that, they trail 8-6 heading to the ninth.
Update VI: Game over. Nats lose 8-6 and are swept in the series.