More from Sunday’s twice-delayed, 6-2 victory over the Braves ...
* Davey Martinez managed this game like it was being played in September or October. Which, to be honest, is probably how he needs to manage just about every game the rest of the way, certainly those against the Braves and Phillies.
The difference was most noticeable following the second rain delay, at which point the rookie manager had to try to piece together three innings from a bullpen that was without Sean Doolittle (on the disabled list several more weeks after an MRI revealed a stress reaction in his left foot) and Brandon Kintzler (who warmed up and was prepared to pitch the top of the seventh but informed Martinez he couldn’t come back after a 1-hour, 38-minute delay).
So Martinez asked Matt Grace to open the seventh, but then asked Ryan Madson to finish the inning with the tying runners on base. Madson, who narrowly escaped after Charlie Culberson lined out to right, was positioned to return to pitch the eighth but wound up getting pinch-hit for after the Nationals put two on with two out in the bottom of the seventh.
Herrera used to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen all the time when he was setting up Wade Davis and Greg Holland in Kansas City, but he hadn’t done it since September 2016.
“We called him down (in the bullpen),” Martinez said. “I usually call and ask them. And he said absolutely. He hasn’t pitched in a while, so he said he felt really good. And he was crisp tonight. So it was good to see.”
Herrera, who hadn’t looked especially sharp in recent outings, got out of the eighth with two quick outs, blowing away Ender Inciarte on three upper-90s fastballs. He then got two more quick outs in the ninth before allowing a pair of hits in advance of Freddie Freeman’s game-ending flyout to left. All told, he threw 26 pitches.he
“I prepared myself for that,” he said through interpreter Octavio Martinez. “He called down in the eighth and told me about it, so I got myself ready and prepared mentally for those two innings.”
* Though they still squandered a few golden opportunities to break the game open, the Nationals did produce a number of high-quality at-bats during the game, certainly more than they’ve been accustomed to in recent weeks.
Anthony Rendon delivered a two-run triple down the right field line in the bottom of the first, this after both Adam Eaton and Bryce Harper reached base at the end of seven-pitch plate appearances. Harper came through with a clutch, two-out, two-strike, RBI single to right on a curveball from lefty Sam Freeman to plate a key insurance run in the bottom of the sixth.
Juan Soto and Matt Adams teamed up to add on another run in the bottom of the seventh, one of four times Soto reached base in the game. (He drove in a run with a groundball to first in his other plate appearance.) And Harper capped off the proceedings with a blast to center field in the bottom of the eighth, his 24th homer of the season and his third time on base in this game.
“Bryce is slowly but surely becoming the Bryce we all know,” Martinez said. “He had some great at-bats today.”
Soto, meanwhile, was in danger of watching his batting average fall below .300 for only the second time since he made his major league debut May 20, only to end the evening batting a cool .311.
“I feel a little bit better right now,” said the 19-year-old, who was 5 for his previous 22 entering the game. “My swing and everything is comfortable again.”
* Max Scherzer emerged with his 13th win, but he had to work hard for it. The ace right-hander did not retire the side in any of his six innings, and he found himself engaged in a host of long, drawn-out battles with several Atlanta hitters who managed to work the count full and foul off tough pitches.
Scherzer needed 86 pitches just to face the Braves’ first 18 batters, averaging nearly five per plate appearance.
“The Braves, a division team, they know everything I’ve got,” he said. “They absolutely grind apart every single at-bat. It’s really hard to put them away. And it showed today.”
This was the first time Scherzer had met with media members since Friday night’s game, when he and Stephen Strasburg got into an animated discussion in the dugout and wound up getting summoned into Martinez’s office for a 15-minute postgame meeting.
Like his rotation mate and manager, Scherzer tried to downplay the significance of the incident and wouldn’t divulge details about what was said.
“Look, it was miscommunication,” he said. “Settled it. It’s over. End of story.”
* If you missed it Sunday night, the Nationals officially announced the plan to make up Saturday night’s rainout. That game will now be played at 1:05 p.m. August 7 as the opener of a day-night doubleheader.
Tickets and parking passes for Saturday’s postponed game will be honored for the first game of the August 7 doubleheader, but any fans who do not wish to attend that game may exchange their tickets for any other available 2018 regular season game, provided the exchange is made before the rescheduled game next month begins.
A separate ticket is required for the originally scheduled 7:05 p.m. nightcap of the newly created doubleheader. Gates that evening will either open 1 1/2 hours after completion of the first game, or at 6 p.m., whichever is later.
This will leave the Nats and Braves playing four games in three days, an option that proved more desirable than using their common off-day August 6 for the makeup game. The issue with that scenario: It would have left Atlanta with games scheduled 32 days in a row. Any stretch that exceeds 20 consecutive game days must be approved by the players’ union, which in this case asked for the August 7 doubleheader to avoid the problem.