* Davey Martinez’s most delicate lineup decisions as the second half of the season opens is at first base, with Ryan Zimmerman back off the disabled list but Matt Adams remaining one of the team’s most productive hitters.
Martinez didn’t hesitate to start Adams on Friday night, opting to go with the hot-hitting lefty slugger against Braves right-hander Anibal Sanchez. And Adams responded by homering into the right field bullpen in the bottom of the third, his lone hit in a 1-for-4 game.
Adams isn’t expected to be in Saturday night’s lineup, though. Martinez said he intends to start Zimmerman against left-hander Sean Newcomb.
This is probably going to be the plan for now, with Martinez playing matchups on a day-to-day basis. Both Adams and Zimmerman recognize and understand that.
“I’m taking it day-by-day,” Adams said. “We got guys coming back, but I show up to the field ready to play every day. So whenever my name’s called, I’m going to be ready.”
Zimmerman did get a chance to bat once Friday night, sent to the plate to pinch-hit for Justin Miller in the bottom of the sixth.
The sellout crowd of 41,008 gave the veteran a loud ovation for his first plate appearance since he strained his right oblique muscle in early May, then watched as he grounded out to second base on the second pitch he saw from reliever Jesse Biddle.
* One domino effect of Strasburg’s subpar start was the strain it put on a Nationals bullpen that was smaller than it was when the first half ended.
With Strasburg and Zimmerman activated earlier Friday afternoon, the club decided to clear those two roster spots by optioning relievers Wander Suero and Trevor Gott to Triple-A Syracuse. That left the Nationals with a six-man bullpen, an unconventional configuration but one they felt they could go with for the moment because everyone in the group was fresh and available after the four-day break.
But when Strasburg was pulled with two outs in the fifth, Martinez wound up calling upon four of his six available relievers to finish out the game. Miller threw 17 pitches over 1 1/3 innings. Matt Grace (14 pitches), Shawn Kelley (16 pitches) and Brandon Kintzler (seven pitches) all tossed one inning a piece.
Does that mean the Nationals might have to get themselves another reliever on the active roster before tonight’s game?
“We’ll see,” Martinez said. “I haven’t talked to (general manager Mike Rizzo) yet. We’ll see in the morning. I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s tough having six guys. That was tough trying to put that all together there at the end.”