After day off, worn down Nats have chance to reset

After fielding questions for several minutes late Sunday afternoon about the Nationals’ 9-3 victory over the Phillies, Davey Martinez was asked how he would sum up the entire 14-games-in-13-days stretch that had finally concluded.

“I can’t wait for the off-day tomorrow,” he said with a smile.

He wasn’t alone. The entire Nationals organization had been counting down the hours to their first day off in two weeks. (The last one came on June 6, in between series in Cincinnati and Miami, if you can remember that far back.)

How’d they do during that 14-game stretch? Not well. They went 3-11, with an eight-game losing streak in there, and were outscored 91-59. They lost Stephen Strasburg to a rib injury and Josiah Gray to a rain delay. They made 21 transactions, bringing three pitchers up to D.C. for the first time: Jackson Tetreault, Reed Garrett and Cory Abbott. They activated Strasburg off the IL and placed him back on the IL. They both recalled and optioned Sam Clay, Joan Adon, Andres Machado and Abbott during that time.

The day off was desperately needed, especially for the pitching staff. Now, though, Martinez has the ability to hit the reset button and align his starters as he prefers.

So it will be Erick Fedde in tonight’s series opener in Baltimore, with Patrick Corbin going Wednesday. Following another off-day Thursday, the Nationals head to Texas to face the Rangers, with Paolo Espino, Gray and perhaps Tetreault on tap to start those games.

The bullpen, which was ravaged by overuse last week, should be fresh for tonight’s game at Camden Yards.

Whether any of it produces more positive results remains to be seen. But if nothing else, the Nationals should feel better when they take the field tonight. And maybe that will lead to some more wins.

* All major league clubs were required to reduce their pitching staffs to 13 by Monday, and the Nats took care of that transaction by optioning Abbott back to Triple-A Rochester following Sunday’s game.

They did not immediately announce which position player will be added to take that open roster spot, but the signs point to Alcides Escobar, who appears ready to return from a hamstring strain.

Escobar hurt himself making a difficult play in the field May 31 against the Mets, a development that led to Luis Garcia’s promotion from Rochester the next day. Garcia has started at shortstop every game since, and Martinez made it clear the 22-year-old will continue to start.

That means Escobar is ticketed for the bench, where he’ll be asked to play multiple positions and serve as a mentor to Garcia and other young players.

Escobar has played four rehab games for Rochester, going 3-for-13 with a double, a homer, an RBI and three strikeouts. He started three games at shortstop while serving as designated hitter in the other.

* The Nationals announced they requested unconditional release waivers on Dee Strange-Gordon, effectively ending his time with the organization.

Strange-Gordon, who made the opening day roster as a super-utility player following an impressive spring as a non-roster invite, was designated for assignment last week because the club desperately needed to add another pitcher.

The 34-year-old had appeared in only one game since June 1, no longer getting time at shortstop with Garcia’s promotion and no longer seeing action at other positions since Ehire Adrianza was activated off the 60-day IL.

Strange-Gordon did hit .305 with a double, a triple, two RBIs and three stolen bases in 22 games for the Nationals. The organization was hoping he’d report to Rochester, but it appears he elected to become a free agent instead and try to catch on with another team.

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