Waiting on Strasburg’s season debut and Lee’s next outing

Stephen Strasburg throwing blue home

CINCINNATI – It’s coming. It might be as soon as next week.

Just like the holidays sometimes sneak up on you, Strasmas could be closer than you think after Stephen Strasburg’s dominant performance last night with Triple-A Rochester.

After struggling in his first rehab start with low Single-A Fredericksburg and then coming back in his second pitching how a World Series MVP should against low minor leaguers, Strasburg shoved against Triple-A hitters to the tune of six shutout innings on one hit and one walk with four strikeouts on 83 pitches Friday night.

“He did well, six innings, 83 pitches, one hit, four strikeouts," Nationals manager Davey Martinez said after last night’s 8-5 win over the Reds. "So he threw the ball well.”

So is that it? Is Strasburg’s next start coming at the major league level?

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Gray’s redemption and Thomas’ career night snap Nats’ losing streak (updated)

thomas dugout 3 hr @CIN blue

CINCINNATI – Josiah Gray was upset with himself a little over a week ago. In his first start against the Dodgers, the team that traded him and Keibert Ruiz to the Nationals for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner last summer, he let his emotions get the best of him and allowed seven runs in three innings.

He didn’t want it to happen again and was looking forward to facing the Reds, the team that drafted him in the second round in 2018 and traded him to the Dodgers that December.

“I'm looking forward to facing the Dodgers again, facing the Reds whenever we face them, and going out there and just giving it my all and kind of just trying to put it to them,” Gray said after losing to the Dodgers last week.

That opportunity to face the Reds arrived tonight, and Gray fared much better this time against a former club while helping the Nats win 8-5 to snap a four-game losing streak in front of 19,032 at Great American Ball Park.

Gray effectively used his four-seamer and slider to work through the Reds lineup. He finished an impressive six innings with two hits, two runs (one earned), three walks, nine strikeouts, one home run and one wild pitch on 91 pitches, 51 strikes. A fantastic return to Cincinnati for the 24-year-old.

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Martinez on roster moves and Nats’ new initiative

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CINCINNATI – There was a good amount of pregame news ahead of the Nationals’ second game against the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Some were baseball related. Some were more important than baseball.

Starting on the diamond, the Nationals made a handful of roster moves before today’s game. They recalled right-hander Andres Machado from Triple-A Rochester and placed left-hander Josh Rogers on the 15-day injured list with a left shoulder impingement, leaving no lefties in the bullpen for tonight.

Machado rejoins the Nats for his third stint this season, in which he has a 5.40 ERA with 10 strikeouts and seven walks in 12 appearances. Rogers has a 5.13 ERA in 16 games (three starts) with the Nats and was charged with two runs after serving up a three-run home run to Kyle Farmer while only recording two outs last night.

“He went on the IL with a little bit of impingement in his left shoulder. So we'll see,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame media session. “He's gonna get an MRI tomorrow and we'll see how he's doing tomorrow. But we brought in Machado to fill that void as well.”

Martinez mentioned yesterday that lefty Evan Lee could be used out of the ‘pen on his bullpen day, but that isn’t until tomorrow. So how will the skipper use his relievers without a southpaw?

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Game 54 lineups: Nats at Reds

Nelson Cruz Gray

CINCINNATI – Surely the Nationals offense will break out of its funk and score some runs tonight, right?

Since their 6-5 win over the Rockies on Sunday – their fourth victory of their previous five games – the Nats have been outscored 36-6 in four straight losses this week.

They’ll get their shot at 10-year veteran Mike Minor on Friday at Great American Ball Park. The 34-year-old is making his Reds debut after being acquired from the Royals for Amir Garrett in March. Minor is 3-3 with a 4.47 ERA in 11 career starts against the Nationals, all of which came between 2010 and 2014, when he was with the Braves.

The Nats have been kept quiet by right-handed starting pitchers this week, so maybe facing a lefty will bring different results. They do have a slightly better average against southpaws this year, hitting .253 to rank fifth in the National League.

Josiah Gray will get to face the team that selected him in the second round of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft for the first time. The young right-hander didn’t fare so well when he faced his other former team, the Dodgers, for the first time last week, giving up seven runs in just three innings of work. After the game, Gray said he let his emotions get the best of him, but was looking forward to facing the Reds for the first time. We’ll see if he can keep his emotions in check tonight.

Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer (not in tonight’s lineup after going 2-for-4 with a three-run home run last night) arrived in Cincinnati in the trade that sent Gray to Los Angeles in December 2018. They are the only two major league players currently active from that six-player deal.

The Nationals have recalled Andres Machado from Triple-A Rochester and placed Josh Rogers on the 15-day injured list with a left shoulder impingement. So manager Davey Martinez has no left-handers in his bullpen tonight, with Evan Lee’s bullpen day not until tomorrow.

Congratulations to Dee Strange-Gordon and his wife, Jojo, who welcomed the couple’s second child this morning. They named their son Dash, a fitting name for the son of a speedy utility player. Former Nationals speedster Trea Turner also used “Dash” as a nickname for his firstborn son, Beckham.

The Nationals will place Strange-Gordon on the paternity list and will make another roster move this afternoon.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CINCINNATI REDS
Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 6:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, MLB.com
Weather: Mostly sunny, 79 degrees, wind 6 mph out to left-center field

NATIONALS
2B Cesár Hernández
LF Lane Thomas
RF Juan Soto
DH Nelson Cruz
1B Josh Bell
3B Maikel Franco
C Riley Adams
SS Luis García
CF Victor Robles

RHP Josiah Gray

REDS
CF Nick Senzel
3B Brandon Drury
LF Tommy Pham
1B Joey Votto
C Tyler Stephenson
DH Mike Moustakas
RF Albert Almora Jr.
2B Alejo Lopez
SS Matt Reynolds

LHP Mike Minor

García continues to develop on the fly while back with Nats

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CINCINNATI – The Nationals were very clear about their plans for infield prospect Luis García: He is to play every day at shortstop. And he wasn’t going to come back up to the majors until the organization felt he was ready to do so at the big league level on a consistent basis.

That might have caused some frustration and confusion among fans, who watched 35-year-old Alcides Escobar, 34-year-old Dee Strange-Gordon and offseason waiver claim Lucius Fox share the reps at shortstop through the first two months of the season while García stayed at Triple-A Rochester.

In a rebuilding year, why not play one of your top prospects whose major league-ready bat can help your struggling offense?

Well, García finally got the call back to the majors ahead of Wednesday’s finale in New York when Escobar landed on the 10-day injured list ​​with a right hamstring strain and everyday reps at shortstop became available.

But it’s still a developing period for the 22-year-old, and the Nats are keeping a close watch on one of their key pieces of their future.

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Nats suffer fourth straight blowout loss

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CINCINNATI – The Nationals have had their fair share of issues to begin this 10-game road trip. That’s the easy way to put it.

What are those issues? Much of the same. Poor pitching, lack of hitting and sloppy defense.

You’ve seen this story before. Now for the fourth time this week, actually.

Entering this four-game series against the Reds, the Nats had been shut out in back-to-back games and were riding a 21-inning scoreless streak. That streak extended to 27 ⅓ innings before they finally scored a run. But it was just one run, and that wasn’t nearly enough in this 8-1 loss in front of 12,799 at Great American Ball Park.

The Nationals were averaging 3.0 runs per game over their last 14 road games before tonight. That number is going to shrink after scoring just the one on Josh Bell’s seventh-inning home run to left field, his fifth of the season.

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Lee’s usage moving forward still to be determined

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CINCINNATI – Nationals manager Davey Martinez was impressed with Evan Lee’s major league debut Wednesday against the Mets. The 24-year-old’s 3 ⅔ innings on 67 pitches was strong enough for the skipper to suggest the left-hander would get another chance to pitch in the big leagues.

Whether that’s in the form of another start or an appearance out of the bullpen remains to be seen. Martinez wants to see how these four-games in Cincinnati play out before making a commitment to Lee making a second start.

Martinez did confirm, however, that Lee is staying with the Nationals for the time being, instead of being sent back down to the minors after a spot start.

“Yeah, he's here. We told him to be ready for the five days” Martinez said of Lee during his pregame media session with the media. “We'll see what transpires in those other days. We also, for me, we got one left-hander in the bullpen. So on his bullpen day, we might keep him back and maybe put him in the bullpen for that day.”

That bullpen day typically comes on the third day of a five-day rotation, meaning Lee could be available out of the bullpen for Saturday’s afternoon game against the Reds with Erick Fedde on the mound. Josh Rogers, the only lefty currently in the ‘pen, had to pitch in two of the three games in New York, including mop up duty in the eighth inning Wednesday after Jordan Weems couldn’t close out the inning.

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Game 53 lineups: Nats at Reds

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CINCINNATI – Hello from Cincinnati, my first time visiting The Queen City and Great American Ball Park!

The Nationals continue their 10-game road trip with a four-game set this weekend against the Reds that could help determine who gets next year’s No. 1 overall pick in the draft. (Although the implementation of the draft lottery next year will also play a factor.) There was a time earlier this season when the Nats were actually playing better on the road than at home. But they have lost 11 out of their last 14 road games while averaging just 3.0 runs per game and allowing 6.0 runs per game.

Joan Adon will face the Reds for the first time in his young career. Although he is just 1-8 with a 6.08 ERA on the year, the right-hander will look to build off a strong start his last time out in which he held the Rockies to two unearned runs over six innings.

Adon could also benefit from some support from the offense, which has only given him an average of 1.62 runs of support over his first 10 starts of the season. Yes, the same offense that is currently riding a 21-inning scoreless streak.

The Reds will counter with their own young right-hander in rookie Graham Ashcraft. The 24-year-old has pitched to a 1.69 ERA over his first two major league outings, aided by 6 ⅓ scoreless innings against the Giants in his last start.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CINCINNATI REDS
Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 6:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 76 degrees, wind 8 mph out to center field

NATIONALS
2B César Hernández
C Keibert Ruiz 
RF Juan Soto 
DH Nelson Cruz
1B Josh Bell
LF Yadiel Hernandez
3B Maikel Franco
SS Luis García
CF Victor Robles 

RHP Joan Adon

REDS
CF Nick Senzel
3B Brandon Drury
LF Tommy Pham
DH Joey Votto
SS Kyle Farmer
1B Mike Moustakas
RF Albert Almora Jr.
C Aramis Garcia
2B Matt Reynolds

RHP Graham Ashcraft

Minor league updates from eventful night on the farm

Stephen Strasburg throwing blue home

Instead of writing more of the same stuff after back-to-back blowout losses to the Dodgers, let’s take a look at what actually turned out to be an eventful night on the Nationals farm.

Major leaguers started rehab assignments, top prospects were in action and, unfortunately, a top player suffered an injury.

Manager Davey Martinez didn’t have updates immediately after last night’s game, so expect more information to come out later today …

* Let’s start with Stephen Strasburg, who made his first rehab start with low Single-A Fredericksburg while making his way back from last summer’s thoracic outlet surgery.

Strasburg was scheduled to go four innings and/or 60 pitches with the FredNats, but he reached the pitch count before he could finish the third inning.

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Gray rudely greeted by former club in blowout loss (updated)

Josiah Gray throws white

It was going to be the headline one way or another: Josiah Gray facing the Dodgers for the first time since last summer’s trade deadline.

The other reunions happened last night. Keibert Ruiz went 0-for-4 in his first game against the Dodgers, and Trea Turner and Daniel Hudson received a joint tribute video in their return to Nationals Park.

Tuesday night was Gray’s turn. And it wasn’t a ceremonious occasion.

Gray was rudely greeted by his former club in the form of a 9-4 loss in front of 22,418 fans at his new home ballpark. It was the second straight blowout loss the Nationals suffered at the hands of the Dodgers to start this three-game series and seven-game homestand.

Unlike his last time out against the Marlins, Gray’s game plan and execution didn’t work against some of his former teammates, who saw him very well at the plate. The ability to knock him around and make loud contact drove the Nats starter’s pitch count up, setting up a short outing no matter what adjustments were made.

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Key for Gray is “controlling his emotions” vs. Dodgers

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It’s not any easy task asked of Josiah Gray tonight. To face the team that traded him and his catcher, Keibert Ruiz, away last summer and also boasts one of the best lineups in the major leagues.

But that’s what manager Davey Martinez is going to ask of the young right-hander as the Nationals face the Dodgers in the second game of a three-game series on South Capitol Street.

Gray and Ruiz, of course, were the top two prospects included in the four-player package sent from Los Angeles to Washington in exchange for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner last summer. That deal comes full circle this week in the Dodgers’ first trip to D.C. since the blockbuster trade.

On the hill at the start of the game will be Gray, with Ruiz behind the plate and batting second for the third straight game. Batting third in top of the first inning will be Turner, in the Dodgers’ gray uniform.

Ruiz and Turner had their time to soak in the moment of playing their former clubs yesterday. Gray gets his chance tonight, with Martinez hoping he stays focused.

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Game 44 lineups: Nats vs. Dodgers

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The reunion tour continues tonight at Nats Park when the Nationals and Dodgers play the second game of this three-game set.

Monday night saw Trea Turner and Daniel Hudson return to D.C. for the first time since last summer’s selloff (although Hudson didn’t enter the game). Tonight, it will be Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz’s turn to face off against their former team together. While Gray takes the mound for the first time against the Dodgers, Ruiz went 0-for-4 last night in his first action against L.A.

Gray went 0-0 with a 6.75 ERA and 1.500 WHIP in eight innings over two appearances (one start) with the Dodgers last year before getting shipped off to Washington as part of the four-player package in exchange for Max Scherzer and Turner. In 20 career starts with the Nats, he’s 6-5 with a 4.92 ERA and 1.311 WHIP, including 4-3 with a 4.36 ERA and 1.269 WHIP in eight starts this season.

The Dodgers will counter with right-hander Walker Buehler, who is now tied with teammate Tyler Anderson (and six others, including Scherzer) in the league lead with five wins after the left-hander’s dominant performance on South Capitol Street last night. Buehler has the 11th-best ERA in the National League at 2.89 and is 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA in four career outings (three starts) against the Nats.

César Hernández is back in the leadoff spot after Lane Thomas led off last night. Thomas is in center field and batting eighth. We will check on Victor Robles after he came out of the Monday's game with a calf cramp.

You’ll see a familiar face in the MASN booth tonight, as Ryan Zimmerman will join Bob Carpenter, Kevin Frandsen and Dan Kolko for tonight’s broadcast. Pregame coverage starts with “Nats Xtra” at 6:30 p.m., followed by a scheduled first pitch at 7:05 p.m., all on MASN2.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, MLB.com
Weather: Cloudy, 60 degrees, wind 9 mph in from right-center field

NATIONALS
2B César Hernández
C Keibert Ruiz
RF Juan Soto
DH Nelson Cruz
1B Josh Bell
LF Yadiel Hernandez
3B Maikel Franco
CF Lane Thomas
SS Dee Strange-Gordon

RHP Josiah Gray

DODGERS
RF Mookie Betts
1B Freddie Freeman
SS Trea Turner
C Will Smith
2B Max Muncy
3B Justin Turner
DH Edwin Ríos
CF Chris Taylor
LF Gavin Lux


RHP Walker Buehler

Thomas comfortable in reduced role this year after strong 2021 with Nats

Lane Thomas catch Victor Robles gray

MIAMI – Lane Thomas arrived in D.C. last summer after a trade with the Cardinals for Jon Lester. He was one of 12 prospects the Nationals received in return for selling off eight of their veteran players. Of those prospects, he’s now one of four currently impacting the major league roster.

In 45 games with the Nationals during last season’s second half, Thomas slashed .270/.364/.489 with an .853 OPS, 33 runs scored, 14 doubles, two triples, seven home runs, 27 RBIs, four stolen bases and 27 walks. Meanwhile, Lester (who went 3-5 with a 5.02 ERA in 16 starts with the Nats) went 4-1 with a 4.36 ERA in 12 starts with the Cards before retiring over the offseason.

The trade was a steal for the Nationals.

In fact, Thomas played so well, he replaced former top prospect Victor Robles full-time in center field and the leadoff spot. Robles, of course, was sent down to Triple-A Rochester and never returned to the majors in 2021.

This year, however, their roles have changed. With Robles expected to be the full-time center fielder and Thomas full-time in left coming into the season, they are now sharing time in center while Yadiel Hernandez stays hot at the plate and mans left field.

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Ruiz and Gray continue to grow and compete together

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MIAMI – Wednesday night was a glimpse into the Nationals’ potentially bright future.

After dropping the first two games of the series and first five games of the season against the Marlins, the Nats’ rough week in Miami looked like it was going to end in the worst way.

The offense couldn’t capitalize on a bases-loaded opportunity in the eighth inning and Tanner Rainey blew his second save of the season in the ninth.

No worries, because Keibert Ruiz – dubbed “​​the star of the game” by manager Davey Martinez afterwards – came to the rescue with a game-winning RBI double in the top of the 10th.

That capped off a 3-for-3 night with two doubles, an RBI and two walks as Ruiz reached base in all five plate appearances for the first time in his career. Even more impressive was the fact that the switch-hitter was able to produce that incredible night from both sides of the plate.

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Rainey blows save, but Ruiz rallies Nats to avoid sweep (updated)

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There’s always the next game in baseball. After a rough start to this series with two losses by a combined score of 13-3, the Nationals were finally able to solve the Marlins riddle and earn their first victory against their division rival.

It was a frustrating first two games. It almost became a third. But the Nats settled in, played a (mostly) clean game and won 5-4 in 10 innings in front of 7,566 at loanDepot Park to avoid the second straight sweep at the hands of the Marlins.

And they did it in an unconventional way: The Nationals broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning to take a one-run lead, lost it in the ninth and regained it in the 10th.

With Dee Strange-Gordon pinch-running for Nelson Cruz as the automatic runner on second base in the top of the 10th, Victor Robles bunted him over to third and Keibert Ruiz drove in the go-ahead run with a double down the left field line.

“I cannot say enough about Keibert," manager Davey Martinez said after the game. "What a tremendous game he had. Honestly, behind the plate, hitting, everything. Good all-around player and he's getting better. Like I said, every time he's out there, he's getting better. He definitely, for us, was the star of the game.”

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Martinez on rest, Gray, Ruiz and more before series finale

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MIAMI – A getaway game in the middle of a road trip before an off-day doesn’t usually bring a lot of news. The Nationals didn’t take batting practice on the field at loanDepot Park, so players were slow to arrive in the clubhouse, hanging at their lockers or getting some work in the batting cage tunnel.

A handful of players were catching the end of the Brewers’ extra-inning win over the Braves, watching their next opponent walk off their division rival in 11 innings.

Here's some pregame news and notes from our conversation with manager Davey Martinez before the Nats take on the Marlins:

* After a brutal stretch of 18 scheduled games in 18 days to start the season, the Nationals have benefited from one off-day in each of the last four weeks. But that will end after tomorrow’s day off, when they embark on another stretch of 17 scheduled games in 17 days, starting Friday in Milwaukee.

So Martinez wanted to take today as an opportunity to get the guys off their feet for a little bit while still getting their work in without actual batting practice.

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Game 39 lineups: Nats at Marlins

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MIAMI – Well, if the Nationals thought the Marlins’ pitching staff was tough to hit over the first two games of this three-game set, it isn’t going to get any easier in tonight’s finale.

Pablo López brings his 4-1 record, 0.814 WHIP and major league-leading 1.05 ERA to the mound as the Marlins look to complete their second sweep of the Nationals this season.

López dominated the Nats in a win back on April 27, shutting them out over six innings of three-hit ball while striking out six. It was one of four scoreless outings for the right-hander already this season.

The Nationals will counter with one of their better starting pitchers in Josiah Gray, who is looking to bounce back from back-to-back rough starts that elevated his ERA from 3.12 for 4.34. He gave up three runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Angels on May 7 and six runs over six innings against the Astros on Friday.

Gray’s issues with the longball have also recently resurfaced. After allowing only three home runs over his first five starts, he’s allowed five over his last two. The Marlins have already hit three homers over the first two games of this series, though they have all been solo shots.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at MIAMI MARLINS
Where: loanDepot Park
Gametime: 6:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, MLB.com
Weather: Indoors

NATIONALS
2B César Hernández
RF Juan Soto
1B Josh Bell
DH Nelson Cruz
LF Yadiel Hernandez
C Keibert Ruiz
3B Maikel Franco
CF Lane Thomas
SS Alcides Escobar

RHP Josiah Gray

MARLINS
2B Jazz Chisholm Jr.
DH Jesús Aguilar
1B Garrett Cooper
RF Avasaíl García
LF Brian Anderson
CF Jesús Sánchez
C Jacob Stallings
SS Miguel Rojas
3B Erik González

RHP Pablo López

Nats trying to keep frustrations at bay

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MIAMI – Baseball’s a hard game. It’s one of the hardest games in professional sports.

It’s a game in which if you succeed one-third of the time, you’re considered one of the best in the sport.

So naturally, there are going to be plenty of ups and downs throughout the course of a 162-game season. All teams will go through hot streaks. All teams will go through cold ruts.

The Nationals currently find themselves in the middle of a particularly frustrating rut. They are 12-26, having lost three straight after last night’s 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Marlins. They lost all five games so far this season against the Fish, a team they usually beat. And they’ve lost seven of their last nine overall.

But they’re doing their best to not let their frustrations boil over and get the best of them.

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Cruz can’t come up clutch, more poor play in Nats’ third straight loss

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MIAMI – Nelson Cruz has been in big spots throughout his 18-year career. And he’s been in much bigger games than the Nationals’ 38th game of the season against a division opponent.

But after missing Monday’s series opener with an illness, Cruz found himself back in the lineup Tuesday night, and wouldn’t you know it, the game put him in one of the biggest spots of the night.

What happened didn’t ultimately lead to the Nationals’ 5-1 loss in front of 8,097 at loanDepot Park, which also included a close to seven-minute delay due to a false fire alarm in the fifth inning. But it certainly was their biggest opportunity to get ahead of the Marlins late and perhaps win their first game against their National League East rival.

With the Nats down 1-0 and with one out in the sixth, Victor Robles singled to center field to get a speedy runner on base. But he was promptly picked off by Marlins lefty reliever Steven Okert, this coming after Robles stole his first base in his first attempt of the season last night.

But Cesár Hernández followed with an infield single, and Juan Soto and Josh Bell reached on back-to-back walks against the erratic Okert.

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Cruz and Escobar return to lineup, Adon faces Marlins

Nelson Cruz Gray

MIAMI – After a rough start to the week in the form of an 8-2 loss to the Marlins on Monday, the Nationals were greeted to some good news before the second game of this three-game set at loanDepot Park.

Nelson Cruz returns to the starting lineup after being a pregame scratch with an illness before last night’s game. He left the Nationals clubhouse yesterday while wearing a mask – sent away from the rest of the team to keep anyone else from getting sick – but returned this afternoon without a face covering.

“He was good. He just said he wasn't feeling well yesterday, so precautionary,” said manager Davey Martinez during his pregame session with the media. “You know, I don't want anybody else getting sick. He woke up today, said he felt fine. I watched him do his warmups and he hit in the cage and looked good. So he's back in there.”

Cruz is back in his usual designated hitter role and batting cleanup behind Cesár Hernández, Juan Soto and Josh Bell. Yadiel Hernandez, who replaced Cruz as the DH last night while Lane Thomas took over in left field, is back in left and hitting fifth.

The 41-year-old gets another chance to continue his much-improved May after a rough start to the season in April: He’s slashing .275/.333/.450 with a .783 OPS, two homers and nine RBIs over his first 11 games this month. Cruz can also try to take advantage of the controlled elements inside the roofed loanDepot Park, a stadium where he’s only made two plate appearances during his career spent mostly in the American League.

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