Game 38 lineups: Nats at Marlins

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MIAMI – Would you believe it if I told you the Nationals are looking for their first win of the season against the Marlins tonight?

Well, it’s true. The Marlins have won all four matchups so far in 2022, most recently last night behind a dominant start by Sandy Alcantara. These are not the same Marlins, against whom the Nationals used to rack up wins.

The Nats have at least one win against every opponent they’ve faced this year except the Fish.

Joan Adon will try to get deeper into tonight’s game than Aaron Sanchez’s 3 ⅔ innings of work last night. However, that’s also how far Adon went in his last start when he gave up three runs and five walks to the Mets. The rookie is 1-6 with a 7.03 ERA on the season and hasn’t faced the Fish yet in his young career.

Meanwhile, the Nats offense hopes to have more success against Cody Poteet than they did against Alcantara. The 27-year-old right-hander makes his first start of the season after posting an impressive 0.55 ERA and 0.980 WHIP in 16 ⅓ innings over eight relief appearances.

Poteet hasn’t faced the Nats this year and gave up five runs in three innings in his only start against them last year.

Nelson Cruz and Alcides Escobar will both return to the lineup tonight. 

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
SS Alcides Escobar
CF Victor Robles

RHP Joan Adon

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

RHP Cody Poteet

Soto and Martinez staying positive after more frustration at the plate

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MIAMI – We hear it all the time when teams go through offensive slumps. It’s the major leagues. The guy on the mound gets paid to get batters out, too.

Sometimes it’s just the case that a team runs into some tough pitching matchups.

That has been the case for the Nationals, who, aside from an 8-3 win over the Mets and a 13-6 victory over the Astros, have struggled to score in bunches over the past week.

Over their last five losses, the Nats have been outscored 30-6 and have failed to score more than two runs in a game.

The latest such games came facing future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander on Sunday and budding star Sandy Alcantara on Monday. Sometimes the cards you’re dealt are really good pitchers.

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Alcantara dominates Nats while Sanchez struggles early in loss (updated)

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MIAMI – It’s been all or nothing at all lately for the Nationals. They won by five-run and seven-run margins in their two victories over the last week. They then failed to score more than two runs in any of their four losses.

On Sunday, they ran into a red-hot Justin Verlander, who held them scoreless over five innings in an eventual 8-0 loss. On Monday night, it was the Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara who kept the Nationals bats quiet while handing down an 8-2 loss in front of 6,601 at loanDepot Park.

So now that makes no more than two runs scored in each of their last five losses.

The evening actually started off well for the visiting side. César Hernández greeted Alcantara with a leadoff single in the top of the first and would eventually come all the way around to score on an RBI single from Yadiel Hernandez (filling the designated hitter role after Nelson Cruz was scratched from the lineup with an illness) for a quick 1-0 lead.

That would be all the Nats could muster off Alcantara.

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Cruz scratched from lineup with illness, plus other notes

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MIAMI – The Nationals will be without designated hitter Nelson Cruz for Monday’s series opener against the Marlins.

Originally slated to bat fourth in his usual DH role, Cruz was scratched just under two hours before the scheduled first pitch to start this three-game set in Miami. Yadiel Hernandez will now bat cleanup as the designated hitter, with Lane Thomas sliding into left field and batting seventh.

Cruz was seen earlier today in the Nationals clubhouse before the team took the field for pregame warmups. He was wearing a mask as he gathered his things and left the clubhouse shortly before the media spoke to manager Davey Martinez.

“Yeah, we might have a lineup change,” Martinez said when asked about Cruz’s sudden departure. “He didn't feel too good. I didn't want him around the other boys. So I'm going to talk to our trainers after this and we'll figure out what's going on.”

Whether Cruz was wearing a mask for precautionary reasons or it was deemed that he had to remains unclear. No other players, coaches or staff members were seen wearing masks.

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Game 37 lineups: Nats at Marlins (updated)

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MIAMI – ¡Bienvenidos a Miami! After finishing up a six-game homestand by going 2-4 against the Mets and Astros, the Nationals now embark on a six-game road trip starting with tonight’s series opener against the Marlins.

Interestingly enough, the Nats have fared much better away from their home ballpark so far in 2022. They’re 7-9 (.438) in their 16 road games and have outscored their opponents 94-86. They are 5-15 (.250) and have been outscored 100-56 in 20 home games.

Aaron Sanchez will look to build off one of his strongest outings as a National, when he held the Mets to three runs on six hits with no walks over 5 1/3 innings Wednesday. For the season, Sanchez is 2-2 with a 7.58 ERA and 1.421 WHIP over four starts.

Sanchez made two starts against the Marlins last year as a member of the Giants, holding the Fish to just one run over a combined 9 2/3 innings.

Sandy Alcantara will take the bump for Don Mattingly’s club while looking to continue his strong start to the season. The right-hander is 2-2 with a 2.74 ERA that ranks ninth in the National League. He held the Nats to just one run over six innings in an April 26 win at Nationals Park.

This is my first solo road trip covering the Nats, so I’m excited to bring you coverage this week from South Beach. Mark Zuckerman will rejoin the team in Milwaukee on Friday.

Update: Nelson Cruz was scratched from tonight's lineup. Manager Davey Martinez said the slugger wasn't feeling well. Yadiel Hernandez is now the designated hitter and batting fourth, and Lane Thomas is now in left field and batting seventh.

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 Yadiel Hernandez
C Keibert Ruiz
3B Maikel Franco
LF Lane Thomas
SS Dee Strange-Gordon
CF Victor Robles

RHP Aaron Sanchez

MARLINS
2B Jazz Chisholm
DH Jesús Aguilar
LF Jorge Soler
1B Garrett Cooper
RF Avasaíl García
3B Brian Anderson
CF Bryan De La Cruz
SS Erik González
C Jacob Stallings

RHP Sandy Alcantara

Nats searching for home cooking recipe while reuniting with Astros

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Home field advantage is sometimes an overused cliché in sports. How much a home crowd affects the actual outcome of a game is hard to quantify.

But baseball can be separated from other major sports in that all ballparks have different dimensions. And with 81 games over the course of a regular season, major league ballplayers can get used to the way their home field plays.

The way the outfield fence curves. The way the foul line walls angle. The way the wind blows in and the sun shines.

Even though it’s not always the case, you would figure most teams would have more success at home than on the road.

Not these 2022 Nationals, now a little over a month into their season.

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More sloppy play leads to another home loss for Nats (updated)

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Thursday’s afternoon series finale against the Mets gave the Nationals a chance to win their first home series of the 2022 season. Coming into the game, they were 0-3-1 in series taking place at Nationals Park.

Although this game started much like Wednesday’s affair, with the Mets jumping out to an early lead in the first inning, this time the Nats could not pull off a comeback.

The inability to get deep into the game by the starting pitcher and horrendous baserunning by the offense resulted in a 4-1 loss to the Mets in front of 21,213 fans still waiting to witness a series win.

This game was won and lost, first and foremost, on the mound. Nationals starter Joan Adon did not throw strikes. Mets starter Taijuan Walker did.

“​​I felt a little weird," Adon said after the game, via team interpreter Octavio Martinez. "But I mean, that's part of how things go sometimes.”

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Martinez expects Escobar to return Friday, Sanchez to make next start

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As the Nationals look to win their first home series of the 2022 season, they will once again be without shortstop Alcides Escobar, who will miss his third straight game.

Escobar was a late scratch from the starting lineup before Tuesday’s series opener against the Mets. After the game it was revealed he was dealing with an infection under the nail of his left index finger.

The timing of the infection was unfortunate for the veteran infielder. After a slow start to the season in which he was batting only .127 over his first 17 games, Escobar has slashed .440/.482/.560 with a 1.042 OPS over his last seven outings, going 11-for-25 with three runs scored, a double, a triple, a walk and a hit-by-pitch. However, his struggles in the field continued as he committed four errors over that seven-game span.

The 35-year-old tried to convince manager Davey Martinez he could swing the bat without using the affected finger (a la Trea Turner from a couple of years ago), but the skipper didn’t want to risk it.

Doctors removed fluid from the finger on Wednesday, but it remained sore, keeping Escobar out of the lineup for the Nats’ 8-3 win. He then woke up Thursday morning feeling a lot better, with Martinez expecting the shortstop to return for Friday’s series opener against the Astros after one more off-day.

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Game 33 lineups: Nats vs. Mets

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Almost halfway through this six-game homestand, the Nationals need to win this afternoon to earn a series victory against the Mets before the Astros come to town this weekend.

In the four home series before this one, the Nationals went 0-3-1, with the one tie coming in a four-game series three weeks ago in which they won the first two games against the Diamondbacks before dropping the last two.

Joan Adon looks to give the Nats an opportunity to win just their fifth home game of the season. The 23-year-old right-hander is 1-5 with a 6.99 ERA and coming off an outing in which he struck out a season-high six batters against the Angels. 

Adon faced this Mets squad in his season debut on April 9, giving up four runs on four hits and four walks while striking out three over 4 1/3 innings in a 5-0 loss.

Right-hander Taijuan Walker makes his fourth start for the Mets this season and first that won’t come against the Phillies. The 29-year-old is 0-0 with a 4.91 ERA over 11 innings in his three outings against Philadelphia. The Mets went 1-2 in those games, but the one victory came a week ago after Walker gave up seven runs (six earned) and nine hits in just four innings only to watch the Phillies bullpen completely implode while giving up seven runs in the ninth for an 8-7 Mets win.

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House living up to hitting hype

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With the Nationals off on Monday as they return home from a three-city West Coast road trip, let’s wrap up our three-piece minor league miniseries from last week’s conversation with Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser on the “MASN All Access Podcast.”

We already discussed Luis García’s hot start at Triple-A Rochester and Cade Cavalli’s potential to impact the major league level later this season.

Further down the farm system, Brady House is putting together an impressive start to his first full pro season with low Single-A Fredericksburg. On a tear over the first 21 games of the season, the No. 2 prospect in the Nats system is hitting .326 with five doubles, two homers, 24 RBIs and 10 walks.

We knew he had the potential for a lot of power, as he was touted as the best hitting high school prospect in the 2021 draft. But last year’s first-round pick has flashed the ability to hit for average and get on base as well.

“He's been incredibly impressive,” Glaser said of House. “I highlighted him in spring training as a prospect scouts were very, very high on. There was never any doubt about his power. He had some of the best power in his draft class. There were just some questions about how much contact he would make. And that's the case for a lot of high school draftees. It's a huge jump going from high school to professional baseball. But he's answered them pretty loudly. And now you really don't find any doubts about his bat whatsoever.” 

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Cavalli has best chance of Nats prospects to impact majors

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We’re continuing our miniseries of minor league entries from this week’s conversation with Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser on the “MASN All Access Podcast.”

In the first edition, we looked at Luis García’s hot start to the season at Triple-A Rochester while wondering when he’ll get the call back to the majors and what’s holding him back now.

Along with García in Rochester is the Nationals’ top prospect in Cade Cavalli. After flying up the ranks in his first professional season last year, the former first-round pick is now trying to find sustained success at the highest level of the minor leagues before making his highly anticipated major league debut later this summer.

Cavalli is 1-2 with a 7.36 ERA in 22 innings over five starts with the Red Wings. He has held opponents to a .259 average while striking out 19 and walking 11.

“He has some of the best pure stuff in the minors,” Glaser said of Cavalli. “It's explosive, explosive stuff all the way around. The one thing that has kind of been the issue dating back to his days in college was despite how his stuff read on a radar gun, it was always a little more hittable than you expected. And we're seeing that now at Triple-A against some of the top-level talent in the minors. He struggled there last year, he's actually struggling there so far this year as well. The strikeout-to-walk ratio is not great.”

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Glaser on García's hot start, plus other minor league notes

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As the Nationals wrap up their West Coast road trip by starting a three-game series tonight in Anaheim, we took a look at some of the headlines back east on the farm system on the “MASN All Access Podcast.”

Kyle Glaser, a national writer for Baseball America covering the top prospects in the country, joined Amy Jennings and me on the show to discuss some of the top names on the Nationals farm.

We started with the big question surrounding the Nats, which was also the main focus of the episode: When will Luis García get the call back to the majors?

García, a graduated former top prospect, is raking at Triple-A Rochester, while Nationals shortstops have floundered at the big league level.

The 21-year-old infielder is slashing .351/.406/.649 with a 1.055 OPS, five doubles, three triples, six home runs, 16 RBIs and nine walks in 23 games with the Red Wings. He went 2-for-4 with a triple and a home run while scoring both runs of a 2-0 win over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Yankees) last night.

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Finnegan and Rainey getting work without high-leverage situations

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For the most part, the Nationals bullpen has been a bright spot early this season. Not to take anything away from their accomplishments, but this group of relievers quite frankly had nowhere to go but up.

Washington’s bullpen posted a 5.10 ERA last year, worst in the National League and second-worst in the majors.

So far this year, the Nats ‘pen has a 3.61 ERA that was eighth in the NL and 17th in the majors at the conclusion of Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Marlins. A big improvement.

At the forefront, or should I say the back end, of this bullpen are Kyle Finnegan and Tanner Rainey, two relievers the Nationals really need to have bounceback seasons in 2022.

With a banged-up bullpen that has Sean Doolittle (elbow sprain), Hunter Harvey (pronator strain), Mason Thompson (biceps tendinitis) and Will Harris (pectoral surgery) on the injured list, manager Davey Martinez has relied on Finnegan and Rainey to get important outs this season.

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Corbin’s best not enough as Nats’ losing streak reaches eight (updated)

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Patrick Corbin was “pissed” after his last start. He said so after completing only 1 2/3 innings against the Giants on Friday while his ERA inflated to 11.20 and his WHIP went up to 2.561 on the season.

So after an extra day of rest and an intense bullpen session Tuesday with pitching coach Jim Hickey that manager Davey Martinez called “crisp,” Corbin was looking for his best outing of the season. And the Nationals needed it to avoid a second straight sweep and an eight-game losing streak at home.

Corbin did his part, becoming just the second Nationals starter to complete six innings this season while only giving up two earned runs. He struck out a season-high eight batters over his six-plus innings.

But even Corbin’s best wasn’t enough to break the losing streak as the Nats fell to the Marlins 3-2 in front of 12,454 fans taking in Thursday’s matinee.

“Felt really good," Corbin said after the game. "I've been working on a lot of stuff, so it's good to see some results out there. But yeah, I felt pretty good. Just try to continue off this. It's been a tough week or so for us here. It stinks we didn't get the win, but guys are out there fighting and they'll come.”

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Martinez lays out weekend rotation plans for San Francisco

Davey Martinez Jim Hickey Tim Bogar dugout home

After the Nationals wrap up a 10-game homestand with today’s afternoon finale against the Marlins, they will board a plane to embark on a nine-game road trip out west.

First stop: San Francisco, to face a familiar foe in the Giants.

The Giants just swept a three-game series in D.C. last weekend, so the Nats will look to start their three-city road trip with some revenge by the Bay.

Manager Davey Martinez announced this morning he will be sticking with his regular rotation from the past week to lead his club on the mound this weekend, with Aaron Sanchez, Joan Adon and Josiah Gray scheduled to start the three games against the Giants.

As Martinez mentioned last week, Sanchez will get another chance to start after making his Nationals debut Saturday, also against the Giants, in which he gave up four runs and six hits over 4 1/3 innings. While that line doesn’t jump off the page, Sanchez did retire nine straight between the second and fourth innings. 

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Game 21 lineups: Nats vs. Marlins

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It’s a sunny day in D.C., though still pretty chilly for late April. Not unlike the weather the Nationals will see in San Francisco this weekend.

But before they leave for a three-city road trip out west, in which they’ll play nine games in 10 days, the Nats have to take care of business against the Marlins to wrap up this homestand while trying to end a seven-game losing streak.

Patrick Corbin will once again take the mound for the Nationals while looking for some sign of improvement. The left-hander only completed 1 2/3 innings during his last start on Friday against the Giants and sports an 0-3 record with an 11.20 ERA and 2.561 WHIP on the season. Corbin went 1-2 with a 6.19 ERA in three starts against the Fish last year and is 5-5 with a 4.29 ERA in 15 career starts against Miami.

Left-hander Trevor Rogers makes the start for the Marlins this afternoon. Last year’s National League Rookie of the Year runner-up is 0-2 with a 3.26 ERA in four starts against the Nats in his career and is 0-3 with a 6.94 ERA over his first three starts this season.

MIAMI MARLINS at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Sunny, 54 degrees, wind 15 mph in from left field 

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Why Adon gets the start on Sunday over Gray

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This week started off nicely for the Nationals. They returned home after a seven-game road trip to an off-day on Monday that, thanks to a rainout, broke up a scheduled stretch of 18 games in 18 days to start the season.

The good fortune carried over into Tuesday, as they watched Josiah Gray and Joan Adon combine for 11 ⅔ innings of one-run ball between their two starts in a doubleheader sweep of the Diamondbacks. 

But since Tuesday, the Nats’ fortunes have changed. They have lost four straight, have seen more players bitten by the injury bug and needed to make a couple of roster moves to fill Saturday’s spot in the rotation.

Aaron Sanchez did perform well in his Nationals debut yesterday, earning himself another turn in the rotation despite a 5-2 loss to the Giants. Still not enough to say the bad luck of the last couple of days has passed, especially with Josh Bell leaving yesterday’s game after the second inning with right hamstring tightness.

Even so, they must continue through this grind of a season.

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Sanchez unravels, Bell departs early again in loss to Giants

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It’s a tough ask for any pitcher to come up to the big leagues and make a spot start. You’re usually facing an unfamiliar lineup and have done little preparation.

But Aaron Sanchez has been around the block a few times over his seven-year major league career. He had pitched in 159 games while making 103 starts with the Blue Jays, Astros and Giants before making his Nationals debut this afternoon.

And he’s familiar with his opponent, the Giants, who he pitched for last season, while also being on one extra day of rest from his last start with Triple-A Rochester on Sunday. So Nationals manager Davey Martinez liked the matchup for Sanchez to make a spot start.

Sanchez pitched admirably in this opportunity, but was done in by the bookends of his outing that only lasted 4 ⅓ innings en route to a 5-2 loss in front of 27,799 fans on a beautiful 73 degree day in the District.

"I thought I threw the ball well," Sanchez said in front of his new locker at Nationals Park after the game. "Early, they got a couple of hits that found holes. Mostly throughout most of the game, I felt like they found holes. Maybe two to three hard hit balls. But that's baseball. I felt like maybe in the fifth pitch selection could have been a little different now going back and looking at it. But I thought, for the most part, I threw the ball well."

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Sanchez selected to start, Murphy designated for assignment

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While the Nationals enjoyed the off-day due to Monday’s rainout to break up a scheduled 18-day stretch of games to start the season, and while they enjoyed watching budding stars Josiah Gray and Joan Adon lead them to a doubleheader sweep of the Diamondbacks on Tuesday, this week’s schedule crunch created a dilemma for Saturday’s game against the Giants.

With the spot in the rotation open for this afternoon, manager Davey Martinez would have loved to use his secret weapon in Paolo Espino for the start. The right-hander had been stretched out as a starter in spring training and had pitched multiple innings in each of his first two outings of the season.

But after last night’s debacle in which Patrick Corbin only went 1 2/3 innings, Espino was needed to cover the last two innings of the game, taking him out of consideration to start Saturday.

With no other available arms, the Nationals needed to make a roster move. They selected the contract of right-hander Aaron Sanchez and officially announced him as today’s starting pitcher. In order to add Sanchez, the Nats also had to remove someone from the 40-man roster.

That someone was right-handed reliever Patrick Murphy, who was designated for assignment to clear space for Sanchez.

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Game 17 lineups: Nats vs. Giants

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Hope you slept fast because we’re right back at Nationals Park for a rare early Saturday afternoon game. The Nationals are looking to bounce back after last night’s 7-1 series-opening loss to the Giants in which Patrick Corbin gave up seven runs in just 1 2/3 innings. 

The Nationals needed to make some changes to their roster this morning in order to bring up a pitcher for today’s start. Although Monday’s rainout gave the staff a needed break, Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Diamondbacks created a conundrum for today. And after Paolo Espino’s two innings of work last night, the Nats needed reinforcements for their second game against the Giants.

Aaron Sanchez, who made his way to D.C. from Triple-A Rochester last night, is set to make his Nationals debut against his former team. The 29-year-old right-hander is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three starts with the Red Wings. He has a 3.93 ERA over his seven-year major league career, including a 1-1 record and 3.06 ERA over nine appearances (seven starts) with the Giants last year.

In order to select Sanchez's contract and make room on the 40-man roster, the Nats designated right-hander Patrick Murphy for assignment.

Manager Davey Martinez has made a significant change to the top of his lineup this afternoon. Lane Thomas is in the leadoff spot with César Hernández moving down to the sixth spot. After posting a .364 on-base percentage in 45 games with the Nats last year, Thomas gets his first chance to lead off this season.

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