Game 22 lineups: Nats at Mets

CJ Abrams running gray

NEW YORK – The Nationals have arrived in the Big Apple for what is, oddly, just their second series against a division rival. The new schedule format implemented this season means they will face National League East opponents fewer times than in past years. This three-game set against the Mets will be their first against a division foe since the season-opening series against the Braves, and the first on the road.

Josiah Gray gets the ball to start tonight’s opener in a homecoming for the New Rochelle, N.Y. native. With a respectable 3.74 ERA over his first four starts, the right-hander will look to earn his first win after starting the season 0-4, due mainly to a lack of run support. The Nationals offense has been held scoreless in each of Gray’s last three starts and has only scored one run in any game he’s started, coming well after he departed his first start in the ninth inning on April 1 via a Keibert Ruiz solo home run.

Meanwhile, José Butto will fill Max Scherzer’s spot in the rotation to start the opener for the home side. The former Nationals and current Mets ace would have been on schedule to start tonight, but is instead serving a 10-game suspension following his ejection Thursday for having a foreign substance on his hand during a game.

Butto is a 25-year-old right-hander who is the Mets’ No. 15 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. In his season debut on April 16 in Oakland, he pitched five innings of one-run ball, but surrendered five hits and four walks while only striking out two.

Where: Citi Field
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 The Fan,
Weather: Partly cloudy, 56 degrees, wind 8 mph out to right field

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White finding room on Nats farm at first base

TJ White Wilmington

WILMINGTON, Del. – The Nationals farm system is stacked with elite prospect talent almost two years removed from the organization’s decision to rebuild.

Trading stars such as Max Scherzer and Trea Turner netted top prospects Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz, who are now a part of the young core leading the major league club. Last summer’s trade of Juan Soto and Josh Bell also brought the Nationals in return MacKenzie Gore and CJ Abrams at the big league level, while Robert Hassell III, James Wood and Jarlin Susana instantly became some of the franchise’s top prospects.

Three straight last-place finishes in the National League East gave the Nats top draft selections in Brady House and Elijah Green, with the No. 2 overall pick coming later this summer.

And of course, the Nats continue to have success signing top talent on the international market, including one of the top prospects of the 2021 class in Cristhian Vaquero, and another highly ranked prospect in Jeremy De La Rosa.

If you count them up, that’s at least five outfielders the Nationals have as top prospects in hopes of some combination of them manning the three spots in Washington on the next competitive team.

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No rotation changes for Nats while young starters get extra rest

Josiah gray blue jerseys

Among the top priorities for Nationals’ player development at the major league level this year is the production of the young arms in the starting rotation: Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore.

In that category, they are off to a great start. Despite being 0-4, thanks in large part to the lack of run support, Gray has a 3.74 ERA over his first four starts, including five-plus innings on one-run ball against the Orioles last night. He has only allowed one home run since surrendering three on Opening Day against the Braves.

Meanwhile, Gore is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA and 18 strikeouts over his first three starts ahead of tonight’s outing against Baltimore.

But right up there with the organization’s list of goals is also keeping these two young arms fresh to pitch throughout the course of the season.

Gray more than doubled his previous season high in innings pitched last year by throwing 148 ⅔ frames. He started to fade near the end of the campaign, so the team shut him down in the last week of September.

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Nats looking at O's rebuild blueprint

Mike Rizzo

The Battle of the Beltways is one of the most unique rivalries in sports.

Between 1972 and 2004, there was not a Major League Baseball team in Washington, D.C. The Orioles arrived in Baltimore in 1954. That created a couple of generations of Washington baseball fans growing up rooting for the Baltimore team.

When the Nationals arrived ahead of the 2005 season, the latest edition of the Washington baseball club started slowly, but surely, regaining its fan base in the region. But there are still plenty of fans that remained loyal to the Orioles. And with the two teams less than 40 miles apart, it has created lively atmosphere whenever the regional rivalry is renewed.

“It's kind of fun,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said ahead of Tuesday’s series opener against the Orioles. “They're just around the block really. So it is fun, but for me and for the coaching staff and the players, it's business as usual. We're playing an opponent. We try to go 1-0 today. We know that they're close by. A victory would be awesome today, no matter who it is, but it is kind of fun. Plus, a good friend of mine over there is the manager as well. So I can't wait to see him and talk to him and see what's going on over there. But it'll be a lot of fun tonight.”

Martinez is of course referring to Orioles manager Brandon Hyde, who was with him on Joe Maddon’s coaching staff with the Cubs from 2015-17. When Martinez was hired as the head man of the Nationals before the 2018 season, Hyde took over as Maddon’s bench coach before being hired by the Orioles ahead of the 2019 season.

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Thompson set up for multiple innings with reintroduced curveball

thompson delivers cherry

The Nationals have been looking to get reliever Mason Thompson stretched out to cover multiple innings out of the bullpen since late last summer. The right-hander, who was acquired in the 2021 trade for Daniel Hudson with the Padres, has previous experience as a starter that can translate to a long-relief role.

Between 2016-19 in San Diego’s farm system, Thompson started all but four of his appearances. He made 20 starts out of 22 games for Single-A Fort Wayne in 2018, pitching to a 4.94 ERA, 1.419 WHIP and 9.4 strikeout-per-nine-innings rate.

After the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the 2020 minor league season, Thompson came back in 2021 as a full-time reliever. He went 3-2 with seven saves, a 5.74 ERA, 1.238 WHIP, 8.1 K/9 and 3.00 strikeout-to-walk rate in 23 appearances with Triple-A El Paso. He only allowed one run on four hits in three innings of relief with the Padres.

Later that summer, he was traded to Washington, where he appeared 27 times out of the bullpen. Last year, he went back and forth between the Nationals and Triple-A Rochester, while only starting to go more than three outs in September.

Now the Nats are looking to continue that stretch as a multi-inning arm this season.

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Bullpen can't back up solid Williams start in loss to Guardians (updated)


Carl Edwards Jr. has been one of the strongest relievers the Nationals have had over the past year. After signing a minor league deal and making the major league roster last May, the right-hander gave up three runs in his Nats debut and vowed he would be better.

He would go on to pitch to a 2.76 ERA over 57 games in 2022 and return this year as one of the back-end bullpen arms. He began the night allowing only one run in six innings.

But Edwards had one of those rough outings, leading to a 4-3 loss at the hands of the Guardians in front of an announced crowd of 21,367 at Nationals Park.

Edwards entered a 3-2 game with two outs in the seventh and the bases loaded. It only took Edwards five pitches to walk in the tying run. He then got a popup to finally end the frame.

Back out for the eighth, he looked all out of sorts. He couldn’t handle an easy comebacker and thus allowed the leadoff runner to reach first before former teammate Josh Bell hit a double to the same spot he had homered to the inning prior. Edwards then surrendered the go-ahead RBI via a groundout, and although the run was unearned, it was made possible by his own fielding error.

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Updates on Dickerson, Doolittle, Kieboom and more


The start of a new series brings the latest injury updates from Nationals manager Davey Martinez.

It’s a new habit he’s starting this season. It’s helpful for him so he doesn’t get caught off-guard when we ask about a hurt player. It’s helpful for us so we don’t forget about a player to ask about.

Corey Dickerson, Sean Doolittle and Carter Kieboom are the headliners, with each making some steps forward in their respective rehabs.

Dickerson, now eligible to come off the 10-day injured list with a left calf strain, is able to do basic baseball activities including hitting and throwing. It’s just running that still is an issue.

“The soreness is diminishing. He's hitting, he's throwing,” Martinez said of Dickerson. “The next step is to get him on the field and start doing some agility stuff and then get him to run. Once he builds to that, the agility stuff is going to be the key. Once he can do that and do it well with no pain, he can start running. So hopefully we get him back.”

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Game 14 lineups: Nats vs. Guardians

Joey Meneses fives white

The Nationals are back home after a seven-game road trip out west and their first off-day since the day after Opening Day. In fact, starting yesterday, they will have three days off over the next week, with two scheduled surrounding the upcoming two-game Battle of the Beltways against the Orioles.

But first they have three games against the Guardians, who make their first trip to Nats Park with their new name and the franchise’s first trip back since the last series of the 2019 regular season. You know, the one that ended an 8-0 homestand and catapulted the Nats into the postseason en route to a World Series title?

(Speaking of name changes, how about the latest news concerning a big change with the local football team, huh?)

These off-days may allow manager Davey Martinez to tinker with his starting rotation in the near future, giving some of his younger arms extra rest. But for tonight’s opener, he’s sticking with where they left off, which means Trevor Williams will make his third start with his new team.

Williams earned his first win on Saturday in Colorado by pitching 5 ½ innings of two-run ball with four strikeouts against the Rockies. Having spent his entire career thus far in the National League, he only has two career starts against Cleveland. But he has a 0.90 ERA over 10 innings against them, aided mostly by a complete-game shutout in a rain-shortened six-inning game at Progressive Field back in 2018.

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Quiet Wood is secretly the funny leader of talented Wilmington roster


WILMINGTON, Del. – James Wood is quiet for his size. At 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, one would think he would have just as big and loud of a personality.

That could also be assumed given he is the Nationals’ newest top prospect and one of the highest-ranked minor league players in all of baseball.

But that is far from the case for this 20-year-old. Since coming to the Nationals last summer in the blockbuster Juan Soto trade with the Padres, Wood has been nothing but humble, reserved and soft-spoken.

At least in the eyes of the media.

According to his teammates at High-A Wilmington, Wood is one of their leaders while also being one of the funniest guys on the team.

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Harrisburg, Wilmington and Fredericksburg set Opening Day rosters


After Triple-A Rochester set its Opening Day roster and began the 2023 season last week, it’s time for the lower levels of the minor leagues to get underway.

Double-A Harrisburg, High-A Wilmington and Single-A Fredericksburg announced their Opening Day rosters Thursday before starting their seasons.

The Senators will start the season with 16 pitchers (11 right-handers and five left-handers), two catchers, six infielders and four outfielders.

Right-handers: Gerardo Carrillo, Michael Cuevas, Richard Guasch, Ronald Herrera, Joel Peguero, Malvin Pena, Orlando Ribalta, Carlos Romero, Jackson Rutledge, Reid Schaller and Amos Willingham

Left-handers: Garvin Alston, Tim Cate, Evan Lee, Mitchell Parker and Alex Troop

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Robles finding early success with more patience at the plate

robles hr home blue

If I had asked who would be leading the Nationals in on-base percentage six games into the season, how many of you would have said Victor Robles?

Those of you with your hands raised are lying.

But it’s true, as the 25-year-old center fielder currently leads his team by getting on base at a .476 clip through the season’s first two series.

“For me, his on-base percentage,” manager Davey Martinez said when asked what numbers will be most significant in judging Robles’ success this year. “We talk a lot about team at-bats, too, and what they do in team at-bats. So he's a guy that needs to be very situational, whether it's bunting a guy over, getting a guy over from second base with no outs, driving in free runs from third base with less than two outs. Those are the little things that I want to see Victor do.”

It’s a small sample size, sure, but keep in mind where we’re coming from. Robles posted a career-low .273 on-base percentage in 132 games last year and he hasn’t come anywhere near his career-best rate of .348 in 2018 (which came in only 21 games).

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Nats swept by Rays as same issues continue

corbin cherry

On Opening Day, Patrick Corbin suffered through some defensive errors behind him, some bad luck on weak contact by Braves hitters and some poor pitches on his own part. He couldn’t retire the only batter he faced in the fourth while giving up four runs (two earned) and throwing 85 pitches.

In today’s matinee finale against the Rays, he was more efficient with his pitches but at times not all that effective, with the results more of the same in a 7-2 loss to complete a three-game sweep in front of 13,836 fans at Nationals Park.

Corbin kept his pitch count down throughout most of the outing, much better than his first start on Thursday. He had only thrown 69 pitches and 47 strikes while keeping it a 3-2 game through five innings. And he was getting ahead of hitters at a better rate, something he also struggled with against the Braves. Of the 21 hitters he faced through five frames, he got ahead of 12 of them to limit the Rays to six hits and three runs.

But in the sixth he ran into some classic Corbin issues. One out away from a quality start and possibly allowing himself to come out for another inning, he gave up a home run to Harold Ramírez after getting ahead 0-1. The 80-mph slider was just below the zone for the Rays designated hitter to golf over the center field fence to end a streak of 11 consecutive retired batters.

After a single by Manuel Margot, it was time for some of the usual bad luck to strike Corbin again. Victor Robles, who had just made a nice diving grab to rob Isaac Paredes of a leadoff hit, lost Taylor Walls’ fly ball to the Sun Monster, resulting in an RBI double. Then Jose Siri hit an RBI single to right, advanced to second on a throwing error by Lane Thomas and was put out at third on a heads up play by Jeimer Candelario and CJ Abrams.

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Martinez still playing matchups against lefty starters

Luis Garcia swings white

For the fourth time in their first six games of the new season, the Nationals are facing a left-handed starter in Shane McClanahan for this afternoon’s series finale against the Rays.

While trying to avoid a sweep in just the second series of 2023 and with it still being so early, manager Davey Martinez is playing matchups, stacking his starting lineup with right-handed bats and giving some of his everyday lefty hitters a day off.

That leaves Luis García on the bench for the second straight game after he was removed from the lineup for the first time this season against rookie southpaw Josh Fleming on Tuesday. He did record a pinch-hit RBI double in the seventh against righty Kevin Kelly.

Martinez confirmed there is nothing physically wrong with his young second baseman, insisting that he's just playing the matchups. Shortstop CJ Abrams is the only left-handed hitter starting today, with Michael Chavis once again replacing García at second base.

“No, we got a run of just left-handed pitchers, so I kind of want to pick my spots with him,” Martinez said of García. “He came in yesterday, pinch-hit, hit the ball well. But this guy we're facing today, he's tough. He's tough on lefties. Abrams stays in there a little bit better on sliders, so he's gonna play short today. And Chavis swung the bat well yesterday, so I want to get him back out there again and give him a couple of days. But Luis will be back in there. We got a lefty tomorrow, we'll need him today, but he'll be out there again tomorrow.”

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Game 6 lineups: Nats vs. Rays

keibert ruiz walking away red

Today is April 5? With a sunny forecast and temperatures expected to reach the 80s for an early weekday game, it feels more like July 4 in the District, am I right?

Anyways, good morning from Nationals Park, where the Nats wrap up the first homestand of the season with a 1 p.m. game against the Rays, the only remaining undefeated team in the majors.

Patrick Corbin becomes the first Nationals starter to make his second start in the rotation during today’s finale against the Rays. The Nats will hope to get more length from their veteran southpaw after he only pitched three innings plus one batter against the Braves on Opening Day. Thanks to a couple of errors by shortstop CJ Abrams, some bad luck on soft contact and a few mistakes of his own, Corbin gave up seven hits and four runs (two earned) with three walks and three strikes while throwing 85 pitches (48 strikes) six days ago.

Corbin has made one start against the Rays in his career, going five innings and allowing three runs on three hits and four walks with three strikes at Tropicana Field on June 9, 2021.

The Nationals lineup will have to deal with the fourth left-handed starter they’ve faced already to begin this young season in Shane McClanahan. The 25-year-old Baltimore native is coming off his first All-Star campaign while finishing sixth in American League Cy Young voting last year with a 12-8 record, 2.54 ERA and 0.926 WHIP in 28 starts. He pitched six shutout innings with six strikeouts in an Opening Day win over the Tigers.

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Thomas staying aggressive at the plate and in the field

Lane Thomas

After a sluggish start to last season, Lane Thomas is full-steam ahead in the first handful of games to begin 2023.

Sorry for the Lane Train pun, but I can’t help myself.

Thomas is already pacing the Nationals offense by going 5-for-16 (.313) with a run, a double, an RBI and .917 OPS through the first four games. In a much bigger sample size, he hit only .195 with a .581 OPS and nine extra-base hits through the end of May 2022.

It’s just four games, but Thomas is second on the team in batting average and is one of only three players so far to hit for extra bases.

Thomas has been touted as a fastball hitter since his arrival in the 2021 trade with the Cardinals that sent veteran left-hander Jon Lester to St. Louis. He only hit .247 with a .220 expected batting average against the heater last year. So far this year against fastballs, he’s already 4-for-6 with an expected average of .375 and an expected .587 slugging percentage.

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Finnegan bounces back for first save of season

Kyle Finnegan Dominic Smith five white

Kyle Finnegan has once again found himself as the Nationals’ de facto closer. With Tanner Rainey and Sean Doolittle rehabbing their respective elbow injuries and bullpen mates Carl Edwards Jr. and Hunter Harvey being used in more of a setup role, the 31-year-old right-hander has been used most often in the ninth inning. Or in whatever high-leverage situation manager Davey Martinez deems as the “save” opportunity.

“Yeah, it's great,” Finnegan said of the confidence he has from Martinez in the closer’s role. “I found myself in that position the last two years. So it's familiar territory. I think getting the last three outs of a game is special and it's awesome. I don't think it's my job to win the game. Our team has already won the game at that point. It's just my job to get those last three out. I don't try to make the moment too big. We've got the game in hand, just go out there and get three outs, and limit damage and secure the win.”

Finnegan pitched to a 3.55 ERA with 11 saves over 68 appearances in 2021 and a 3.51 ERA with another 11 saves last year. Both of his first two appearances of 2023 have come in the ninth inning with differing results.

Facing the bottom of the Braves lineup on Opening Day, he issued two walks and a two-run double as part of a three-run ninth inning that turned a two-run game into a five-run Atlanta lead.

But with the season’s first save opportunity coming in Sunday’s finale, Martinez trusted Finnegan again to retire the heart of Atlanta’s order to seal the first Curly W of the 2023 campaign. While it took him 23 pitches to complete the ninth on Thursday, Finnegan needed only eight efficient pitches Sunday afternoon to get two groundouts, a flyout and the save.

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Ward thankful for opportunity to debut with Nats

Thad Ward photo day

Before joining the Nationals, Thaddeus Ward spent parts of four unusual seasons in the Red Sox’s minor league system as their fifth-round draft pick from the University of Central Florida in 2018.

After being drafted, the right-hander appeared in only 11 games at low Single-A in the second half of the 2018 season. In his first full professional season in 2019, he went 8-5 with a 2.14 ERA, 1.156 WHIP and 157 strikeouts over 25 starts between low Single-A and High-A.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and shut down the 2020 minor league season, just as Ward was peaking as the No. 9-ranked prospect on Boston’s farm, per MLB Pipeline.

Tommy John surgery limited Ward to just two starts in 2021, a major setback for any pitcher. And in his return to action last year, he made only 13 starts with a 2.28 ERA, 1.149 WHIP and 66 strikeouts across four minor league levels, topping out at Double-A.

But even after a 2.84 ERA in four Arizona Fall League appearances, Ward had not done enough to convince the Red Sox to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.

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Rochester announces roster with 10 on IL, plus other minors notes


After Opening Day across the major leagues Thursday, the minor league season officially gets underway Friday with Triple-A teams starting their 2023 campaigns.

The Nationals’ affiliate at Triple-A Rochester announced its Opening Day roster ahead of this afternoon’s game at newly named Innovative Field.

The Red Wings will start the season with 18 pitchers (14 right-handers and four left-handers), three catchers, 11 infielders and six outfielders. That seems like a lot because 10 of them are starting the season on the injured list.

Right-handers: Cory Abbott, Joan Adon, Anthony Castro, Paolo Espino, Cole Henry, Jake Irvin, Jesus Liranzo, Andrés Machado, Gerson Moreno, Jose Mujica, Wily Peralta, Tommy Romero, Jackson Tetreault and Jordan Weems

Left-handers: Alberto Baldonado, Matt Cronin, Sean Doolittle and Jose A. Ferrer

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After long wait, Meneses savors first Opening Day in majors

Joey Meneses fives white

Imagine waiting 12 years to reach your goal. You grind year in and year out, and still come up short for 12 years.

But when you finally reach it, it’s well worth the wait.

That was Joey Meneses’ grind through 12 years of baseball in the minor leagues and abroad. The 30-year-old finally reached his dream of playing in the major leagues last August when he was brought up from Triple-A Rochester as one of the replacements for Juan Soto and Josh Bell after the two were traded at the deadline.

On Thursday, he reached another long-awaited milestone of his major league career: Opening Day.

“Very, very exciting,” Meneses said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez, after the Nationals’ 7-2 loss in the first game of the season. “It's one of those moments you want to live as a ballplayer, and thank God I was able to live it.”

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Nats set roster with no surprises and platoon in left field

call 1st mlb hr @SD blue

The Nationals have set their Opening Day roster with no real surprises. They are bringing a standard four-man bench and eight-man bullpen to today’s season opener against the Braves.

Washington’s starting rotation includes left-handers Patrick Corbin (who gets the Opening Day start) and MacKenzie Gore, and right-handers Josiah Gray, Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams.

The bullpen is composed of righties Carl Edwards Jr., Kyle Finnegan, Hobie Harris, Hunter Harvey, Erasmo Ramírez, Mason Thompson and Thaddeus Ward, and the lone lefty Anthony Banda.

Keibert Ruiz and Riley Adams are the two catchers. CJ Abrams, Jeimer Candelario, Michael Chavis, Luis García, Joey Meneses, Dominic Smith and Ildemaro Vargas are the infielders. And Alex Call, Corey Dickerson, Victor Robles and Lane Thomas fill the outfield.

A handful of these guys are making a major league Opening Day roster for the first time, including Gore, Ward, Meneses and Call.

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