Game 19 lineups: Nats vs. Astros

Jesse Winker spring training 2

The Nationals return home from a 5-4 West Coast road trip for a celebratory weekend as the organization relives the magical 2019 World Series run for the championship’s five-year anniversary. And it is no coincidence the team they are hosting during this celebration is the team they defeated in seven games to win the World Series: the Houston Astros.

To kick off the weekend, the Nats will send to the mound one of the young pitchers they hope will help lead them to their next championship, MacKenzie Gore. The 25-year-old left-hander is off to a great start to the season and has been the Nats’ best starter to date. He leads the rotation with a 2-0 record, 2.81 ERA and 23 strikeouts over his first three starts. And although his 16 innings don’t quite qualify him for league leader boards just yet, his 12.94 strikeout-per-nine-innings rate would currently rank third among qualified major league pitchers.

After having strong outings against the Pirates, Phillies and Athletics, Gore will test his stuff against a dangerous Astros lineup that ranks in the top three in the majors in home runs, average and OPS.

Justin Verlander makes his long-awaited season debut for the Astros tonight. The three-time Cy Young Award winner started the season on the injured list with inflammation in his right shoulder and made two minor league rehab starts before rejoining the big league club. The 41-year-old right-hander is expected to be on some sort of pitch limit, so it will be in the Nats’ best interest to work good at-bats.

And just for the record, since it is World Series reunion weekend: Verlander went 0-2 and allowed seven runs over 11 innings for a 5.73 ERA in two World Series home starts against the Nats five years ago.

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Teammates and coaches remember Strasburg's career

Stephen Strasburg

After a long delay while working out the financial details of his contract, Stephen Strasburg’s retirement became official Saturday night per the Nationals’ official transactions page, with the right-hander and the team releasing statements Sunday morning.

Although this announcement has been a long time coming, the finality of the official release made for an emotional morning yesterday at Nationals Park as former teammates, coaches and front office members reflected on the right-hander’s career.

The roster looks a lot different from the last time Strasburg stepped into the clubhouse back in 2022 when he was trying to revitalize his career while coming back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. But there are still a handful of familiar faces around.

“You look back at his career and how special of a player he was. He's a huge part of why I decided to come here,” said Patrick Corbin, who was Strasburg’s teammate for four years after signing with the Nats as a free agent ahead of the 2019 season. “Hopefully, he and his family are happy now, and he can move on with life and be with his family, which I know he wants to be. So you just feel for somebody like that who was such a good player for a long time. Just unfortunate with the injuries and some setbacks, but he tried everything to come back and be part of this team. Things just didn't work out.”

Strasburg hasn’t been able to pitch since June 9, 2022, when he made his only major league start that season while giving up seven runs in 4 ⅔ innings against the Marlins. After he was unable to fully overcome thoracic outlet syndrome, he finally admitted last year that a return to the mound wouldn’t be possible.

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Nats avoid sweep behind Gore, Thomas and bullpen (updated)

Gore pitching white

The Nationals were in search of two things Sunday afternoon: The first quality start by a starting pitcher and a win to avoid their first series sweep of the season.

They barely missed out on the first despite a strong performance by MacKenzie Gore, but did just enough to squeak out a 3-2 victory and salvage this three-game set against the Phillies before heading to the West Coast for 10 days.

“It was good,” Gore said after his first win of the season. “It was one of those days where we needed to figure out how to win a game. I thought everybody did a great job of that.”

After a somewhat disappointing start in Monday’s home opener against the Pirates, Gore regrouped to come one out short of a quality start against a tough Philadelphia lineup.

Utilizing a good mix of four pitches, Gore relied mostly on his fastball, which sat at 97 mph throughout the afternoon. Of his six strikeouts, four came on his heater, including his last one at 99 mph to Trea Turner in the sixth, the former Nats shortstop’s third strikeout of the day.

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Abrams still sidelined, Strasburg releases statement on retirement

Abrams blue

For the second straight day, CJ Abrams remains out of the Nationals lineup for this afternoon’s series finale against the Phillies.

The young shortstop was a late scratch from the lineup yesterday with a bone bruise in his left pinky finger suffered while sliding into second base Friday night.

“He's still a bit sore. So it's still going to be day-to-day,” manager Davey Martinez said of Abrams before the finale. “We'll see how he feels throughout the day. He's getting treatment. And I'm hoping that he could pinch-hit for us today late in the game. I just don't want to push it too much. I don't want to aggravate it.”

Nasim Nuñez replaced Abrams at shortstop yesterday and went 0-for-2 before being subbed out for pinch-hitter Luis García Jr. late in the game. Ildemaro Vargas is playing short today and batting seventh.

Abrams was off to a strong start to the season before the injury, slashing .321/.387/.607 with a .994 OPS, one triple, two home runs, five RBIs, three walks and a perfect 3-for-3 in stolen bases without committing an error in the field.

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Game 9 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies

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The Nationals’ first homestand of the season comes to an end with this afternoon’s finale against the Phillies. The team will board a cross-country flight tonight to begin a nine-game West Coast road trip over the next 10 days.

The Nats will also try to avoid their first sweep of the season after dropping the first two games to their division rivals with MacKenzie Gore taking the mound for his second start of the regular season. The young left-hander struggled in his season debut in the Nats’ home opener on Monday, giving up three runs, five hits and two walks with six strikeouts in a loss to the Pirates.

Gore will look to be more efficient with his pitches against a dangerous Phillies lineup after needing 101 to complete 5 ⅓ innings his first time out.

CJ Abrams is out of the lineup again on Sunday. He was a late scratch before yesterday’s game with a bone bruise in his left pinky finger suffered while sliding into second base Friday night.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES at WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, DC 87.7 (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 60 degrees, wind 11 mph in from left field

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Adams' clutch homer a good sign after hamate injury

Riley Adams

The concern with players who suffer hamate injuries is always a lack of power when they return. So the Nationals were very happy to see Riley Adams hammer a game-tying, two-run home run in the seventh inning of yesterday’s home opening loss to the Pirates.

With the Nats down 3-1 and Ildemaro Vargas at first base after grinding out his at-bat for a single, Adams saw a low-and-in, 93-mph fastball from Pirates right-handed reliever Roansy Contreras. And what he did with that second pitch showed he recovered from last year’s fractured left hamate bone nicely.

Adams crushed the ball 427 feet into the bleachers behind the visiting bullpen in left-center field. The ball was hit 109 mph off his bat to give the catcher his first longball of the young season and the Nats a fighting chance against the Bucs.

“It definitely felt nice, especially in that moment being able to get us back in the ballgame and try to get a little momentum going into the last part,” Adams said after the 8-4 defeat. “I wasn't trying to do too much. Just trying to help the team a little bit there.”

The 427-foot blast became the longest homer of his career, 14 feet further than his previous longest homer hit last year.

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Nats face first lefty starter for home opener with Lipscomb at third, Vargas at second

Trey Lipscomb spring training

The Nationals’ home opener showcases a lot of new features to the young 2024 season.

As the home schedule on South Capitol Street kicks off, there are new things all around Nationals Park to experience. New concessions. New scoreboard. New lights. And a new lineup in just the fourth game of the year.

The Nationals will take on the first left-handed starting pitcher they've faced this season in the Pirates’ Marco Gonzales, meaning manager Davey Martinez will trot out his first right-handed-heavy lineup of the year.

Left-handed hitters Eddie Rosario, Joey Gallo and Luis García Jr. are on the bench. In their places, Victor Robles is playing center field, Joey Meneses is at first base and Ildemaro Vargas is at second, while rookie Trey Lipscomb stays at third. Catcher Keibert Ruiz is serving as the designated hitter while Riley Adams sets up behind the plate to catch the Nats’ own lefty starter in MacKenzie Gore.

“It wasn't that hard of a decision, it really wasn’t,” Martinez said ahead of this afternoon’s opener against the Pirates. “I want to get everybody in the game and get everybody involved. Keibert, who has swung the bat really well right-handed. Keep Meneses (in the lineup with Ruiz at DH) today. I wanted to get Riley back behind the plate today. Bump Lipscomb up a little bit because he's been swinging the bat well. He's done really well since he's been with us. But I want to get everybody involved. So we got some great options as far as if they make a switch and bring a righty in. We got some lefties on the bench. But I like the way we match up against this lefty today.”

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More vocal and hands-on Martinez developing relationships with top prospects

Davey Martinez spring training

Davey Martinez is about to begin his seventh season as the Nationals manager, by far the longest tenured skipper in team history.

He’s managed teams that have won a lot (2019) and teams that haven’t won a lot (2022). He’s managed veterans and youngsters alike. And he’s managed while making changes to his coaching staff over the years.

But to start the 2024 season, Martinez did something he hasn’t done much since donning a curly W cap: Be more vocal and hands-on during spring training.

Why after seven years did the 59-year-old suddenly decide to speak up more? The young prospects in major league camp had a lot to do with it.

“For me right now, it's about teaching and having these moments where I can get them and talk to them a little bit more,” Martinez said. “Maybe one-on-one, maybe in a group. I have been more vocal. … I preach so much about the little things, that the little things do matter. They've been great. They really have. It's been great conversations.”

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Gore sharp in final spring tune-up as big leaguers win Futures Game (Lipscomb to minors camp)

gore pitches blue

It was a fun day on South Capitol Street, as the Nationals played the first-ever “On Deck: Nationals Futures Game” for their final exhibition outing before starting the regular season Thursday in Cincinnati.

The Nationals’ major leaguers were set to play a team full of the organization’s top prospects, many of whom spent the majority of spring training in big league camp. There were smiles all around this morning as the youngsters prepped for the game in the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park, while the major league team got settled into the home locker room with bags packed for tomorrow’s early morning flight to Cincy.

But once the game started, the niceties between organizational teammates disappeared for the next 2 hours and 35 minutes as the major league team flexed its muscles while dominating the Futures Team 13-1 in front of an announced paid crowd of 10,294 at Nats Park.

“It was good,” said major league manager Davey Martinez. “We had some good at-bats. I thought we played really well. The key was to get some at-bats, see some pitches. We had a day off yesterday, but I saw some really good things. And the young kids, they stood up there and they weren't afraid. The guys that we had, they swung the bats well. Our kids got up there and they got their swings. So it was a good day.”

MacKenzie Gore set the tone early in his final tune-up before taking the ball Monday for the Nats’ home opener against the Pirates. Facing top prospects Robert Hassell III, Dylan Crews, James Wood and Trey Lipscomb, the left-hander recorded three strikeouts in the first frame while only surrendering an opposite-field double to Wood.

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Crews headed to Harrisburg; Hassell and Lile cleared to play

Dylan Crews spring training

Today is going to be an exciting day for the Nationals organization. For the first time, the team will host an exhibition game at Nationals Park with its major league players facing the top prospects from the minor league system.

It will be the big league team’s final tune-up before Opening Day on Thursday in Cincinnati, while the organization gets to showcase numerous talented young players in front of its fans who showed up on South Capitol Street and are watching from home on MASN.

After this afternoon’s game, players and staff members – both minor and major league – will attend the club’s annual Homecoming Gala this evening at The Anthem on the Southwest waterfront before dispersing to their respective starting points for the regular season.

One of the biggest names on the prospects team is Dylan Crews, last summer’s No. 2 overall pick out of Louisiana State University and the Nats’ top-ranked prospect, who revealed today he will start the season with Double-A Harrisburg after going back to the team’s facility in West Palm Beach for a couple of days.

“I'm gonna go to the gala and then go to West Palm after that,” Crews said this morning in front of his locker in the visitors clubhouse at Nats Park. “So probably be there for maybe a little less than a week and then head out to Harrisburg.”

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Starting lineups: Nationals Futures Game in D.C.

Robert Hassell III Victor Robles spring training

The Nationals have broken camp. With spring training coming to a close, the team has left the warmth of West Palm Beach and returned to cold, damp Washington, D.C.

Ah, it must feel so good to be home.

Well, at least it must feel good to get the regular season started. The Nats have just one more exhibition game to play before heading to Cincinnati to face the Reds on Thursday for Opening Day. And the best part … they get to face some of their own teammates.

Yes, for the first time since the Nats have hosted an exhibition game on South Capitol Street right before the start of the season, they will face a lineup of their own top prospects instead of another major league team beginning the year on the East Coast.

Among the top prospects expected to participate in today’s game are:

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Nats announce prospects roster for Futures Game

Brady House Trey Lipscomb James Wood spring training

The Nationals arrived back in D.C. last night and now only have one more exhibition game to play before heading to Cincinnati for Opening Day.

Once again, the Nats are hosting their exhibition finale on their home field on South Capitol Street. But for the first time, they are not playing another major league team set to open the regular season on the East Coast. Instead, the Nats’ regular big leaguers will play against a squad of the organization’s top prospects.

Headlined by Dylan Crews, James Wood, Brady House, Robert Hassell III and Trey Lipscomb, the Nationals announced the prospects roster for tomorrow’s “On Deck: Nationals Futures Game” at Nationals Park:

Pitchers – Brendan Collins, DJ Herz, Joe La Sorsa, Orlando Ribalta, Jackson Rutledge, Tyler Schoff, Jarlin Susana, Amos Willingham

Catchers – Drew Millas, Israel Pineda, Maxwell Romero Jr.

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Nuñez getting extra reps by standing in box for bullpen sessions: “It's like cheating"

Nasim Nunez spring training

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Nasim Nuñez is as relaxed as can be at Nationals spring training.

Last December’s Rule 5 Draft pick is already right at home with his new team, often seen sitting at his locker and just hanging out with his fellow prospects Trey Lipscomb, Darren Baker, Brady House, Robert Hassell III, James Wood and Dylan Crews.

“It's like a friend from high school that you haven't seen in so long,” said Nuñez, who already knew most of his new teammates coming into camp. “And then you see them and it's the same thing. Y'all just kickin’ it.”

The Nationals selected Nuñez from the Marlins with the No. 5 pick in the Rule 5 Draft at last year’s Winter Meetings, just their second selection in the event since 2010 after taking right-hander Thaddeus Ward from the Red Sox with the first pick in 2022.

In a process that is usually foreign to the player – and, in this case, the organization – Nuñez is still adjusting to his new situation.

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Adon more confident attacking strike zone in first spring start

adon v ATL

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Joan Adon is back at Nationals spring training competing for a spot in the major league rotation.

His locker in the clubhouse is next to the regular starters. He’s being stretched out as a starter. And he works out with the other starters.

Even so, there is hardly an expectation when the Nats break camp for the regular season that Adon will be on the flight to Cincinnati for Opening Day. But he’s still getting a fair shot at it.

Adon took a positive step forward in his camp with three shutout innings in the Nats’ 7-3 win over the Twins at Hammond Field.

After mixed results in his first two Grapefruit League appearances, both of which came out of the bullpen, the 25-year-old right-hander finally made his first start of the spring. He only gave up two hits and one walk while being efficient with his five-pitch mix, throwing 40 pitches, 27 for strikes.

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Robles returns to lineup after hamstring issue

robles runs @ ARI gray

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Victor Robles is back in the Nationals lineup for this afternoon’s game against the Twins at Hammond Stadium, three hours away from West Palm Beach.

The 26-year-old outfielder came out of the first game of yesterday’s doubleheader in the middle of the third inning after striking out against Astros starter José Urquidy in his second at-bat.

Manager Davey Martinez revealed after the game that Robles has been dealing with a knot in his hamstring since being hit by a pitch Wednesday against the Marlins in Jupiter.

“He's in there today,” Martinez said before the game against the Twins. “We'll see how he's doing today. He said he's feeling a lot better. He got some more treatment yesterday. He said (it feels) pretty good. Like I said, it's just that one area where you got hit. They worked on it yesterday. They broke up some scar tissue, so he said he feels a lot better today.”

Robles is leading off and playing center field against Twins starting right-hander Pablo López. It has been on-and-off raining in Fort Myers this morning, so we’ll see how far the Nats push him with a wet outfield.

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Starting lineups: Nats vs. Twins in Fort Myers

robles swings grey

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Nationals made their last trip across the state this morning to play the Twins this afternoon.

A handful of regulars and a good number of prospects piled onto the team buses to make the three-hour trek to Fort Myers.

Victor Robles, Luis García Jr., Ildemaro Vargas and Riley Adams are among the major leaguers in the starting lineup. James Wood is back in right field and batting fifth.

Joan Adon makes his first start of the spring after coming out of the bullpen for his first two appearances. The right-hander was charged with five runs (three earned) in one inning against the Astros on Feb. 24. But he came back to pitch two scoreless innings with three strikeouts against Houston three days later.

Programming note: Today is my last day for this spring training, as I fly home to D.C. tonight after the game. Mark Zuckerman is flying back down to West Palm Beach this afternoon and will have coverage for the rest of camp. 

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Rosario wants to help Nats' young talent while competing for roster spot

rosario braves

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Eddie Rosario has walked in and out of the Nationals clubhouse each of the past couple of days. Although he just arrived at the team’s spring training complex after agreeing to a minor league deal on Wednesday, he’s already busy.

He had a physical to take Thursday morning. He’s been introduced to his new teammates and coaches. He worked out with the club for the first time Thursday afternoon before the team headed to Port St. Lucie to play the Mets. And then again over the last two days.

Now he’s settled into camp, and it’s time for him to get to work trying to win a spot in the Nats outfield.

“It was a great deal,” said Rosario, via interpreter Octavio Martinez, when meeting members of the local media for the first time. “They gave me an opportunity and I feel great to be a part of this great organization and help out any way I can.”

The 31-year-old can help the team by being the player he has been over his nine-year career: The owner of a .268/.305/.460 slash line with a .766 OPS while averaging over 17 home runs and 60 RBIs a season.

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García, Nats sloppy in early loss to Astros: "That can't happen" (updated)

Luis Garcia spring training

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The long weekend continued Saturday for the Nationals. After last night’s “weird game” against the Cardinals, they got ready for a split doubleheader against the Astros (as the away team) and Marlins (as the home team) at CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches.

The early morning and quick turnaround didn’t work out well for the boys in navy blue jerseys and gray pants.

The Nationals came out sluggish in the opening game and eventually lost 9-4 to their West Palm Beach neighbors.

After manager Davey Martinez emphasized last night the need to hit with runners in scoring position, the bats couldn’t drive in Luis García Jr. when the second baseman led off the first with a double.

Things started to come apart quickly from there. Or maybe they were never together.

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Starting lineups: Nats vs. Astros and Marlins in West Palm Beach (updated)

James Wood spring training 1

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Well, it’s going to be a long day for the Nationals at CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches as they play a split doubleheader against the Astros and Marlins. The first game, a 12:05 p.m. start on MASN, will have the Nats as the road team before they are the home team for the nightcap at 6:05 p.m.

Dan Kolko and Kevin Frandsen will be on the call of the first game with coverage starting at noon.

Davey Martinez and the Nationals brass spent a good amount of time yesterday figuring out how they were going to fill out their lineup cards for the two games, keeping in mind they have an early bus for the three-hour ride to Fort Myers on Sunday morning.

The first lineup may leave a lot to be desired from the fans watching on MASN back home, who were hoping to see a lot of the top young prospects play on TV. A big name (figuratively and literally) they can look forward to seeing is James Wood, who is back in the lineup after getting an off day yesterday. He’ll play center field and bat third.

Lane Thomas, Victor Robles and Luis García Jr. are among the regulars playing the first game. Trevor Williams makes his second start after a strong first appearance Monday. Jordan Weems, Derek Law and Luis Perdomo may make appearances out of the bullpen.

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Gray gets roughed up, Lynn gets tossed in "weird game" in West Palm Beach

gray dugout

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Josiah Gray has been impressive over his first two starts of spring training. He only gave up one run, four hits and two walks while striking out 10 in his first two starts over five innings for a 1.80 ERA.

But you can’t put too much stock into spring training numbers, good or bad.

Gray saw his first bad results of Grapefruit League action tonight in what would be a 7-6 loss to the Cardinals on a muggy night in West Palm Beach.

“It wasn't great,” Gray admitted after the game. “Even from the second batter on, I felt like I was out of sorts. I wasn't really throwing strikes. Kind of just battling myself there on the mound. I was happy to finish the outing well, but I think overall it was just a poor outing and not the way I wanted things to go today.”

The right-hander’s night started rough. After walking Jordan Walker in the first, he surrendered a two-run home run to Nolan Gorman to put the Nats in a 2-0 hole. He needed 21 pitches (only 10 strikes) to get out of the first inning.

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