Nats drop another low-scoring game and another series (updated)

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They waited around all afternoon in the summerlike heat and humidity, waiting for the home team to give itself a legitimate chance to score and get itself back into a very winnable game.

And when the situation finally presented itself in the bottom of the seventh, and then again in the bottom of the ninth, the crowd of 21,837 tried to muster up the energy to encourage the Nationals to come through at last in a big spot.

In each case, the air was sucked back out of the ballpark. And by day's end, the Nats had suffered another demoralizing loss, this one by the count of 3-2 in the rubber game of their series against the Twins.

Tuesday night’s 10-0 blowout was no fun at all. But this wasn’t any more enjoyable, not with the Nationals lineup yet again unable to mount any semblance of sustained offense. As has been the case too often the last two weeks, the opportunity to win a low-scoring game was right before their eyes, thanks to another effective pitching performance from Jake Irvin and the bullpen.

But as has too often been the case as well, the Nats simply couldn’t take advantage of it. They’ve now lost nine of their last 11, and in seven of those games they’ve scored two or fewer runs.

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Nats hope bullpen depth pays off in long run

rainey and adams

The Nationals’ bullpen hierarchy has been pretty standard in recent seasons. Davey Martinez usually had two or three relievers he relied on to pitch late in close games. The others tended to be used in lopsided games, whether the team was winning or losing.

The gap between the “A” bullpen and “B” bullpen has been shrinking so far this season, though. Hunter Harvey and Kyle Finnegan remain the go-to guys in the eighth and ninth innings, but beyond that Martinez has shown trust in almost everyone else to pitch in situations of consequence.

“Hey, if I put you in the game, it’s because I trust you,” the manager said with a laugh. “But it is nice to know we have some guys who can get big outs at any moment, really.”

Truth be told, Martinez is willing to use seven of the eight members of his current bullpen in close games. Dylan Floro, who has allowed only one run in 23 2/3 innings, has emerged as the top seventh-inning option in front of Harvey and Finnegan. But Derek Law (2.76 ERA), Jacob Barnes (3.14) and Jordan Weems (4.76) all have been used as well. And Robert Garcia remains the choice for matchups against left-handed hitters.

They haven’t all been perfect, but they’ve all shown enough to warrant continued usage. And that, the Nationals hope, will pay off in the long run.

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Game 48 lineups: Nats vs. Twins

jake irvin @ LAD

You couldn’t draw up more extreme polar opposites for the first two games of a series than what we just experienced. The Nationals blew out the Twins on Monday night, 12-3. Then the Twins blew out the Nationals on Tuesday night, 10-0. So who knows what to expect in today’s matinee finale?

The Nats have to get a better start from Jake Irvin than they got from Patrick Corbin. Irvin, native of Bloomington, Minn., will be plenty motivated facing his hometown team. He’s coming off a bit of a rough outing in Philadelphia, where he gave up four runs in five innings against a very good lineup. He’ll try to provide some more length this afternoon.

Simeon Woods Richardson, today’s Minnesota starter, has been very good, entering this one with a 2.97 ERA and a 25-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But the right-hander made only one big league appearance last year, and it happened to come against the Nationals. Who roughed him up for five runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. MINNESOTA TWINS
Where:
Nationals Park

Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 85 degrees, wind 10 mph out to left field

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams
RF Eddie Rosario
LF Jesse Winker
DH Joey Meneses
2B Luis García Jr.
3B Ildemaro Vargas
1B Joey Gallo
C Riley Adams
CF Jacob Young

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Corbin rocked as Nats get shut out by Twins (updated)

Patrick Corbin

There hadn’t been a night like this, not for the Nationals and not for Patrick Corbin in a while. The kind of night when you know early on it’s going to be one of those nights. The kind of night that too often defined Corbin’s 2020-23 seasons but seemingly had occurred with less frequency so far in 2024.

It happened tonight, though, and it was no easier to watch than any of the previous ones. The only saving grace: There may not be that many more opportunities for Corbin to experience more of these.

Tonight’s 10-0 whitewashing at the hands of the Twins was perhaps the low point of the season to date for the Nationals, who even when they lose have almost always managed to keep it close. Not so this time, not with Corbin getting rocked by a Minnesota lineup that had scored a total of 12 runs during its now-expired seven-game losing streak.

It didn’t help matters that the exact same Nats lineup that busted out for 12 runs Monday night against Pablo López and the Twins bullpen was completely shut down by Joe Ryan only 24 hours later. Not that it would’ve made a whole lot of difference tonight, because it would’ve required a ton of run support to counteract Corbin’s start.

"Sometimes those days just happen," manager Davey Martinez said. "He's been really good, and really keeping us in games. Today, it just didn't happen."

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Thomas plays five innings in Harrisburg rehab debut

Lane Thomas

Lane Thomas’ first rehab game in Harrisburg didn’t include any hits, but it did include a stolen base, an outfield assist and positive reports about the state of his left knee.

Thomas went 0-for-3 earlier today in his rehab debut, starting in right field for Double-A Harrisburg in an 11 a.m. matinee against Akron.

“He said he felt OK,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We’ll see how he comes out of it tomorrow, and if he’s good, we’ll try to get him at least four at-bats tomorrow.”

Out since April 23 with an MCL sprain in his left knee, Thomas was cleared to begin playing in games this week. He was thrown right into the leadoff spot in the Senators lineup and immediately reached base in the bottom of the first on a throwing error by Akron pitcher Ryan Webb. Thomas then stole second base, providing further evidence his knee is healed.

Thomas grounded out to short in his second at-bat, then grounded out to first base in his third and final at-bat of the day. He played a total of five innings in the field.

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Game 47 lineups: Nats vs. Twins

Patrick Corbin

The Nationals ended their losing streak and extended the Twins’ losing streak with a blowout win Monday night. Now they’ll look to make it two in a row and generate some positive momentum for the first time in a couple weeks.

They’ll hand the ball tonight to Patrick Corbin, who has quietly strung together some solid starts. In five outings since April 23, he’s 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA, limiting damage while surrendering only one home run. He’ll look to keep that up against a Twins club that has scored only 12 runs during its seven-game losing streak.

The Nats lineup finally busted out Monday for 12 runs, scoring thanks to a combination of home runs, clutch hitting and aggressive baserunning. They really are at their best when they can do all three things, and they’ll try to do it again tonight against Joe Ryan, Minnesota’s 27-year-old right-hander who has been quite good with a 1.019 WHIP and 58 strikeouts to only seven walks.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. MINNESOTA TWINS
Where:
Nationals Park
Gametime: 6:45 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 80 degrees, wind 9 mph out to left field

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams
RF Eddie Rosario
LF Jesse Winker
DH Joey Meneses
2B Luis García Jr.
3B Nick Senzel
1B Joey Gallo
C Keibert Ruiz
CF Jacob Young

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With continued poise, rookie Parker earning Martinez's trust

Mitchell Parker

There were two on with two out in the sixth, the Twins having already scored twice in the inning, now sending their seventh batter of the frame to the plate. Mitchell Parker was up to 89 pitches, and Derek Law was warm in the bullpen.

Davey Martinez has made the walk to the mound more often than not in those situations in recent seasons. A fading young starter typically gives way to a more experienced reliever in an attempt to get out of a jam.

This time, though, Martinez decided not to make the move. He decided to let Parker try to pitch himself out of the inning.

“We thought about taking him out, but I wanted to see what he could do,” the Nationals manager said. “We had a big enough lead. I wanted to see him get through it. And he did. He got a big out for us. That was awesome to see.”

Indeed, Parker proceeded to strike out Kyle Farmer on five pitches, the last of them a 94-mph fastball on what proved to be his 94th and final pitch Monday night. The rookie was rewarded for it with his third big league win, the Nats ultimately cruising to a 12-3 victory.

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Nats finally enjoy offensive breakthrough, rout Twins (updated)

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The Nationals finally broke out of their offensive slumber tonight, and all it took was a couple of rare home runs, as many hits with runners in scoring position as they had totaled in their previous five games and one wild trip around the bases by Eddie Rosario.

A 12-3 rout over the Twins, to put it mildly, was exactly what this team needed.

Snapping their losing streak at five games by extending Minnesota’s losing streak to seven games, the Nats enjoyed their best all-around offensive showing since their last homestand. And combined with another quality start from rookie Mitchell Parker, this turned into one of their most enjoyable ballgames in some time.

"We talk about it all the time: When you score early, things start to fall into place," manager Davey Martinez said. "They start to relax a little bit. The at-bats get better. ... You get that, and you get another good outing from Mitchell, and it becomes a good day."

The just-completed, 2-7 trip through Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia was a miserable one, especially from an offensive standpoint. The Nationals scored two runs or fewer in five of those losses, they went 5-for-43 with runners in scoring position over the last five games and they only managed to score five runs Sunday with a way-too-late rally against the Phillies that had no bearing on the outcome of the game.

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Cavalli sharp in rehab debut; Thomas heading to Harrisburg

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It happened on a back field in West Palm Beach, under a blazing hot sun, against a lineup made up of much younger prospects (plus one established big leaguer). But it was a competitive baseball game, the first one Cade Cavalli had pitched in since March 2023, when he tore his elbow ligament and required Tommy John surgery.

Cavalli’s first official rehab start took place this morning at the Florida Complex League. Pitching for the Nationals’ Rookie-level minor league affiliate, the right-hander tossed 2 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, striking out five and allowing only two batters from the Astros’ FCL affiliate to reach base against him.

“It’s awesome,” said manager Davey Martinez, who watched video of the outing. “It’s a process, and he’s done really well. I know he feels like he’s ahead of the game, but we had to stay with what we know about this Tommy John stuff and make sure his progressions are what they should be. And he’s done really well with it.”

Cavalli threw 44 pitches, a base point for him as he now builds his arm back up during the final stages of his rehab. His fastball registered 97 mph. The only hit he surrendered came against Jose Abreu, the veteran slugger the Astros sent all the way down to rookie ball to get his career back on track.

Barring any post-start complications, Cavalli will be back on a mound in five days, adding to his innings and pitch count. Over the course of the next month, he should work his way up the organizational ladder, pitching for multiple minor league affiliates.

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Game 46 lineups: Nats vs. Twins

senzel

The Nationals’ schedule has been pretty wonky to begin this season. They’ve played 28 road games, only 17 home games. They’ve played 20 interleague games, only 10 intradivision games. The good news: They’re back home after a tough, 2-7 road trip. But they’re back to facing American League teams all week, with the Twins here for three and then the Mariners coming to town this weekend.

A Nats lineup that did sort of break out for five runs Sunday in Philadelphia (only three of those runs coming early, when the game was still close) will see a sort of familiar face tonight in Pablo López. The former Marlins right-hander is in his second season in Minnesota and comes into this start with a 4-3 record and 3.93 ERA. The Nats faced López on a cold night at Target Field last year and got to him for five runs in four innings.

The Twins will be seeing Mitchell Parker for the first time. The rookie left-hander continues to exceed expectations in his first month-plus in the big leagues, and he still hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start up here. He’ll try to hold down a Twins lineup that ranks in the middle of the pack in the AL so far in most offensive categories.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. MINNESOTA TWINS
Where:
Nationals Park

Gametime: 6:45 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 76 degrees, wind 6 mph right field to left field

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams
RF Eddie Rosario
LF Jesse Winker
DH Joey Meneses
2B Luis García Jr.
3B Nick Senzel
1B Joey Gallo
C Keibert Ruiz
CF Jacob Young

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What did we learn about the Nationals during a 2-7 trip?

Kyle Finnegan

PHILADELPHIA – What’s the mood in the clubhouse at the end of a 2-7 road trip? It’s not upbeat, that’s for sure. But in the Nationals’ case, neither was it downtrodden.

Sunday’s 11-5 loss to the Phillies may have been one of the Nats’ worst games of the season, but it wasn’t necessarily reflective of the way they played through the rest of their long trip to Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia.

They lost seven games, yes. But five of those losses were by one or two runs. In each of those cases, one more timely hit or one more well-executed pitch would’ve flipped the script and produced a win for the visitors.

Recognizing that, the Nationals emerged from the carnage feeling more optimistic about the state of things than they probably should have felt.

“It was nine really good baseball games,” outfielder Jesse Winker said. “You hang your hat on that, then you get back home tomorrow and get some home cooking and give it hell.”

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Two homers not nearly enough for Nats in fifth straight loss (updated)

Jesse Winker

PHILADELPHIA – For the first time in a week, the Nationals hit a ball out of the park. Two of them, as a matter of fact. It was a welcome sight for a power-starved, run-starved lineup.

Then again, it doesn’t matter much when those two long-awaited home runs proved to be your only hits of the day until the eighth inning. Even more so when your pitching staff falls apart during the critical two-inning stretch that loomed large in what wound up a lopsided 11-5 loss to the Phillies.

Eddie Rosario and Jesse Winker’s blasts off Aaron Nola weren’t nearly enough for the Nats, who saw the game come undone in the fifth and sixth innings and wound up dropping their fifth straight game in the process.

Runs have been in short supply during the losing streak, the Nationals scoring a grand total of 10 in these five games. Even so, they were still in prime to position to win each of the previous four games, not to mention every other game on this 2-7 trip, thanks to stellar pitching that kept every game close.

"I feel like we've played a ton of games on the road, and they've all been really close," said Winker, whose team indeed has played far more games on the road (28) than at home (17). "We ran into Boston, who I think has one of the best ERAs in baseball right now. Then we ran into Chicago, who is playing really well and pitched lights out. And then you come to Philly, and they have the best record in baseball. It was nine really good baseball games. You hang your hat on that, then you get back home tomorrow and get some home cooking and give it hell."

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García returns to Nats lineup, Thomas hopes to be back soon

Luis Garcia Jr.

PHILADELPHIA – A Nationals lineup struggling mightily to score runs right now will gladly take back any semi-productive hitter it can get. So the return of Luis García Jr. today after a two-day absence – even if only for DH duties – was welcome news for Davey Martinez.

“He’s going to DH; I’m trying to make it a little lighter,” the manager said. “But we need his bat in the lineup. So it’s nice that he feels better.”

García has been, statistically speaking, the Nationals’ second-most productive regular this season, his 125 OPS+ ranking behind only CJ Abrams’ 139 mark. (Ildemaro Vargas, who has been getting more playing time recently, outpaces them both at 152.)

The club’s regular second baseman, García hurt his right heel running out a ground ball Wednesday in Chicago, feeling the spike press up through the sole of his shoe. He was initially in Friday’s lineup but was scratched after trying to take swings. He was again out of the lineup Saturday, and wasn’t used off the bench late during the 10-inning loss to the Phillies.

“He wasn’t 100 percent,” Martinez said. “I saw him down there, and he had one spike on and one tennis shoe on. So that indicated he was still behind. He said he felt better this morning, was going to get treatment again, go hit and he said he should be OK.”

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Game 45 lineups: Nats at Phillies

Trevor Williams

PHILADELPHIA – A difficult road trip comes to an end this afternoon for the Nationals, who lost two of three in Boston, then two of three in Chicago and now have to win today just to avoid getting swept by the Phillies. The crazy part of it all: They’ve lost five of these six games by either one or two runs. The combined score on this road trip is 25-20 for the opponents, despite the lopsided record.

But today’s a new day, and maybe the Nats will finally score enough runs to win a game. They’ve had no trouble giving themselves chances (they currently rank sixth in the majors in plate appearances with runners in scoring position!), but they’ve had all kinds of trouble converting those chances (they rank 23rd in RBIs in those situations).

Trevor Williams will look to continue his wildly impressive start to the season, hoping to keep this daunting Phillies lineup in check. Williams finally surrendered his first homer of the year last time out in Chicago. Can he keep Kyle Schwarber, Bryce Harper and Co. inside Citizens Bank Park this afternoon? The fate of the Nationals may rest on that challenge.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where:
Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 72 degrees, wind 8 mph in from right field

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams
2B Ildemaro Vargas
RF Eddie Rosario
DH Luis García Jr.
3B Nick Senzel
1B Joey Gallo
C Keibert Ruiz
LF Jesse Winker
CF Jacob Young

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Nats fall in 10th after Finnegan's first blown save since March (updated)

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PHILADELPHIA – MacKenzie Gore put forth one of the best starts of his burgeoning career. CJ Abrams put together four quality at-bats. Jesse Winker delivered the clutch hit that gave the Nationals the lead in the top of the ninth.

So how did they still manage to lose, 4-3, to the Phillies tonight? With a rare, bottom-of-the-ninth meltdown the likes of which they hadn’t experienced in about six weeks, followed by a less dramatic final blow in the bottom of the 10th, all off one of the most dominant closers in the sport.

One out away from pulling off one of their most impressive wins of the season, the Nats instead watched in horror as Kyle Finnegan gave up a game-tying homer to Kody Clemens for his first blown save and first earned run allowed since March 31 in Cincinnati.

"It's just upsetting that I wasn't able to get those last three outs," said Finnegan, who entered with a 1.56 ERA, 0.923 WHIP and league-leading 13 saves in 14 attempts. "We played a great game. We deserved to win. It's my job to go in there and just continue what we had already accomplished and get three outs. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do that tonight." 

Finnegan managed to escape the ninth without any more damage, even after Eddie Rosario dropped a fly ball that would’ve ended the inning. But when his teammates couldn’t drive in their automatic runner in the top of the 10th, Finnegan retook the mound for the bottom of the inning and proceeded to take the loss.

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García sits again with heel issue; Rainey layoff reaches two weeks

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PHILADELPHIA – Luis García Jr. is out of the Nationals lineup for the second straight night, still bothered somewhat by a bruised right heel, though the pitching matchup also didn’t favor his inclusion.

García hurt himself running out a ground ball Wednesday in Chicago and later said that when he stepped on first base his spike pushed up through the sole of his shoe against his heel. He was initially in the lineup for Friday’s series opener against the Phillies but was scratched several hours before first pitch after he struggled to hit in the cage without experiencing pain.

García hoped he’d be back tonight, but while his condition has improved, the heel is still bothering him. And with left-hander Cristopher Sánchez on the mound for Philadelphia, Davey Martinez had another reason to sit his second baseman in favor of the right-handed-hitting Ildemaro Vargas.

“A little bit of both,” Martinez said when asked if the heel or the matchup was the reason for García’s absence. “He’s still a little sore. We’ll try to get him through today. Hopefully he can play tomorrow.”

Martinez did say he expects García to be available to pinch-hit later in the game tonight if the Phillies bring in a right-handed reliever.

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Game 44 lineups: Nats at Phillies

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PHILADELPHIA – It’s a gray, rainy Saturday here in the City of Brotherly Love, which wasn’t very kind to the Nationals on Friday night. The Nats lost their third straight, this one by the count of 4-2 to the Phillies, the only two runs they’ve scored since Tuesday in Chicago. Maybe the rain is just what they need to break out of their funk?

With left-hander Cristopher Sánchez on the mound for Philadelphia, Davey Martinez has a mostly right-handed lineup, certainly in the prominent spots. That includes a 2-3-4-5 of Ildemaro Vargas, Joey Meneses, Nick Senzel and Riley Adams. Joey Gallo and Jesse Winker are still starting, but they’re both down in the lineup. Luis García Jr., who was scratched Friday with a right heel injury, isn’t in the lineup again tonight, though I would imagine we could see him come off the bench later to face a right-handed reliever.

MacKenzie Gore, another lefty, starts for the Nationals, and it will be his task to hold down the Phillies lineup as best as possible. Gore did defeat them earlier this season, allowing two runs over 5 2/3 innings. He’s made eight starts now, and he has yet to be charged with more than three earned runs in any of them. And yet he hasn’t earned a win since April 13 in Oakland, a long stretch in spite of his quality performances.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where:
Citizens Bank Park

Gametime: 6:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Rain ending, 67 degrees, wind 5 mph out to left field

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams

2B Ildemaro Vargas
DH Joey Meneses
3B Nick Senzel
C Riley Adams
1B Joey Gallo
RF Victor Robles
LF Jesse Winker
CF Jacob Young

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Cavalli, Thomas about ready to begin rehab assignments

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PHILADELPHIA – From the moment in March 2023 when he learned he needed Tommy John surgery, Cade Cavalli has wondered when he would throw his next pitch for the Nationals.

The right-hander still doesn’t know for sure the date of that triumphant return, but he does know he’s about to finally pitch in a baseball game for the first time since injuring his elbow. And that should go a long way toward determining the date of his official return to the big leagues.

Fourteen months removed from surgery, Cavalli is ready at last to begin a minor league rehab assignment, Nats manager Davey Martinez revealed Friday. The 25-year-old will start a game in the Florida Complex League within the next week, his first game action since March 14, 2023, when his elbow gave out throwing a wayward changeup in a spring training game against the Mets.

“That’s great,” Martinez said. “That’s good news.”

To date, Cavalli had only been cleared to throw off a bullpen mound and then several rounds of live batting practice to teammates. This will be a more significant step, facing hitters from another organization in an official minor league game.

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Slumping Nats lineup can't break out in 4-2 loss to Phillies (updated)

ruiz on base gray

PHILADELPHIA – The Nationals, fresh off back-to-back shutout losses at the hands of the American League’s worst team, marched into Citizens Bank Park hoping they might somehow break out of their funk against the National League’s best team, which just so happened to be sending its ace to the mound.

That proved to be just as tough a task as it looked like on paper. Though they did manage to keep the Phillies lineup in relative check, especially after a ragged start to the night, their lineup was no match for Zack Wheeler, who cruised into the eighth inning with only minimal resistance.

The Nats’ 4-2 loss in the opener of a weekend series wasn’t all that different from other recent losses. They got decent pitching. They didn’t get enough hitting. Though they actually inflicted more damage on Wheeler than they did Erick Fedde or Garrett Crochet earlier this week in Chicago.

It still resulted in a third straight loss, and in those three losses the Nationals have scored a total of two runs on a total of 11 hits. Not exactly a formula for success.

"I know these guys are battling their butts off at the plate. That's just kind of the way the game plays sometimes," said Jake Irvin, who has been the victim of poor run support. "We just need to keep going out there, giving us a chance to win. And the offense, we have a lot of faith that those guys are going to come up and do big things every game. Even when we're not winning games that we're pitching well, we have faith that those guys are going to step it up. And they will."

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Gallo activated, Lipscomb optioned, García scratched

gallo on bases white

PHILADELPHIA – In his 91 plate appearances with the Nationals before landing on the injured, Joey Gallo hit three homers and had nearly three times as many strikeouts as walks. In his 44 plate appearances in the minor leagues, while rehabbing his shoulder injury, he hit four homers and had nearly a 1-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

So as he returns to the lineup tonight after three weeks on the IL, Gallo is understandably optimistic he can continue what he did in the minors at the major-league level.

“You hope so,” he said. “I felt pretty good down there. Just getting at-bats and seeing pitching, that’s what it’s about. Obviously it’s not the big leagues, but it’s as close as you can get to it. We’ll have to see. But I feel good. I feel like I’m ready to go. I’m excited to just be here with the team, back with the boys, and trying to win games.”

The Nationals activated Gallo off the 10-day IL this afternoon, optioning Trey Lipscomb to Triple-A Rochester to create a roster spot. And the big slugger is right back in the thick of things, batting cleanup and starting at first base in the series opener against the Phillies.

There’s no guarantee Gallo will continue to hit well, but a Nats club that has totaled only 35 homers in 42 games certainly would benefit from a power surge by the 30-year-old, who was signed for $5 million specifically for that purpose.

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