Game 124 lineups: Nats at Mariners

fedde pitch @ATL gray

SEATTLE – The last time the Nationals played here at what’s now known as T-Mobile Park was Aug. 31, 2014. They suffered a 5-3 loss to the Mariners, with Tanner Roark taking the loss and Fernando Rodney recording the save. The only other time the Nats played here prior to that was in June 2008, a series in which Kory Casto hit his only major league home run and Tyler Clippard recorded his first win for the organization, back when he was a starter.

So, yeah, it’s been a while. And sadly, tonight’s return to Seattle also coincides with the end of Clippard’s current stint with the Nationals, and possibly the end of his career. Needing to remove a pitcher from their roster and clear a spot for Erick Fedde, the club decided to designate the 37-year-old Clippard for assignment.

Fedde, who had been on the 15-day injured list with shoulder inflammation, starts tonight. And he’ll be working with a new batterymate in Riley Adams, who officially was recalled from Triple-A to take the spot that opened up when Tres Barrera was optioned to Rochester.

Adams will bat seventh against Seattle lefty (and one-time Nationals prospect) Robbie Ray. The rest of Davey Martinez’s lineup includes Alex Call leading off, Joey Meneses batting second, Luke Voit returning from back spasms to bat third and Lane Thomas batting fifth on his 27th birthday. (He’ll have to keep waiting for that first opportunity to bat third in the starting lineup.)

T-Mobile Park
Gametime: 10:10 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Clear, 76 degrees, wind 6 mph in from left field

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Thomas' dizzying trip up and down the lineup

Lane Thomas swing white

SEATTLE – Lane Thomas has been in the Nationals’ lineup each of the last eight games. During which time he’s started in each of the three outfield positions. And held five different spots in the batting order.

Yep, Thomas batted fourth and started in right field Aug. 14 against the Padres. He batted eighth and started in center field Aug. 15 against the Cubs (shifting to right field in the ninth inning). He batted fifth and started in left field Aug. 16 against the Cubs (shifting to center field in the eighth inning). He batted first and started in center field Aug. 17 against the Cubs. He batted eighth and started in center field Aug. 18 against the Padres (shifting to right field in the ninth inning). He batted first and started in right field Aug. 19 against the Padres. He batted seventh and started in right field Aug. 20 against the Padres. And he batted fifth and started in right field Aug. 21 against the Padres (shifting to center field in the ninth inning).

And that’s just Thomas’ itinerary from the last eight days. Look back at the whole season, and you’ll see he’s batted in all nine spots for manager Davey Martinez at least once.

“We actually looked it up in the cage the other day: I’ve literally hit everywhere in the lineup this year,” he said. “I didn’t start a game hitting third, but I came in for (Yadiel Hernandez). But I’ve hit in every single spot in the lineup.”

Sure enough, only three weeks ago Thomas did replace Hernandez (who was batting third) late for defense during the Nationals’ Aug. 2 win over the Mets. He even singled in his one and only at-bat that night.

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What will Nats' rotation look like in September?


Way back in early June, when the Nationals were languishing with the worst rotation in baseball, we wondered if the day might be coming soon when they would have a whole new set of starters pitching for them, guys who not only would be more effective than the current group but also would be younger and part of the organization’s long-term plan.

Here we are entering the final week of August, and unfortunately that hasn’t been the case at all. The Nats’ last five games have been started by Cory Abbott, Anibal Sanchez, Paolo Espino, Josiah Gray and Patrick Corbin.

Yes, they’ve been far more effective than they were nearly three months ago. But outside of Gray, nobody else from this quintet realistically is going to be part of the long-term plan around here. Even Erick Fedde, set to return from a shoulder injury Tuesday in Seattle, remains a shorter-term solution, something of a bridge starter until younger, more promising prospects arrive.

But when will they actually arrive? Will we actually see anybody new and intriguing before season’s end?

By all accounts, yes. It’s going to require a little more patience, though.

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Nats to face Phillies in 2023 MLB Little League Classic

2022 LL Classic facade

SAN DIEGO – The Nationals have been selected to play in next year’s Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pa., against the Phillies, Major League Baseball announced tonight.

The Nats and Phillies will face off Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023 at historic Bowman Field, home of the collegiate summer baseball league Williamsport Crosscutters, a short drive from the annual site of the Little League World Series, which will be taking place throughout that week.

It’s the first time the Nationals have been selected for any of Major League Baseball’s various neutral-site games, which over the years have included trips to London, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Japan and Australia, plus the Field of Dreams in Iowa, the College World Series in Nebraska and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Created in 2017, the Little League Classic is a "Sunday Night Baseball" game televised by ESPN. It will count as the finale of a weekend series hosted by the Nats, with the two teams playing in D.C. the previous two nights before heading to Williamsport only for the day, visiting the actual Little League World Series in the afternoon. Players from the participating Little League World Series will then attend the Nats-Phillies game in person that evening.

The annual event has previously included the Pirates (twice), Cardinals, Phillies, Mets, Cubs, Angels, Guardians and tonight’s competitors: the Orioles and Red Sox.

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Offense quiet again as Nats lose 2-1 again (updated)

cruz mashes @SD blue

SAN DIEGO – Ask Davey Martinez if he’d be satisfied to get a 2.86 ERA out of his pitching staff over a full week, and the Nationals manager wouldn’t just say he’s satisfied. He’d jump for joy out of his shoelaces.

Martinez has been waiting all year for a sustained stretch of quality pitching like this, the kind of stretch he used to expect from his star-studded rotation of 2018-20 but hasn’t realistically been plausible this season.

Ah, but here’s the rub: Just as the Nats pitching staff has put together its best weeklong stretch in ages, the Nats lineup has gone limp. That group, admittedly depleted by trades and injuries, has scored only 23 runs over the same seven games, four of which have now been losses.

Today’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Padres was the latest and most aggravating of the bunch. Less than 24 hours after losing by the exact same score via a pair of solo homers from former teammates Josh Bell and Juan Soto, the Nationals lost today’s game via a two-run homer from Bell, who accounted for all of San Diego’s offense.

Bell’s opposite-field shot off Patrick Corbin in the bottom of the sixth was all the Padres needed. That’s because the Nats managed just one run-scoring hit of their own, and that was Nelson Cruz’s towering (but solo) homer to left in the fourth.

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Fedde to replace Abbott in rotation, García going on rehab

fedde pitch @ATL gray

SAN DIEGO – Erick Fedde will come off the injured list and start Tuesday night in Seattle, with Cory Abbott moving to the bullpen for now as the Nationals make the first of several expected changes to their rotation heading into the season’s final month.

Fedde, out since July 25 with right shoulder inflammation, emerged from Wednesday’s rehab start for Triple-A Rochester and a subsequent bullpen session here at Petco Park with no issues and is cleared to come off the 15-day IL for the Nats' series opener against the Mariners.

“Fedde is ready,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He said he felt good, so he’ll start on Tuesday.”

The right-hander’s return necessitates the removal of someone from the current rotation. Martinez said for now that will be Abbott, who is available out of the bullpen for this afternoon’s game against the Padres and could either remain in a relief role moving forward or be optioned to Triple-A once Fedde is officially activated.

Abbott has made four starts for the Nats this month, going 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA, though he has allowed three or fewer runs in three of the four outings. He made three previous relief appearances this summer.

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Game 123 lineups: Nats at Padres

Cesar Hernandez swing blue

SAN DIEGO – The Nationals are playing some competitive baseball these days. They’ve gone 3-3 over their last six games, but two of the losses were by one run and the other one went to extra innings. They’ve managed to do that despite a lackluster (and depleted) lineup, thanks to quality pitching. During this six-game stretch, their staff ERA is an impressive 2.95, and they’ve surrendered only 34 hits in 55 innings.

The challenge today, then, is for Patrick Corbin to keep that run going. The bar for Corbin, obviously, isn’t very high. But he did at least give his team a chance in his last start, allowing four runs over six innings to the Cubs. As much as the Nats bullpen has been used this week, Davey Martinez would love to get six decent innings from his starter today. He could then go to the trio of Hunter Harvey, Carl Edwards Jr. and Kyle Finnegan (in some order) to close things out, because none of them pitched during Saturday night’s 2-1 loss.

The Nationals lineup remains depleted. Luke Voit hasn’t played since Thursday due to back spasms. Yadiel Hernandez is on the 10-day injured list with a calf strain. Keibert Ruiz gets a well-deserved day off after catching the first three games of the series. We’ll see if anyone else can step up and produce against Padres left-hander Sean Manaea, who doesn’t tend to go very deep in games. He hasn’t topped the 100-pitch mark since June 28, and he hasn’t reached the sixth inning since July 31.

Petco Park

Gametime: 4:10 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Sunny, 75 degrees, wind 9 mph out to right field

CF Victor Robles
LF Alex Call
1B Joey Meneses
DH Nelson Cruz
RF Lane Thomas
2B César Hernández
SS CJ Abrams
C Tres Barrera
3B Ildemaro Vargas

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Soto, Bell finally break through to beat Nats (updated)

vargas grimace at plate blue

SAN DIEGO – As well as they had done against Juan Soto and Josh Bell through the first five games they played against their former teammates, the Nationals had to know it was only a matter of time before both sluggers broke through in a big way.

They just hoped it wouldn’t happen against them. Certainly not within the same ballgame.

Alas, Soto and Bell decided tonight was the night to bust loose. And thanks to the solo homer each current Padre hit, the Nationals were left to suffer a 2-1 loss at Petco Park.

The Padres didn’t do much else at the plate, and they continue to make their fans sweat as they try to turn a potent-on-paper lineup into a potent-in-reality lineup. But all they needed tonight were those two big blasts to emerge victorious.

"Those guys, you know what kind of players they are," manager Davey Martinez said. "Bell got a ball up where he handles. And Soto got a ball, I think, right down the middle. Two good hitters."

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Hernandez goes on IL with calf strain, Voit scratched again

Yadiel Hernandez swing white

SAN DIEGO – The Nationals lost another bat from the middle of their lineup today when outfielder Yadiel Hernandez was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left calf strain, leaving them scrambling to put together a batting order from a roster that has been ravaged by physical ailments and trades.

Hernandez had to come out of Thursday night’s series opener against the Padres when his lower left leg cramped up. He sat out Friday’s game, then underwent an MRI to determine the extent of the injury. When that test came back showing a calf strain, the Nationals placed him on the IL (retroactive to Friday).

“It’s a strain, so he’s going to work really hard to get back as soon as possible,” manager Davey Martinez said. “There’s no saying how long it’s going to take. He’s kind of frustrated, but I told him you’ve just got to work hard to get back. There’s nothing you do. He’s been playing well, has helped us in the middle of the lineup. Hopefully we get him back soon.”

Hernandez is hitting .269 with 16 doubles, nine homers and 41 RBIs in 94 games this season, starting in left field most nights against right-handed pitchers. He batted third in Thursday’s game, evidence of the current state of the Nationals’ depleted lineup.

Hernandez’s injury comes at the same time Luke Voit has been unable to play due to back spasms. The veteran first baseman sat out Friday’s game, and though he was initially in tonight’s lineup, he was scratched again about two hours before first pitch with the issue still lingering.

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Game 122 lineups: Nats at Padres (Voit scratched)

Victor Robles swing gray

SAN DIEGO – It’s been a crazy season for the Nationals, but here’s the craziest stat of all that defies explanation: Against the National League East, they’re a pathetic 9-42. But against everyone else, they’re a respectable 32-38. That includes a 3-2 record against the Padres, thanks to two straight wins to open this weekend’s series. Now we’ll see if they can keep it going tonight.

Quality pitching has defined the last two wins, but the bullpen has been pretty taxed. After pitching back-to-back nights, you’ve got to assume Kyle Finnegan, Carl Edwards Jr. and Victor Arano are all unavailable tonight. So Davey Martinez might feel compelled to push starter Josiah Gray a bit deeper, just as he did in last outing against the Cubs.

The Nationals will be facing Joe Musgrove, who they did not see in last week’s series in D.C. The San Diego native is 8-6 with a 2.98 ERA, but over his last nine starts he’s actually 0-6 with a 5.00 ERA. We’ll see if the Nats can string some runs together early for a change, and not just wait until the top of the ninth to rally.

Update: Luke Voit has been scratched from the lineup again tonight.

Petco Park

Gametime: 8:40 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Sunny, 72 degrees, wind 8 mph out to center field

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Call makes first MLB homer a memorable one

alex call and hernandez

SAN DIEGO – As he watched the chaos unfold before his eyes from his perch in the on-deck circle, Alex Call saw the Nationals take the lead against the Padres in the top of the ninth and saw his opportunity to expand on that lead with Lane Thomas now standing at third base after Josh Hader’s three-base throwing error changed the entire complexion of Friday night’s game at Petco Park.

“OK, time to drive this guy in,” Call thought to himself.

Davey Martinez had the same thought, and with the count 0-1 on Call, the Nats manager gave the safety squeeze sign, hoping the 27-year-old rookie could get the bunt down and get Thomas home to extend the lead to two runs.

Except Call proceeded to foul the squeeze attempt straight back into the backstop, leaving himself in an 0-2 count and taking the bunt out of the equation altogether.

“When I didn’t execute, there’s a lot of things that go through your mind,” he said. “So you’ve really got to step back, take a deep breath and then get into my normal two-strike mode, which is: ‘I believe I’m the best two-strike hitter there is. He’s got to bring a good pitch.’

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Nats rally late against Hader again to beat Padres (updated)

call 1st mlb hr @SD blue

SAN DIEGO – They went to the ninth all knotted up, for the second straight night. The Nationals’ bullpen kept holding the Padres’ supposedly superior lineup in check, just trying to give its lineup an opportunity to push across the go-ahead run.

And when the San Diego bullpen gate swung open and Josh Hader emerged, the Nats had themselves exactly the opportunity they needed.

For the second straight night, they took down the suddenly slumping All-Star closer. And for the second straight night, they emerged with an inspiring victory over a shell-shocked Padres team and its crowd, this time by the score of 6-3.

"We're battling. And we're actually finishing games," manager Davey Martinez said. "The last couple of days have been really good. And even before then, we fell short, but we're playing a lot better."

Hader faced three batters in the top of the ninth in what had been a tie game. He walked the first one, Victor Robles. He uncorked a three-base throwing error on a tapper toward the mound by the second one, Lane Thomas. And then he served up a two-run homer to the third guy, Alex Call, whose first career major league blast was an especially memorable one.

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García on field for first time since going on IL, Voit scratched

garcia throws @ MIA blue

SAN DIEGO – From the moment they acquired him in the Juan Soto-Josh Bell trade, the Nationals envisioned CJ Abrams as their starting shortstop, with Luis García joining him up the middle as his double-play partner. And the intention was to make sure the two young infielders got as many opportunities to play together as possible before season’s end.

Abrams’ eventual promotion from Triple-A Rochester, though, coincided with García’s placement on the 10-day injured list with a left groin strain, thus preventing the two from playing together yet.

They’re getting close to the day when they can do it, though. And this afternoon, they did work together in the field for the first time when García participated in early drills for the first time since going on the IL six days ago.

Abrams and García took grounders together prior to batting practice, then also took swings in the cage together. It was a significant hurdle for García to cross in his recovery from injury, suggesting he could be ready to return shortly after he’s eligible to come back (Tuesday, at the earliest).

“He felt good,” manager Davey Martinez said. “So we’ve just got to progress now, and hopefully he continues to do well. We’ll have to come up with a plan, whether we want to send him out a few days to play (on a minor league rehab assignment) to see if he’s OK. Let’s see how he comes out of this, and how he feels tomorrow.”

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Game 121 lineups: Nats at Padres (Voit scratched)


SAN DIEGO – On the heels of an uplifting win in Thursday night’s series opener, the Nationals are back at it tonight against the Padres. And if they’re going to make it two in a row, they’re going to have to do something they couldn’t do earlier this week: Beat Blake Snell.

The San Diego lefty thoroughly dominated this lineup Sunday at Nationals Park, tossing six innings of shutout ball, surrendering three measly singles while striking out 10. The Nats had no chance against him. For what it’s worth, that day Davey Martinez was without Nelson Cruz, Keibert Ruiz and Luis García. García remains out with a groin strain, but Cruz and Ruiz are in there tonight.

Paolo Espino also started Sunday’s game, and he had a tougher time against the Padres lineup, allowing four runs over 5 2/3 innings. A couple of walks, in particular, hurt Espino, who saw his pitch count skyrocket and finished with 109 despite not completing six innings.

Of note: Josh Bell is not starting for San Diego tonight. The big guy is in a real funk right now. Over his last seven games (four of which came against the Nats) he’s 1-for-30 with zero RBIs. Maybe a night off will help him clear his head after what’s obviously been an emotionally draining few weeks.

Update: Luke Voit has been scratched from tonight's lineup with back tightness. Joey Meneses will move to first base, with Victor Robles now added to the batting order and starting in center field.

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With help from mom back home, Vargas making name with Nats

vargas robles blue

SAN DIEGO – He had talked about his home run off Yu Darvish, not to mention his subsequent single off the Padres right-hander. He had talked about his defensive work at third base and mentorship of rookie shortstop CJ Abrams. And he had talked about the opportunity he’s been given by the Nationals to play third base every day after spending the season’s first four months at Triple-A.

But when he was done with all that, once he had answered every question reporters had for him following Thursday night’s 3-1 victory at Petco Park, Ildemaro Vargas let everyone know there was one more thing he wanted to say.

“I want to dedicate this home run to my mom,” the infielder said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “Unfortunately, because of the visas, she’s unable to see me play. But when I talked to her today, she motivated me and said that I was going to have a great game today. So I want to thank her and tell her that this was for her.”

This revelation, of course, only prompted more questions, more answers and the sharing of a sweet (but in some ways bittersweet) story of a 31-year-old trying to stick in the big leagues while his biggest supporter can only watch from afar.

Gaudys Barreto lives in Venezuela. Her son has spent parts of six seasons in the majors with five different franchises, the Nationals representing only the latest to give him a shot. And because it has been difficult to secure her a visa, Barreto has been unable to come to the United States to watch Vargas play this year.

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Gutsy Nats hang around and beat Padres late (updated)

vargas home run

SAN DIEGO – The Nationals walked into Petco Park this evening and stepped right into a pennant race. No, the outcome of this weekend’s four-game series means nothing in the grand scheme to the team with the majors’ worst record, but try telling the 26 guys dressed in navy blue jerseys and curly W caps it meant nothing to go toe-to-toe with a star-studded Padres club that’s all-in on the 2022 season and desperately wanted to emerge victorious in tonight’s series opener.

And at night’s end, it wasn’t the home team celebrating victory, but rather the plucky visitors, who hung around for eight innings and then scratched across two runs against closer Josh Hader in the ninth to pull off a gutsy 3-1 win before a stunned sellout crowd of 41,820.

"This is what builds character," manager Davey Martinez said. "These guys were all jacked up. They were pumped up. Nobody was sitting there from the seventh through the ninth inning. All those guys were up on the fence, standing, cheering. It's awesome. This is what you play for: To play these kinds of games."

Stymied for eight innings by Yu Darvish, the Nationals finally broke through in the top of the ninth. They got singles from César Hernández and Alex Call (who replaced Yadiel Hernandez late after the left fielder's calf cramped up). That forced San Diego manager Bob Melvin to pull his starter to a standing ovation and summon Hader to try to keep the game tied.

Instead, Hader poured more gasoline on the fire and dealt Darvish the loss. The flamethrowing lefty hit former Padre Luke Voit with a 2-2 slider on the foot to load the bases, then walked Nelson Cruz on four pitches to force in the go-ahead run. And when Keibert Ruiz ripped a line drive to left for a sacrifice fly, the Nats had themselves an insurance run and a two-run lead.

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Fedde could return Tuesday, leaving Nats with rotation decision

fedde red

SAN DIEGO – Erick Fedde could return from the injured list and rejoin the Nationals’ rotation as soon as Tuesday after an encouraging rehab start Wednesday for Triple-A Rochester.

Fedde, who has been on the 15-day IL since July 27 with right shoulder inflammation, tossed four scoreless innings in Worcester, Mass., scattering three hits and a walk while striking out four. His pitch count was only 63, and he would’ve stayed in the game if not for a rain delay that disrupted the proceedings.

“Can’t escape it,” he said of the rain. “But it went really well. Was able to get through the start with no issues. And if anything, I felt like I was getting stronger throughout the outing. So I’m happy with it.”

Fedde was able to throw another inning’s worth of pitches in the bullpen after his start officially ended, building up his workload. And that appears to be enough to warrant his activation in the coming days.

Manager Davey Martinez said barring any setbacks the Nationals will consider activating Fedde in time for him to start Tuesday night against the Mariners in Seattle.

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Game 120 lineups: Nats at Padres

anibal sanchez pitching road

SAN DIEGO – This won’t be as notable or awkward as it was last week in D.C., but the fact that Juan Soto and Josh Bell are facing the Nationals again this soon after a trade that is still only 16 days old is pretty remarkable. Who’d have thought the only two series between these two teams would come right at this juncture of the season?

Can’t change anything about that now, though, so the Nats once again will be trying to figure out how to get Soto, Bell and the rest of the Padres lineup out over the next four days. They did a pretty good job against Soto and Bell last weekend, but they struggled to hold everyone else in check while losing two of three games.

We’ve got a rematch of the one game the Nationals won in that series tonight, with Aníbal Sánchez facing Yu Darvish. Sánchez gave up solo homers to Manny Machado and Trent Grisham in that game, but otherwise fared alright, allowing three runs over five innings to give his team a chance.

The Nats meanwhile, were shut out by Darvish for five innings before finally coming though with three runs in the sixth on back-to-back homers by Lane Thomas and Joey Meneses, then adding the go-ahead run in the seventh on Victor Robles’ RBI single to right, with César Hernández scoring only after it was determined Padres catcher Austin Nola was illegally blocking his path to the plate. Fun times.

Petco Park
Gametime: 9:40 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Clear, 74 degrees, wind 9 mph left field to right field

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Nats rally twice but still lose another in extras (updated)

corbin pitching home red

The Nationals managed to rally to get Patrick Corbin off the hook for his 17th loss of the season by scoring in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

They managed to rally to tie the game again in the bottom of the 10th, thanks to CJ Abrams’ well-timed first hit since joining the club.

But because they couldn’t deliver one final clutch hit in the 11th inning, they were still left to suffer their 79th loss of the season, yet another one in extra frames.

After both teams pushed across their automatic runner in the 10th, the Cubs scored twice in the 11th, getting an RBI double from Patrick Wisdom and a run-scoring single from Seiya Suzuki off Victor Arano. And when the Nats failed to mount one last rally in the bottom of the inning, they wound up on the wrong end of a wild, 7-5 ballgame.

It was the Nationals’ seventh loss in eight extra-inning games this season. Over the last two years, they’re now 3-18 in extras. They’re still seeking their first walk-off win of 2022.

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Ruiz gets night off after taking a beating behind plate

ruiz gear cherry

Monday night’s game had barely begun before Davey Martinez found himself emerging from the dugout with director of athletic training Paul Lessard to check on Keibert Ruiz, who had just taken a foul ball off his facemask and appeared to be dazed to some extent.

Ruiz would remain in the game, and he would catch all nine innings of the Nationals’ 5-4 win over the Cubs, despite taking another foul ball off his mask later and then fouling a pitch off his right knee in his final at-bat.

Nobody said the life of a catcher is easy, but this was a particularly rough game for Ruiz from a physical standpoint. So it’s probably no surprise he’s not in the lineup for tonight’s contest.

“I talked to our trainers yesterday, and I just wanted to give him a little breather,” Martinez said. “Plus, we have a day game tomorrow, so I had to pick and choose. I thought today would be a good day to just let him relax. After the first one, he said he felt a little lightheaded and dizzy. That kind of scared me a little bit. Then he got hit again. So for me, it’s just about letting him take a break.”

Tough as it was to watch, Ruiz apparently did not suffer the kind of ailments that would’ve required him to undergo a formal concussion test or even be pulled from the game.

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