Nats trounced in doubleheader finale (updated)


Facing a one-run deficit in this afternoon’s doubleheader opener, Davey Martinez opted not to use his best relievers, saving them for what he hoped would be a winnable game in the nightcap.

In order for that to happen, though, the Nationals were going to need to get a quality pitching performance from starter Chad Kuhl, not to mention some production from a lineup that failed to capitalize on a host of opportunities earlier in the day.

So when neither of those outcomes materialized, Martinez’s best-laid plans went down the drain. Kyle Finnegan and Mason Thompson could only watch from the bullpen as the Nats slogged their way through a 16-1 trouncing at the hands of the Pirates, by far their most lopsided loss of the season.

A homestand that began with the promise of better baseball following an impressive 4-2 road trip to Minnesota and New York instead has opened with a Friday night rainout, then a doubleheader sweep that leaves the Nationals trying to salvage one game in Sunday’s finale, which could be significantly delayed due to another round of rain.

Not exactly the kind of weekend everyone around here had in mind.

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Game 26 lineups: Nats vs. Pirates

Keibert Ruiz hitting red

The Nationals had a chance to win the opener of today’s doubleheader but couldn’t take advantage of their scoring opportunities and then watched as their “B” bullpen gave up the lead late. They’ll hope to jump out to a lead in tonight’s second game against the Pirates, giving Davey Martinez reason to turn to his “A” bullpen to close it out.

Chad Kuhl gets the start against his former team. Emotions will be high for the right-hander, but the Nationals need him focused on throwing strikes and avoiding the walks and high pitch count that plagued him in Minnesota one week ago. With Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey and Mason Thompson all fresh, they need only five decent innings from Kuhl to put themselves in position to win.

The lineup includes a few changes from the opener. Lane Thomas takes a seat, with Alex Call shifting to right field and Victor Robles returning to the lineup in his familiar center field position. Keibert Ruiz will catch and bat fifth after backup Riley Adams did a nice job in his place this afternoon, collecting two hits and throwing out a would-be basestealer.

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 6:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Cloudy, 69 degrees, wind 5 mph right field to left field

RF Alex Call
2B Luis García
3B Jeimer Candelario
DH Joey Meneses
C Keibert Ruiz
1B Dominic Smith
LF Stone Garrett
SS CJ Abrams
CF Victor Robles

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Nats miss early chances, falter late in loss to Pirates (updated)


Had his lineup produced just one more hit among the countless scoring opportunities that presented themselves this afternoon, Davey Martinez might well have turned over the final innings of the Nationals’ doubleheader opener against the Pirates to his "A" bullpen.

Alas, with his team trailing by a lone run, Martinez opted not to use up his best relief arms, saving them instead for the nightcap. It didn’t take long for that one-run deficit to morph into a three-run deficit and ultimately a 6-3 loss.

A game that was tied at two in the sixth turned Pittsburgh’s way when Miguel Andujar launched a two-run homer off Carl Edwards Jr. The Nats would get one run back in the bottom of the inning, but they now needed rookie Thaddeus Ward and others from the "B" bullpen to keep the game close.

That did not happen. Ward did pitch his way out of a self-made jam in the seventh but then was pulled after issuing a leadoff walk to Andujar in the eighth. In came Anthony Banda, who proceeded to turn the rest of the inning into a mess.

Banda, the lone lefty in the Nationals bullpen since Opening Day, didn’t retire either of the left-handed batters he faced, plunking Tucupita Marcano on the hand, then allowing a bunt single to Ji Hwan Bae (denying third baseman Jeimer Candelario a chance to make what looked like an easier play than he had himself).

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Nats call up Weems for the day, delay decision on starter

weems pitch blue

Upon announcing the postponement of Friday night’s series opener against the Pirates, the Nationals had a decision to make about their pitching plans for Saturday’s doubleheader: Would they just have Patrick Corbin and Chad Kuhl start, or would they call up someone else from Triple-A to make a spot start and serve as their designated 27th man for the twinbill?

The club decided to stick with the two current members of the rotation, call up reliever Jordan Weems from Rochester to take that extra roster spot and wait until later in the homestand to find a spot starter.

“We thought about it,” manager Davey Martinez said when asked about the possibility of using a fill-in starter today. “But Weems is throwing the ball well. We have him for two games, which is kind of nice.”

Weems is off to a good start to his season: In his first nine appearances, he owns a 1.93 ERA and 1.071 WHIP, striking out 13 batters in 9 1/3 innings. The 30-year-old pitched in 32 big league games last season, finishing with a 5.22 ERA but strong 1.185 WHIP, hurt in large part by the seven homers he surrendered in only 39 2/3 innings.

“He’s got good stuff,” Martinez said of the right-hander. “The biggest thing with him is just throwing strike one. When he gets ahead, he’s good. He’s got a good mix of pitches. He’s just got to attack the strike zone, throw strike one.”

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Game 25 lineups: Nats vs. Pirates

candelario slides

After a getaway night game in New York, the Nationals arrived back in Washington early Friday morning, then watched it rain pretty much nonstop all day and night. Here’s guessing they weren’t terribly disappointed to learn the opener of their series against the Pirates was postponed nearly four hours before scheduled first pitch.

The downside: The two teams will play a day-night doubleheader today, beginning with the originally scheduled 1:05 p.m. tilt. The Nats decided to keep Patrick Corbin on the mound for this one and hold Chad Kuhl for the 6:05 p.m. nightcap. The Pirates did the opposite, having Rich Hill (Friday night’s scheduled starter) take the opener, with Vince Velasquez pushed to the night game.

Corbin has delivered back-to-back quality starts, going six innings each time and allowing two earned runs (four total) to the Guardians and then three earned runs to the Twins. The left-hander has hardly been spectacular, but he’s at least giving his team a chance, which is all they can reasonably ask of him at this point.

Hill, meanwhile, remains an ageless wonder. The 43-year-old lefty sports a 2.12 ERA over his last three starts, continuing a stunning trend by the Pirates' unheralded rotation. That staff has delivered 14 quality starts over the last 16 games, and one of the starts that didn’t meet the qualification was Hill’s last outing, in which he allowed only one run over five innings. If you’re wondering how in the world Pittsburgh has stormed out to a National League-best 18-8 record, that’s how.

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Cloudy, 66 degrees, wind 4 mph in from center field

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Nats-Pirates postponed, doubleheader coming Saturday

nats park tarp

Tonight’s series opener between the Nationals and Pirates has been postponed due to heavy rain that has been falling in the D.C. area all day and promises to continue through the entire evening.

The game will be made up Saturday as part of a day-night doubleheader, with the originally scheduled 1:05 p.m. game remaining as planned and a 6:05 p.m. game serving as the makeup for tonight’s postponement.

Separate tickets and parking passes are required for Saturday’s games. Fans who hold tickets for tonight’s rained-out game can use them for Saturday’s 6:05 p.m. game or exchange them at the Nationals Park box office for tickets to a future game (subject to availability). Exchanges must occur prior to June 8.

The Nationals will stick with Patrick Corbin as their starter for Saturday’s first game. Chad Kuhl, tonight’s scheduled starter, will pitch the nightcap, with Josiah Gray still in line to start Sunday’s 1:35 p.m. finale.

If there are no more postponements between now and then, the Nats will probably need to call up someone from their minor league system to start one of the remaining games in this homestand against the Cubs, lest they opt to have either Corbin or Kuhl pitch on short rest.

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García right in the middle of Nats' double play renaissance

garcia throws @ MIA blue

As he stood on the mound with one out in the bottom of the ninth Friday night in Minnesota, the potential tying run in scoring position and the potential winning run on base, Kyle Finnegan could’ve panicked about the jam he had just put himself and the Nationals in. Instead, he considered the best-case scenario that could play out if he could just do his job and trust his teammates behind him to do the rest.

“I execute this pitch here, he’s going to hit it on the ground and we’re going to turn a double play and win,” Finnegan recalled thinking to himself in that moment. “To see it play out, and to be able to trust your defense that they’re going to make a play, it’s everything.”

Sure enough, Finnegan’s first pitch was a 94 mph sinker on the inside corner, jamming José Miranda, who hit a sharp grounder to third. Jeimer Candelario scooped it up and threw to second baseman Luis García, who made the quick turn and fired to Dominic Smith at first base for the game-ending, 5-4-3 double play.

The Nationals couldn’t have drawn it up any better. And these days that’s exactly how they’re drawing it up, because their infield defense has become a legitimate strength after causing so many headaches last season.

The Nats have turned 25 double plays through their first 21 games. Only the Cardinals, who have played one more game, have turned more among all major league clubs.

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How Thompson became a strike-throwing machine

Mason Thompson

MINNEAPOLIS – During the final days of the 2022 season, Mason Thompson entered Davey Martinez’s office for the same kind of exit interview everyone on the Nationals roster was given before leaving for the winter.

It was a chance for Thompson to discuss what he felt he did well and what he did not do well in his first full big league season. And, more importantly, it was a chance for Martinez and his staff to tell Thompson what they believed he could do to get better.

The primary message they wanted to get across to the big reliever: Throw strike one, because things get a lot easier for him once he does.

“They broke down my numbers and said: ‘When you get ahead, you’re basically unhittable,’” Thompson recalled Sunday. “That was the main focus this offseason, just pounding the zone. For me, it’s produced a good result.”

That’s putting it mildly. After tossing 2 1/3 innings with one unearned run scoring on his watch and emerging as the winning pitcher in the Nationals’ 10-4 thumping of the Twins, Thompson finds himself the owner of some enviable season stats. His ERA is 1.15. His WHIP is 0.638. He has 13 strikeouts and only one walk.

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Nats go quiet at plate again, can't sweep Twins (updated)

nationals gray

MINNEAPOLIS – The Nationals aren’t going to score 10 runs every day. They know that. They know as much fun as Saturday’s lopsided win over the Twins was, that’s not often going to be their path to victory.

For these Nationals to win, execution in key moments is imperative. If they only provide themselves with a handful of legitimate scoring opportunities each game, they’re going to have to make the most of them and hope their pitching is good enough to make it stand up.

The pitching was good enough this afternoon at Target Field. Patrick Corbin gave up three runs in six innings, a quality start that can only be deemed a success for the long-struggling left-hander. The lineup, however, did not come close to making the most of its few scoring opportunities, in one particular instance giving away outs in spectacular fashion to help make a 3-1 loss to Minnesota possible.

Thus did the Nats fail to do something they haven’t done in nearly two years: sweep a three-game series, last achieved in June 2021 against the Pirates. And they certainly didn’t do something they hadn’t done in nearly four years: sweep a road series, last achieved in August 2019 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

"The guys played hard, and they played hard today," manager Davey Martinez said. "To come out of here, when these guys have been playing well, and win two out of three with a day off coming up tomorrow, it feels good."

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Thomas gets first day off, Meneses back to DH

meneses gray

MINNEAPOLIS – Two members of the Nationals lineup started each of the season’s first 20 games. Only one of them will have started each of the first 21 games.

Lane Thomas is not playing today’s series finale against the Twins, the right fielder finally getting a chance to rest more than three weeks after Opening Day.

“Just felt like giving him a day off today,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I’ve been wanting to give him a day off, so I thought today would be a good day for him.”

Thomas has been perhaps the team’s most consistent hitter so far, though he has cooled off in recent days. Owner of a .323 batting average through the first 16 games, he’s gone two for his last 17 with seven strikeouts, including three during Saturday’s 10-4 win at Target Field.

The 27-year-old talked this spring about his desire to get off to a strong start, recognizing how streaky he was last season. He’s been pleased with the way he’s put together quality at-bats for the most part this month.

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Game 21 lineups: Nats at Twins

corbin white

MINNEAPOLIS – Do you remember the last time the Nationals swept a three-game series? Here are some hints: 1) Kyle Schwarber was their leadoff hitter, 2) Ryan Zimmerman was a pinch-hitter, 3) Brad Hand got the save. If you said June 16, 2021, when the Nats beat the Pirates to complete a three-game sweep in D.C., congratulations!

Yes, it’s been a long time, and a lot of things have changed around here. But today, these Nationals have an opportunity to finally accomplish that feat again if they can beat the Twins for the third straight day.

To do that, they’re going to need to keep their bats hot after Saturday’s 10-run explosion. The weather’s a little bit warmer today, if that helps at all. They’re facing another relatively unknown pitcher in Bailey Ober, a 27-year-old right-hander who was squeezed out of the Twins’ Opening Day rotation but was just called up from Triple-A St. Paul to make a spot start. He pitched well in the minors, and he’s got solid big league numbers as well (3.82 ERA, 1.146 WHIP in 31 career starts), but the Nats have never seen him before.

The Nationals also need Patrick Corbin to give them a chance, something that has too often proved too difficult a challenge for the left-hander. Corbin was better in his last start, though, holding the Guardians to two earned runs (four overall) in six innings, all of the damage coming in one inning. He’s had a full week of rest, so that could help as well.

Where: Target Field
Gametime: 1:10 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Partly cloudy, 42 degrees, wind 9 mph out to right field

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Nats stay hot in the cold, beat Twins for first series win (updated)

Jeimer Candelario gray cold

MINNEAPOLIS – As the mercury dropped to 35 degrees – remarkably 2 degrees colder than it was Friday night for what temporarily stood as the coldest game in club history – the Nationals bundled up in long sleeves, gloves, hoodies, balaclavas, anything they could find to protect themselves from the elements and took the field this afternoon in search of the kind of offense that has eluded them throughout the season’s first 20 games.

And then a funny thing happened. They scored two runs in the top of the first. Then two more in the top of the second. And they just kept going and going until they walked out of Target Field with a resounding 10-4 victory over the Twins and their stunned (and well-compensated) ace.

Who cares what the thermometer read. The Nationals inexplicably have been at their best this month the colder it’s been. Their best offensive display to date had come in Colorado, which of course also has the added benefit of thin air. Now they’ve won two games in a row in Minnesota despite the ever-present threat of snow flurries, and in the process secured their first series victory of the young season. On Sunday, they'll attempt to complete their first three-game sweep since June 2021.

"If we keep playing like this," manager Davey Martinez said, "I hope it's 20 degrees for the next four months."

That probably won't be happening without a massive shift in global warming trends, so eventually the Nationals will have to learn how to hit on a hot day. But for now, it's been a winning formula, Friday night via a late rally to eke out a 3-2 win. Today’s came far more comfortably, with offensive fireworks both early and late, and contributors up and down the lineup.

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Meneses gets chance to play first base, Ruiz gets chance to sit

Joey Meneses throws gray

MINNEAPOLIS – The role of designated hitter can be tougher than it sounds, especially for someone who has spent most of his career playing a position in the field but then finds himself only batting four times a game and watching the rest of the game from the dugout.

It’s admittedly been an adjustment for Joey Meneses through the first month of this season. Having played either first base or the outfield most of his professional life, the 30-year-old has become the Nationals’ everyday DH.

Perhaps that has something to do with Meneses’ slow start at the plate. He enters this afternoon’s game against the Twins batting .227/.266/.333 through his first 18 games, and he just finally hit his first home run Friday night.

“He’s trying to develop a routine DHing,” manager Davey Martinez said. “It’s tough when you’re DHing every day to find a routine, when you’ve never done it before.”

With that in mind, Martinez decided to have Meneses and Dominic Smith switch roles this afternoon. Though Smith is the superior defensive player, he’ll serve as DH and give Meneses a chance to play first base and keep himself more engaged in the game.

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Game 20 lineups: Nats at Twins


MINNEAPOLIS – After playing (and winning) the coldest game in club history Friday night, the Nationals are back at it this afternoon for what might even be a colder game despite the earlier start time. Temperatures again are in the 30s, and the wind has picked up, making it feel even colder. Gotta love it.

The Nats’ bats finally got hot just in time Friday night to pull out a 3-2 win. They’ll be facing a tougher pitcher today in Pablo López, who just signed a four-year, $73.5 million extension with the Twins. The 27-year-old right-hander has a 1.73 ERA, 0.808 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 26 innings so far this season, so he certainly earned that contract. The Nationals do know him from his five seasons with the Marlins and faced him three times last year, scoring five runs on 10 hits over 15 1/3 innings.

Chad Kuhl gets the ball for his fourth start of the season, and he’s going to need to be better than he has been in his first three outings if he wants to avoid speculation about losing his place in the rotation. Kuhl has allowed four or more earned runs each time out, and he has yet to record an out in the sixth inning. He’ll be challenged to keep Minnesota’s potent lineup in the park this afternoon, especially with the wind blowing out to right.

Where: Target Field
Gametime: 1:10 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Cloudy, 37 degrees, wind 16 mph out to right field

LF Alex Call
3B Jeimer Candelario
1B Joey Meneses
2B Luis García
RF Lane Thomas
DH Dominic Smith
C Riley Adams
SS CJ Abrams
CF Victor Robles

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Nats break through with late rally for chilly win over Twins (updated)


MINNEAPOLIS - Combine the coldest lineup in the majors with the coldest gametime temperature in club history, and it could not have taken anyone by surprise to see nothing but zeroes on the scoreboard for six innings tonight at Target Field.

Did you really expect these Nationals to get hot on a 37-degree April night in the Great White North?

Well, actually, yeah. It just took a while to finally happen.

But once it did, once Joey Meneses launched his first homer of the season in the seventh, and once Lane Thomas and Keibert Ruiz delivered back-to-back two-out RBI singles in the eighth, everything was OK again for the Nationals, who exchanged high-fives and handshakes on the field and then quickly bolted for the heated clubhouse to further celebrate a much-needed, 3-2 victory over the Twins.

"We were huddled under our one little heater we've got out there (in the bullpen)," closer Kyle Finnegan said. "Taking the lead there definitely gets us going. You start moving around, get the juices flowing a little bit. It's exciting. Take the lead late in a game and then shut it down to get the win? You've got to enjoy a win like that."

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Workhorse Ruiz bumped up to No. 2 spot in lineup

ruiz swing @ MIA gray

MINNEAPOLIS – Trying to find some kind of spark for a lineup that has been shut out its last two games, Davey Martinez has moved Keibert Ruiz up to the No. 2 spot for tonight’s series opener against the Twins.

Ruiz had mostly been batting fifth or sixth this season, with two other games in the cleanup spot. He’s been one of the team’s few productive hitters in recent days, with a pair of three-hit games during the Nationals’ last homestand to raise his batting average 40 points to .262.

Martinez had tried to stick with Dominic Smith in the 2-spot, but the first baseman has looked lost at times at the plate, has zero extra-base hits so far this season and sports a weak .550 OPS. Smith was moved down to the No. 6 position tonight, the lowest he’s batted so far this year.

“We really need to get Dom going. He’s a big part of our offense,” Martinez said. “I just dropped him down a little bit. Keibert’s swinging the bat well. I talked to him today and not changing anything. Just continue to put the bat on the ball. He’s done well, so we’ll give him an opportunity to bat second today and see how it goes.”

Though he hasn’t hit for much power either, with one double in his last seven games, Ruiz has been hitting the ball with more authority, going 9 for his last 24. Even more impressive, he hasn’t struck out during this stretch.

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Game 19 lineups: Nats at Twins

Lane Thomas swinging gray

MINNEAPOLIS – Hello from one of the Twin Cities, where there was white stuff falling from the sky just a few minutes ago. Outdoor April baseball in Minnesota: It’s a beautiful thing!

The Nationals come to Target Field for only the second time in their history, the previous visit back in September 2019, when things were just a little bit different. They’ll try to get their bats going this weekend, despite the cold here, with a tweak to their lineup: Keibert Ruiz has been moved up to the No. 2 spot, with Dominic Smith moved down to the No. 6 spot. Davey Martinez has been trying to take pressure off his young guys and let them hit down in the lineup, but at this point he really has little choice but to see how Ruiz handles a prominent position in the order.

Pretty much everything else remains status quo, with Stone Garrett again starting in left field in place of Alex Call, who will come off the bench for the series opener against Twins right-hander Tyler Mahle.

Trevor Williams gets the ball for the Nats, and he’s been solid through his first three starts, entering tonight’s game with a 3.52 ERA and 1.174 WHIP. The right-hander hasn’t completed six innings yet, but that’s not all that important with him, given his history as a swingman who may be best-suited to a maximum of five innings per start anyway.

Where: Target Field
Gametime: 8:10 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Chance of snow (seriously), 39 degrees, wind 12 mph out to right field

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Thursday morning Nats Q&A

Davey Martinez dugout red

It was a frustrating couple of days for the Nationals, who were swept by the Orioles without scoring a run in either game of their first Battle of the Beltways matchup of the season. And yet, there were still signs of encouragement, most notably in the form of Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore. But about that lineup ... yikes.

In a strange bit of scheduling, the Nats were off Monday, are off again today and will be off again next Monday in between road series at the Twins and Mets. So let's take this opportunity to delve into the topics of your choosing.

If you've got something about the Nationals you'd like to ask, submit it in the comments section below. Then check back throughout the morning for my responses ...

Quality start for Gore, but another shutout loss for Nats (updated)


If this season is going to be about the development of young pitchers above all else, there are probably going to be more nights like this. Nights when the Nationals’ inept lineup can’t generate any semblance of consistent production, leading to a loss despite a quality effort by the club’s pitching staff.

Add tonight’s 4-0 loss to the Orioles to the growing list. Shut out for the second straight night by a Baltimore pitching staff that didn’t exactly come to town with a sparkling resume, the Nats never really felt like they were in it. They went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, dropped their second straight to their interleague rivals and fell to 5-13 overall.

"We're in a funk as a team," manager Davey Martinez said. "Just can't drive in that run. We out-hit them today. We just can't get that one big run across the board there."

The silver lining, then, was provided by MacKenzie Gore, who was far from outstanding in his fourth start of the season yet still showed the flashes of dominance that make the Nationals hope they’ve found their No. 1 starter.

Gore allowed three runs in six innings, all of them coming in the third and fourth. Before and after, he allowed only one batter to reach, striking out seven and departing with a 3.43 ERA and more strikeouts (25) than innings pitched (21) for the season.

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With Robles sitting, Call gets nod in center over Thomas

Lane Thomas catch Victor Robles gray

Victor Robles is getting his first day off of the season tonight, which isn’t all that newsworthy on its own merits. The player who will take over in center field in Robles’ absence, though, is somewhat surprising: Alex Call.

Call is getting the nod in center for tonight’s game against the Orioles instead of Lane Thomas, who will remain in right field as he has been for each of the Nats’ first 17 games this season.

The reason: Manager Davey Martinez didn’t want to move Thomas out of his regular position for just one day, given how well he has played there since Opening Day.

“I could’ve swapped everyone around,” Martinez said. “But I thought the best thing to do was leave Lane where he’s comfortable, put Call in center and leave Stone Garrett where he’s comfortable.”

Garrett is in left field for the third straight game, the only outfield position he has played so far this season in the majors.

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