Abrams, Robles, Cruz all sitting for season finale

CJ Abrams batting practice

NEW YORK – The Nationals limp into Game 162 of the season with a battered and bruised lineup that won’t include CJ Abrams, Victor Robles or Nelson Cruz.

Abrams and Robles both are sitting after departing games from Tuesday’s doubleheader with injuries. Abrams jammed his left shoulder trying to make a diving catch of a ball at shortstop. Robles felt his right calf tighten up as he ran out a double to deep left field.

Abrams got an MRI this morning, and though he was still waiting for results this afternoon, the rookie said he was feeling better and wasn’t overly concerned about any long-term issue. Robles said his calf still felt a little stiff, so manager Davey Martinez decided not to take a chance with either, even if it means he’s disappointed to write out a depleted lineup card for the final game of the season.

“Oh, absolutely,” he said. “Plus, some of our younger guys, I wanted to continue to see them play, especially the last game. But unfortunately, that’s sometimes how this game rolls. The good news is that they’re both going to be fine moving forward, and they’ll be ready for spring training.”

Also absent from the lineup again is Cruz, who hasn’t played since Sept. 13 due to a left eye infection that never fully healed to the point the 42-year-old was comfortable facing live pitching for fear of blurry vision.

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Game 162 lineups: Nats at Mets

Erick Fedde throws gray

NEW YORK – And so we have come to the end of the road. The worst season in Nationals history concludes later this afternoon with one final game against the Mets, who no longer have anything at stake after the Braves clinched the NL East on Tuesday night. New York will host the Padres in a best-of-three Wild Card Series beginning Friday, so Buck Showalter’s only goal today is make sure his team is ready for that assignment.

The Nats limp into the finish line, not only because of their record but because of injuries. They lost CJ Abrams to a jammed left shoulder and Victor Robles to tight right calf during Tuesday’s doubleheader. They’ve already been without Nelson Cruz (left eye infection) for more than two weeks. So Davey Martinez has to piece together his lineup for Game 162 with whatever remaining healthy bodies he still has.

Erick Fedde has the distinct honor of starting the finale. It’s his 27th start of the season, matching his total from 2021. Fedde’s last start here at Citi Field, one month ago, was one of his best of the year: six innings of one-run ball on 101 pitches. He’ll try to duplicate that feat and head home for the winter on a positive note.

Speaking of positive notes: The weather finally looks decent for the first time in a week. It’s still cloudy and windy and cold, but most of the rain appears finally to have cleared out.

Citi Field
Gametime: 4:10 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Cloudy, 59 degrees, wind 10 mph in from left field

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Highlights from Rizzo's end-of-season media session


NEW YORK – Mike Rizzo held court with reporters for 20 minutes prior to Tuesday’s doubleheader at Citi Field, offering up something of a season wrap-up. The longtime general manager oversaw the worst season in club history, one that included not only more than 100 losses but the Aug. 2 trade of superstar Juan Soto to the Padres in the final teardown of the Nationals’ 2019 World Series roster.

Rizzo was asked questions on a wide variety of topics, from the big picture to individual players and manager Davey Martinez. We’ll be including many of his answers over the next week as we wrap up the season, but here are some highlights from Rizzo’s session …

On the season’s results vs. progress made:
“I think you have to look at the big picture. I look at the season as a disappointment. I’ve always said that you are what your record says you are, and our record says we’re the worst team in the league right now. And it’s hard to argue with that. But the flip side of that is, we’re in a process. And the process is tried and true. We’ve done it before. Not a lot of teams can say that. And the process is moving forward, and it’s ongoing and I think it’s a productive process.”

On his approach to this offseason:
“We’re going to attack it. First of all, we’re going to do an autopsy of the organization after the season to see where we’re at. We’ll have a discussion with ownership to see where our parameters are. But suffice to say that we’re not comfortable with losing 100-plus games, and that’s something that I want to avoid again in the near future. We’re going to put together an offseason that we’re going to be aggressively attacking the free agent market, the trade market, the international market and any other market that helps us acquire impactful players that helps us get better soon.”

On how those parameters could change if the team is sold:
“Well, of course it could change if they sell the team. I think that would change. So I’m going to control what I can control. We’re in business as usual. We’re going to go through the end of the regular season and do our postseason work and try to explore every way to get better. We’ll get our marching orders and our direction from above when we get them. We’ll employ those directions. But until then, it’s business as usual, like we’ve done every year.” 

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Espino rocked as Nats suffer doubleheader sweep (updated)

hickey counsels espino @NYM gray

NEW YORK – By the time the Braves defeated the Marlins in Miami to clinch their fifth straight National League East title, the Mets already were routing the Nationals at Citi Field, having blitzed Paolo Espino for seven runs in the first inning to deal the right-hander an embarrassing concluding chapter to his season.

At that point, there was nothing official left for the Mets to play for in the regular season, their focus now shifting to the best-of-three Wild Card Series they’ll host against either the Padres or Phillies beginning here Friday night.

But even as the rain picked up and left the small, shivering crowd scrambling for cover by the sixth inning, they pressed on and played this game to its conclusion, the Nationals handed an unsightly, 8-0 loss in which they struck out 17 times for their 106th loss of the season.

They’ll return Wednesday afternoon one final time to wrap up a miserable 2022 and turn their sights to trying to ensure this doesn’t happen again in 2023.

This game saw shortstop CJ Abrams depart after 1 1/3 innings, having jammed his left shoulder trying to make a diving catch in the field. Manager Davey Martinez said Abrams will get an MRI on Wednesday to be sure he didn't suffer any structural damage.

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Game 161 lineups: Nats at Mets

garcia hr @ NYM gray

NEW YORK – All right, they were able to get the first game of today’s doubleheader in. Let’s see if they can get the nightcap in as well. And if the Nationals can beat the Mets and officially eliminate them from the National League East race.

It’s Paolo Espino on the mound for the Nationals for his final start of the season, and he is still seeking his first win of the season. Espino enters the day with 113 innings pitched. The record for most innings pitched in a season without earning a win is 117 1/3, set by the Twins’ Terry Felton in 1982. That record is very much at stake tonight.

Taijuan Walker starts for the Mets. It’s only his second outing against the Nationals this season. Way back on May 12 in D.C., he tossed seven scoreless innings on only 85 pitches. He’ll try to duplicate that feat this evening.

Citi Field

Gametime: 8:10 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Rain, 56 degrees, wind 18 mph in from left field

RF Lane Thomas
SS CJ Abrams
1B Joey Meneses
2B Luis García
DH Luke Voit
3B César Hernández
CF Alex Call
LF Josh Palacios
C Tres Barrera

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Nats clinch league's worst record with loss to Mets (updated)

abbott @NYM blue

NEW YORK – The Nationals have owned the worst record in baseball throughout the vast majority of this season. And this evening, they officially ensured they will end the season with the worst record in baseball.

A 4-2 loss to the Mets in the opener of a scheduled doubleheader in the rain and wind at Citi Field was the Nationals’ 105th of the season. The Athletics cannot finish with more than 104 losses.

For decades, that indignity would’ve guaranteed the No. 1 pick in next summer’s draft. But in an attempt to discourage teams from openly tanking, Major League Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement with the MLB Players Association instituted a draft lottery, giving every team that doesn’t make the playoffs an opportunity to pick first.

The Nationals will have a better chance than most: 16.5 percent, same as the teams that finish with the second- and third-worst records. They are guaranteed only of a top-seven pick.

Consider it one final downer to this season full of downers, which wraps up Wednesday against the playoff-bound Mets, still mathematically able to win the National League East until either they lose a game or the Braves win one.

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Martinez reiterates entire coaching staff will return in 2023

nats park dusk

NEW YORK – Davey Martinez reiterated today what he suggested this summer after his contract option was picked up: His entire coaching staff will return to the Nationals in 2023.

“Yes, they’ll all be back,” Martinez said prior to the Nats’ doubleheader against the Mets to commence their final series of the season.

When the Nationals exercised the manager’s 2023 option July 2, he revealed all of his coaches received two-year contracts when they were hired, suggesting all would be returning along with him. Today, in discussing how members of his staff will be working directly with players during the offseason, Martinez was asked directly if the full staff will be back and he provided a definitive answer.

“These guys have been awesome,” he said. “They’ve been an extension of my voice. They care. They care about each individual. And they’re putting the time in to get each of these guys better.”

The Nationals did make several coaching changes last winter, reassigning longtime staffers Randy Knorr and Bob Henley to player development roles and shifting bullpen coach Henry Blanco to a newly created in-dugout coaching role in which he could work directly with the team’s catchers. Gary DiSarcina, Eric Young Jr. and Ricky Bones were all hired from outside the organization to take over as third base coach, first base coach and bullpen coach, respectively. The team also hired Darnell Coles as hitting coach after Kevin Long left to take a multi-year offer from the Phillies for the same position.

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Game 160 lineups: Nats at Mets (take two)

abbott blue @ ATL

NEW YORK – Well, guess we’re going to try to do this yet again. Even though the weather here continues to be miserable.

The Nationals and Mets couldn’t open their season-ending series as planned Monday night, so they’ll try to not only play that game today, but then another game as well. It’s a straight doubleheader, beginning at 4:10 p.m., with only 30 minutes between games. The problem, as it’s been for days, is that it continues to rain, the wind continues to howl and there’s no end in sight.

But press on they will, and if they can play it’ll be the same pitching matchup that was planned for Monday night: Cory Abbott for the Nats, Carlos Carrasco for the Mets. Keep in mind: The Mets still technically can win the NL East, but only if they win three games over the Nationals while the Braves (who lost Monday night) lose two more to the Marlins.

That’s why, for now, they have to proceed as if it’s necessary to play all three games of this series. If that changes, perhaps the urgency to get these games in will disappear.

One roster note: Reliever Reed Garrett, who joined the Nationals on this trip in case his services were needed, has been activated to serve as the 29th man for the doubleheader. He's available out of the bullpen for both games.

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Would Abbott and Espino pitch well in tandem?


NEW YORK – If the Nationals are able to play both of today’s newly scheduled doubleheader games against the Mets – and based on the forecast, that’s a big if – they will be sending Cory Abbott to the mound to start Game 1 and Paolo Espino to start Game 2.

And if history repeats itself, Abbott and Espino are likely to pitch very well for two or three innings, then struggle mightily after that.

The right-handers have had no trouble retiring opposing hitters once per game this season. Abbott, when facing a hitter for the first time within a game (either as a starter or reliever) has held the opposition to a miniscule .165 batting average and .576 OPS. Espino’s numbers in the same situation: a .235 batting average and .645 OPS.

The problems arise when they have to face those same hitters a second or third time. In those situations, opponents are batting .324 with a 1.133 OPS against Abbott and .340 with a .958 OPS against Espino.

At the moment, there’s not much the Nationals can do about it. They’ve needed both Abbott and Espino to start down the stretch, and Davey Martinez has no choice but to try to get as many innings as he can out of each.

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Opener in New York postponed, doubleheader Tuesday (updated)

davey martinez staring

NEW YORK – The rain that made a mess of the Nationals’ entire final home series over the weekend is making a mess of their final road series of the season as well.

With what's left of Hurricane Ian slowly making its way up the East Coast, tonight's game against the Mets has been postponed. The two teams will attempt to play a straight doubleheader Tuesday at 4:10 p.m., with Cory Abbott starting the first game and Paolo Espino starting the nightcap.

Tuesday's forecast, though, calls for rain all night and all day, and it perhaps could even extend into early Wednesday, when the regular season is supposed to come to an end with a 4:10 p.m. first pitch at Citi Field.

All the Nationals can do at this point is wait, and potentially play at some point in less-than-ideal conditions, just as they did all weekend against the Phillies in D.C.

“You can’t control Mother Nature,” manager Davey Martinez said earlier in the afternoon, prior to the postponement announcement. “We’ll see what happens. It’s looking pretty nasty right now. We’ll see if this thing goes away and lets us play a nice, cold day.”

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Game 160 lineups: Nats at Mets

vargas swing @ STL gray

NEW YORK – You’ll never guess what the weather’s going to be like the next three days here at Citi Field! It’s like somebody purposely decided to have a massive storm follow the Nationals up the East Coast, because just as soon as things cleared up in D.C., the remnants of Hurricane Ian have made their way to New York, where tonight the Nats and Mets are supposed to open the final series of the season.

For now, these games matter. But they may not matter nearly as much as we thought they would after the Braves swept the Mets in Atlanta over the weekend, reducing their magic number to clinch the National League East to one. In other words, all it will take is one Braves win over the Marlins or one Nationals win over the Mets to end the division race and leave New York as the top wild card participant instead.

New York used up its big three starters in Atlanta, so it’s Carlos Carrasco here tonight. The Nats hit him around pretty good last month, knocking him out in the third inning after scoring five runs (only one earned) on six hits. They had far less success in three previous games against Carrasco earlier in the season.

Cory Abbott is tonight’s starter for the Nationals, getting one last chance to leave a positive impression heading into the winter. It’s been a struggle for the right-hander, who has completed more than five innings only once in eight starts. The good news: He has yet to surrender a run to the Mets in seven total innings.

Citi Field

Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Rain, 55 degrees, wind 17 mph in from center field

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Romero gives up record five homers in Nats debut (updated)


As they mapped out their pitching plan for the final week of the season, the Nationals knew they were going to need somebody who wasn’t already on the active big league roster to start the nightcap of today’s doubleheader against the Phillies.

They hoped all along they could give that start to MacKenzie Gore, the talented left-hander acquired from the Padres in the Juan Soto blockbuster trade who has spent the last 2 1/2 months rehabbing from inflammation in his elbow. But when Gore struggled to build up his stamina during a rehab stint at Triple-A Rochester to a point he would’ve been comfortable throwing more than three innings, the Nats decided not to activate him off the injured list.

That’s how Tommy Romero found himself taking the mound tonight at rainy Nationals Park, a 25-year-old right-hander claimed off waivers from the Rays in August who had pitched well enough at Triple-A to convince club officials they wanted to get a look at him.

By the time Romero handed the ball back to manager Davey Martinez after 3 2/3 disastrous innings, there was reason to wonder if club officials will want to see more of him.

The Phillies blasted Romero for eight runs on eight hits, five of those homers, and ran away with an 8-2 victory to regain a one-game lead over the Brewers for the National League’s final wild card berth with four games to play in the regular season.

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Game 158 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies

Luke Voit swing cherry blossom

The Nationals and Phillies have managed to complete the first two games of this weekend’s four-game series on schedule (that is, the original schedule). Now they’ll try to get Game 3 completed as planned tonight before another round of rain arrives in the region.

They’ve split these two games so far, each winning comfortably once, including the Nats’ 13-4 rout this afternoon. They’ll hope they can keep that kind of aggressive offensive attack going tonight against Noah Syndergaard, who they face for the third time this season. They’ve done OK against the former Mets right-hander, totaling seven runs and 19 hits in 11 innings. They’re also 4-for-4 on stolen base attempts against the notoriously slow worker, so look for them to run again.

We’ll be getting our first look at Tommy Romero, a 25-year-old right-hander who was claimed off waivers from the Rays last month and then pitched well in six games (two starts) at Triple-A Rochester, going 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA and 1.138 WHIP. Romero is not a power pitcher; he relies on weak contact. So infield defense will be key tonight as the Nationals try to emerge with another win and deal the Phillies’ playoff hopes another blow.

Nationals Park

Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Rain, 62 degrees, wind 13 mph in from center field

RF Lane Thomas
SS CJ Abrams
1B Joey Meneses
DH Luke Voit
2B Luis García
LF César Hernández
3B Ildemaro Vargas
CF Victor Robles
C Tres Barrera

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Meneses leads the way again as Nats rout Phillies (updated)

meneses swing white

As each day passes and Joey Meneses’ numbers keep climbing, the question keeps getting asked and the answer keeps sounding more plausible.

"I don't think the way he hit was a fluke," Davey Martinez said this morning of his 30-year-old rookie sensation. "I think the kid knows how to hit."

All the evidence to date backs up that assertion, and Meneses only bolstered the case with another standout performance today during the Nationals’ 13-4 trouncing of the Phillies in the rain-delayed opener of a rescheduled day-night doubleheader.

With a single, a double, a homer, a walk and four RBIs, Meneses added to his growing resume. Throw in a 440-foot moonshot from Luke Voit, a three-run homer and two RBI singles from Luis García and another dominant bullpen performance, and the Nats cruised to victory over a Philadelphia club that fell back into a tie with the Brewers for the final wild card berth in the National League with five games to go.

Meneses, as he’s so often done since bursting onto the scene Aug. 2, led the way at the plate. His bases-loaded double past a lunging Alec Bohm at third base keyed a five-run bottom of the second. Then his leadoff homer to right-center in the fifth extended the Nationals’ lead after the Phillies tried to claw their way back into the game.

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Cruz running out of time to return from eye infection

cruz mashes @SD blue

Nelson Cruz last appeared in a game for the Nationals in the third inning of their Sept. 13 game against the Orioles. The 42-year-old designated hitter reached on catcher’s interference, then two innings later was pulled in favor of pinch-hitter Josh Palacios due to an infection in his left eye that left his vision blurry.

That was 18 days ago, and not much has changed since then with regards to Cruz’s status. His vision has improved enough to take batting practice and even field some grounders at first base. But it has not improved enough to make the Nationals comfortable sending him to the plate to face a pitcher in an actual game.

And now that the season is winding down, with the team’s home finale scheduled Sunday, there’s legitimate concern Cruz may be running out of time to make it back before the 2022 campaign ends.

“Yeah, I am worried,” manager Davey Martinez said this morning. “Yesterday, he said he felt a lot better. And then throughout the day, it reverted back. But earlier on, he said he felt great. I hope that within the next day or so, maybe he can get out there. Even if he can pinch-hit one game for us or something like that, it would be great. But we’re still hoping he can get back out there and finish on the field.”

It had already been a difficult season for Cruz before the eye infection became an issue. Signed at the start of spring training for $15 million, the veteran slugger was supposed to provide lineup protection for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, mentor young teammates and potentially be flipped at the trade deadline for a prospect or two.

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Game 157 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies

Anibal Sanchez throw blue back away

What do you say we try this again?

The first attempt to play a day-night doubleheader at Nationals Park this weekend didn’t work. Though the Phillies beat the Nats 5-1 on Friday afternoon, the nightcap was postponed about 30 minutes before scheduled first pitch. So now they’ll attempt to do it again today and tonight, despite the forecast still looking really bad.

The Nationals will go with Aníbal Sánchez in this afternoon’s opener, holding Tommy Romero for a potential nightcap. Sánchez has been on quite the roll over the last six weeks. Add up his last seven starts, and the 38-year-old is 3-1 with a 1.31 ERA and 0.932 WHIP. He hasn’t surrendered more than two runs or more than four hits in any of those seven starts, truly a run of dominance to wind down his season.

Kyle Gibson starts for the Phillies, with Noah Syndergaard held back for the nightcap. Gibson faced the Nationals back on Aug. 5 and dominated, allowing one run on two hits over eight sparkling innings, though he was roughed up by the Blue Jays and Braves his last two starts.

Nationals Park

Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Rain, 60 degrees, wind 16 mph in from center field

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Nationals drop lackluster opener to Phillies (updated)

call k's cherry

If this is the way the Nationals are going to play all weekend, they’re probably going to help the Phillies clinch their first postseason berth in 11 years.

With a chance to deal their fading division rivals a serious blow in their attempt to hold off the Brewers for the final wild card berth in the National League, the Nats put forth a lackluster performance during today’s 5-1 loss in the opener of a day-night doubleheader as the first wave of rain from former Hurricane Ian began to reach the region.

The Nationals were shut out for six innings by Phillies starter Bailey Falter, then pushed across only one run against their bullpen, stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. They got another laborious five innings out of Erick Fedde. They also ran themselves into multiple outs on the bases and committed an error in the field to round out a disappointing showing in the opener of a scheduled four-game weekend series.

"We keep battling; we had the tying run up at the plate, and it just didn't happen," manager Davey Martinez said. "But when you give teams extra outs, it's tough. It really is."

Having now lost 14 of 16 to the Phillies this season, the Nats will try to reverse that trend in the scheduled 7:05 p.m. nightcap, though the status of that game is very much in question due to the rain that is expected to wreak havoc through the remainder of the weekend and could potentially force both teams to return to town Thursday to make up any un-played games that could decide the playoff race.

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Gore won't pitch before season's end, Cavalli throwing pain-free


The Nationals have decided not to give MacKenzie Gore a start before season’s end, not wanting to push the left-hander to come off the injured list given the shaky weekend forecast and his stamina issues during a lengthy minor league rehab stint.

Gore, who was acquired from the Padres while on the 15-day IL with left elbow inflammation, had been building himself back up with the intention of making one or two big league starts before the season ends. And after throwing 72 pitches over 3 2/3 innings Monday in his fourth rehab outing for Triple-A Rochester, he expressed optimism he’d make a start against the Phillies this weekend, even if he was limited to three or four innings.

But after conversations with manager Davey Martinez and general manager Mike Rizzo, Gore was told his season would end now, with an offseason plan implemented to help him build up more strength and stamina heading into spring training.

“For me, that’s good enough,” Martinez said. “When we started this and started your rehab stuff, that’s the point we wanted to get to. For me, if it was something different – if we didn’t have enough pitchers, or whatever, which we do – it would be a different conversation. But I don’t want to push it. I think we’re in a good spot right now.”

Gore had totaled 70 big league innings for the Padres before going on the IL in late July, going 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA, 1.472 WHIP and 72 strikeouts, those numbers turning worse as he was beginning to deal with his elbow issue. He was highly motivated to come back and pitch for the Nationals, but the organization doesn’t feel like he needs to prove anything to them.

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Game 156 lineups: Nats vs. Phillies

victor robles swings white

And away we go …

It’s the final home series of the season, or at least it’s supposed to be the final home series of the season. Rain and the Phillies’ standing in the wild card race could force everyone to come back here Thursday to play however many games still need to be played to decide the race.

There’s plenty of time to worry about how the weekend is going to play out, but here’s the safest bet of all: Today’s first game should be completed with no issues. It’s Erick Fedde on the mound for what could be his final start of the season, facing a Phillies lineup that roughed him up for four runs on five hits in 3 2/3 innings earlier this month.

The Phillies, who have had all kinds of trouble scoring runs, desperately need a quality pitching performance from Bailey Falter, who makes his third start against the Nats this year. The lefty has allowed a total of five runs on 11 hits in nine innings, though he has struck out 10.

Both teams are allowed a 29th player for the doubleheader, and the Nationals are using theirs on right-hander Tommy Romero, who was called up from Triple-A Rochester. Claimed off waivers from the Rays last month, Romero had a 2.33 ERA in six games (two starts) for the Red Wings and has intrigued club officials. He's available to pitch either game today, if needed.

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How many games can Nats, Phillies actually play this weekend?

Nationals Park tarp

The final week of the season, with seven games against NL East contenders crammed into six days, always loomed as a tough closing stretch for the Nationals. But now that stretch looks even tougher. And it might have to be extended to a seventh day, depending on a variety of factors.

When Major League Baseball put outs its initial 2022 schedule, this was supposed to be the final weekend. The Nationals would host the Phillies for three games, wrapping everything up Sunday.

But then came the interminable offseason lockout that stretched into spring training and ultimately delayed Opening Day by a week. And rather than cancel that week’s worth of games lost, MLB chose to insert them into the original schedule.

The Nats, who were supposed to host the Phillies for a two-game series the first week of April, wound up having a pair of Saturday doubleheaders added (one in June, one this weekend) to make up those games. They also had their originally planned opening series at the Mets tacked on to the end of the schedule, so they’ll now play Monday-Wednesday at Citi Field.

Now throw the remnants of Hurricane Ian into the mix, and you get this current mess. Worried about the weekend forecast of rain, the Nationals took Saturday night’s game and bumped it up to this afternoon at 1:05 p.m., creating a day-night doubleheader. In theory, the Nats and Phillies will play three games in the span of 27 hours, then wait for the worst of the rain to clear out before finishing the series Sunday at 1:35 p.m.

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