Garrett gets start, Robles slumping, Ruiz finding stroke

Garrett gray

Stone Garrett finds himself back in the Nationals lineup today, the 27-year-old slugger given an opportunity to start in left field after spending the last five games on the bench in the wake of back-to-back impressive performances in Colorado.

Garrett is starting in place of Alex Call, who had been in Davey Martinez’s lineup 11 consecutive games, the last eight as leadoff hitter.

Garrett went 6-for-10 with two doubles, a homer and five RBIs during his back-to-back starts last weekend against the Rockies. Martinez said he hadn’t been back in the lineup since due to matchups, pointing out the Nationals hadn’t faced many left-handers since. Shane Bieber, who starts today for the Guardians, is a right-hander, but Martinez still views this as an advantageous matchup for Garrett.

“This guy throws a lot of off-speed stuff, keeps the ball out over the plate. So I thought it would be a good matchup,” the manager said. “Alex has been playing every day, so give him a day (off). Let’s get him out there. Like I said before, I’ve been wanting to get him out there. I think today is a good day.”

Call had taken over the everyday job in left field after Corey Dickerson suffered a calf strain in the season’s second game. He leads the team with nine walks and sported a .415 on-base percentage six days ago. But he’s just 1 for his last 17 with one walk, and has seen his batting average drop to .208, with his on-base percentage down to .322.

Continue reading

Game 16 lineups: Nats vs. Guardians

corbin gray

The Nationals find themselves in need of a win today to avoid a series sweep. It’s never a good place to be. All the more so when you’re facing an opponent’s No. 1 starter while you’re hoping your long-struggling lefty can right his ship for at least one day.

Patrick Corbin has made three starts so far this season, and the results unfortunately have looked far more like they did the last three seasons than they did way back in 2019. He has allowed at least four runs in each start. He has averaged only 4 2/3 innings pitched. He has put more than two batters on base per inning. Not good, any of it.

Shane Bieber, on the other hand, has been very good for the Guardians through his first three starts. The right-hander has allowed three or fewer runs per start. He has averaged 6 1/3 innings pitched. He has allowed fewer than one batter to reach base per inning.

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 81 degrees, wind 8 mph out to left field

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

Continue reading

Nats follow familiar script in narrow loss to Guardians (updated)


The Nationals continue to do enough to keep themselves engaged in close ballgames, right through the final out of the ninth. And they continue to do just enough to keep themselves from emerging victorious by losing the second half of close ballgames.

Whether by bullpen struggle or punchless lineup, the Nats just aren’t delivering in meaningful situations when they have a chance to seize control of a game late. It’s happened several times over the last two-plus weeks, and it happened again this evening during a 6-4 loss to the Guardians that was there for the taking but never captured by the home club.

The Nationals’ 11th loss in their first 15 games followed an all-too-familiar script. They had a brief burst of offense early, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first. Then they let the opposition catch up and then overtake them by the top of the fifth. And then they did very little at the plate themselves the rest of the way, shut down by Cleveland’s bullpen to suffer yet another loss by slim margin.

Four of the Nats’ last six losses have come by only one run. The others were a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Shohei Ohtani on Tuesday night in Anaheim, then this two-run loss that had been a one-run game until Josh Bell produced a big insurance run for the Guardians in the top of the ninth.

The common theme in all of these losses: A lack of execution in the later innings. Entering tonight, the Nationals owned a solid .751 OPS in innings 1-3, a respectable .702 OPS in innings 4-6 but a paltry .486 OPS in innings 7-9.

Continue reading

Why power-starved Nats aren't turning to Garrett more


The Nationals entered the day ranked last in the majors in home runs, last in the National League in slugging percentage. None of their regulars owns an OPS higher than .780, and that belongs to No. 9 batter Victor Robles.

There is, however, one player currently on their bench with better numbers, albeit in an extremely limited sample. Stone Garrett has played in three games to date, during which time he’s gone 7-for-12 with two doubles, a homer, five RBIs and a 1.643 OPS that dwarfs anyone else on the roster.

Which raises the obvious question: Why hasn’t Garrett been in the lineup, or taken even one plate appearance, since Sunday?

The answer, according to Davey Martinez, isn’t as simple as it may seem. There’s the matter of the opponent’s starting pitcher on a given day. There’s the performances of Lane Thomas and Alex Call to date. There’s defensive considerations.

Put that all together, and Garrett finds himself on the bench for the fifth straight game.

Continue reading

Game 15 lineups: Nats vs. Guardians


The Nationals are losing more far more games than they win right now. But those losses all have been close. Four of their last five defeats have come by one run, including Friday night’s 4-3 margin to the Guardians. And the other was a 2-0 loss to Shohei Ohtani.

So they’ll try to reverse that trend this afternoon in the second game of the weekend series, hoping perhaps their lineup can actually sustain something throughout the game instead of settling for a few early runs and then shutting down the rest of the way. They'll face right-hander Zach Plesac, who was roughed up by the Athletics in his season debut but then pitched seven strong innings against the Mariners his next time out. So who knows what to expect today?

Chad Kuhl becomes the final member of the Nats rotation to make his third start of the season. The right-hander gave his team a chance last time out in Colorado, getting through five innings allowing three runs, but then he faded quick in the sixth and wound up with two more runs charged to his name. Given how much the “A” bullpen has been used, particularly Friday night, it’ll be interesting to see if Davey Martinez tries to push Kuhl into the sixth again if the situation arises.

It’s Jackie Robinson Day across all of Major League Baseball, so both teams will be wearing No. 42 jerseys. That can make for some confusion among broadcasters and reporters trying to figure out who’s who, but obviously it’s for good reason.

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Chance of storms, 76 degrees, wind 7 mph out to center field

Continue reading

Does Nats' record accurately reflect their play?

abrams k opening day 2023

ANAHEIM, Calif. – In the most literal of senses, the Nationals are off to a bad start to the season. You can’t look at a 4-9 record and claim they’ve been anything other than bad.

Nor can you look at their just-completed, seven-game road trip to Colorado and Anaheim and suggest a 3-4 outcome was a good thing. No losing road trip is a good road trip.

Take a step back, though, and consider how the Nats played over the last week, how they looked, how they pitched, how they defended and how they at times hit. You might start to feel differently about the overall state of things.

“I think we played really well. I really do,” manager Davey Martinez said following Wednesday’s narrow loss to the Angels. “We were in every game. We swung the bats fairly well. Now we’ve just got to hone in on driving in runs from third base with less than two outs. That’s the key. We’ve got to keep working on that. But the boys are battling, and I’m proud of that.”

Any mention of boys battling is sure to draw eye rolls and groans from those who have heard that sentiment way too many times from Martinez in his five-plus years managing this ballclub. But there is some truth in what he says. The Nationals aren’t winning games. But they’re not playing bad baseball.

Continue reading

Gore gets quick hook, bats struggle again in 3-2 loss (updated)

candelario plunked @ LAA

ANAHEIM, Calif. – They hit the ball well, really well, on several occasions. Which may make the Nationals feel better about the quality of at-bats and contact they’re starting to get from a lineup desperate for some kind of infusion of power.

The results of today’s 3-2 loss to the Angels, though, won’t make them feel any better. Loud contact is great. Scoring runs is even better, and that continues to be a problem.

Less than 24 hours after being one-hit by Shohei Ohtani and the Angels bullpen, the Nationals were held to six hits this afternoon by Griffin Canning and his pitching mates in the home whites. All six were singles, continuing a disturbing early-season trend.

The Nats have only hit five homers in 13 games, and three of those came in the thin air of Coors Field last weekend. They’ve managed only two in nine other games played either in D.C. or here at Angel Stadium, where the cool marine air was not kind to fly balls today.

As such, the Nationals head home with a disappointing finish to what had the potential to be an impressive road trip. A win today would’ve given them a series victory in Anaheim and a 4-3 overall record here and in Colorado. Instead, they return to the East Coast having gone 3-4 on the trip, with the four losses by a combined five runs to leave their overall record at 4-9.

Continue reading

García returns to lineup, Ruiz remains in lineup

garcia hr @ NYM gray

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Luis García is back in the Nationals lineup after four days off. Keibert Ruiz remains in the Nationals lineup for the 11th time in 13 games this season.

García tweaked his right hamstring running out a ground ball Friday night at Colorado and had been sidelined since. The second baseman was able to go through agility drills the following day, and he progressively added more to his routine each day since.

Tuesday provided the best evidence yet García was close to game-ready. He ran in the outfield during the afternoon, then took ground balls and batting practice with the rest of the team. He wasn’t in the lineup, but with two outs in the top of the ninth he stepped into the on-deck circle and would have pinch-hit for Michael Chavis had the Nats extended the game.

Now he’s back in the lineup for today’s series finale with no real restrictions, though manager Davey Martinez said he does want García to be careful.

“He checked all the boxes,” Martinez said. “I told him today: ‘Just go out there and play the game, but be smart.’ I don’t want him running crazy. But he felt good yesterday. He did all the baseball activities we wanted him to do well, so he’s in there today.”

Continue reading

Game 13 lineups: Nats at Angels

robles looks skyward gray

ANAHEIM, Calif. – As many flaws as they have – and they have many – the Nationals are playing some pretty compelling and competitive baseball right now. They enter today’s series finale against the Angels having gone 3-3 on this road trip, and the three losses were by a combined four runs. No, that doesn’t change the fact they can’t hit for power and their pitching staff is prone to some blowups, but it may be evidence they’re going to be a much more watchable team this season, no matter their eventual record.

A win today would send them back home with a winning record on the trip, and that feels like no small achievement, all things considered. And the good news: They send their best starter to the mound, against an opponent making his first big league start in two years.

MacKenzie Gore has been outstanding so far, leading the staff with a 2-0 record, 2.38 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings. The lefty hasn’t been intimidated by anyone he has faced yet, so I wouldn’t expect him to back down when he faces Mike Trout this afternoon. (Shohei Ohtani isn’t in the Angels lineup, getting a well-deserved day off.)

Griffin Canning, meanwhile, is starting a big league game for the Angels for the first time since July 2, 2021. The right-hander suffered a lower back stress fracture and has been working his way back ever since. He was quite good in a rehab assignment for Single-A Inland Empire, allowing one earned run over five innings and striking out 10, but we’ll see how he handles the Nationals today in what surely will be an emotional return to the majors for him.

Where: Angel Stadium
Gametime: 4:07 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 65 degrees, wind 8 mph out to center field

Continue reading

On Meneses' slow start, Ward's big out and starters' improvement

Joey Meneses

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Despite his torrid two months at the plate after he made his long-awaited major league debut last season, Joey Meneses entered this year as a huge unknown for the Nationals.

Were those two months, as impressive as they were, enough evidence to support the idea the 30-year-old is legitimately a top-tier hitter at this level? Or was he bound to come back to earth, proving why it took so long for him to reach the big leagues in the first place?

Two weeks in, it would be easy to assume the latter based on Meneses’ stats. Dig a little deeper, though, and there seems to be reason to believe his results are due to improve sooner rather than later.

Meneses enters today’s series finale against the Angels batting only .238 (10-for-42) with a .289 on-base percentage, .333 slugging percentage, zero homers and only one RBI in 12 games played. It’s been an admittedly frustrating start to his season.

“Obviously I’m not happy or satisfied with the results so far, in terms of the numbers,” he said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “But that’s baseball, and that’s how baseball goes. I just need to stay focused and keep working.”

Continue reading

Nats no match for Ohtani in shutout loss (updated)


ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Nationals got to experience their first taste of the international sensation that is Shohei Ohtani pitching (and hitting) tonight. And though they put up an admirable fight against the Angels’ two-way star, they ultimately were rendered helpless against him just as everyone else has this young season.

Ohtani allowed just one hit over seven scoreless innings. He wasn’t necessarily overpowering, issuing five walks and hitting a batter, but he was mostly unhittable en route to a 2-0 victory over a Nats club that just wasn’t up to the stiffest challenge it has faced in its first 12 games of the year.

"I think it's amazing," said Nats starter Josiah Gray, a position player himself only a few years ago in college. "I was talking about it today: I wonder what his routine is. How does he fit in time to throw? How does he fit in time to hit? To see him go out there and sit 97, with a sweeper/slider and hit the ball 110 mph if not harder, it's really impressive. Every time you can sit down and watch a Shohei Ohtani start or watch him hit, it's must-watch TV. Being able to see him today and being able to face him today was an honor."

Gray wasn’t to blame for the loss; the 25-year-old right-hander allowed just two runs on four hits himself over 5 2/3 strong innings, certainly giving his team a chance. But as was the case five days ago in Denver, Gray got zero run support and was handed an undeserved loss, leaving him 0-3 overall despite a respectable 4.32 ERA.

"It stings. It's always going to sting to get an L and have your name attached to it," he said. "But I know I'm going out there, doing my job keeping the team in the game. I'm just making it simpler on myself. I'm seeing the results I want to see."

Continue reading

Vargas goes on IL, Downs called up, Martinez back managing

Ildemaro Vargas throwing gray

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Nationals placed Ildemaro Vargas on the 10-day injured list with a left shoulder strain and called up infielder Jeter Downs from Triple-A Rochester, a move precipitated in part by Luis García’s continued recovery from a tight hamstring.

With García unable to start at second base for the fourth straight day and Vargas’ non-throwing shoulder still sore after he jammed it making a diving catch in García’s place Sunday, the Nationals were thin on healthy infielders. Michael Chavis is starting for the second straight night at second base, and CJ Abrams remains at shortstop, but there were no other healthy backups for either.

So the Nationals promoted Downs today, flying the 24-year-old in from Rochester to ensure they had insurance in case anything happens to Abrams or Chavis tonight.

“Jeter can do multiple things for us,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He can play the outfield, some infield. But he can play shortstop, that’s the most important thing. If something happens to CJ, he can go out there and play some short. He’s a good addition to what we’re trying to do here.”

Downs, the onetime top prospect of the Dodgers and Red Sox who was claimed off waivers by the Nationals over the winter, impressed club officials with his work ethic this spring but was sent to Triple-A to begin the season and get regular at-bats rather than sit on the bench in the majors. He went just 2-for-19 at Rochester, so his promotion isn’t exactly based on performance but rather necessity.

Continue reading

Game 12 lineups: Nats at Angels

Josiah Gray follow through gray

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Nationals pitching staff did an excellent job containing Shohei Ohtani the hitter Monday night. Now we’ll find out how the Nationals lineup fares against Ohtani the pitcher.

It’s the biggest attraction in baseball right now, Ohtani pitching and serving as the Angels DH on the same night. And tonight, we’ll get our first look at that phenomenon when the Japanese right-handed pitcher/left-handed hitter takes the mound before what should be a raucous crowd.

Only one member of the Nats has ever faced Ohtani before: Jeimer Candelario, who went 2-for-9 against him as a member of Tigers. Everyone else will be going in blind but hoping to keep putting the bat on the ball like they’ve done the last four days, both here and in Colorado, and trying to manufacture their way to enough runs to win.

They’ll need another good start from Josiah Gray, who was excellent last time out but suffered a hard-luck 1-0 loss to the Rockies due to a fly ball lost in the sun. The right-hander pitched here last season and fared all right, allowing three runs in 5 1/3 innings and earning the win. He’ll have to keep the ball in the yard to be successful tonight against an Angels lineup that has Anthony Rendon back after the former Nats great was a late scratch Monday with a sore shoulder.

Where: Angel Stadium
Gametime: 9:38 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Partly cloudy, 63 degrees, wind 6 mph out to center field

Continue reading

Hunter savors K's in "dream" showdown with Trout, Ohtani

Hunter Harvey

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Hunter Harvey trotted in from the left field bullpen, and suddenly the decade of injuries and missed opportunities he endured felt worth it.

This was the reason he kept coming back from injury after injury, for a chance to be summoned to pitch in a situation like this: 1-run game, a runner on base, two outs and Mike Trout – one of the best hitters of his generation – at the plate.

“That’s the fun part about being here,” Harvey said. “Trout’s going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Coming into that situation and facing those guys, it’s what you dream of.”

Harvey was able to enjoy the moment even more when he struck out Trout on the sixth pitch of their head-to-head encounter, getting the Angels star with a high, 98 mph fastball. And then he was able to really enjoy the moment after he returned for the bottom of seventh and got through that inning with the Nationals’ lead intact, an inning that began with a three-pitch strikeout of Shohei Ohtani.

“I’ve always been told that good pitching beats good hitting,” Harvey said. “You’ve just got to go right at guys. Can’t give them a chance and can’t fall behind. You’ve just got to attack.”

Continue reading

Nats hit, hustle, bullpen their way to victory over Angels (updated)


ANAHEIM, Calif. – Eleven games into the season, we have a pretty good idea what the 2023 Nationals are and what they are not.

They are not going to beat you with home runs. They are not going to trot out a dominant starting pitcher on most nights.

They are, however, going to put the ball in play and probably rack up a good number of singles and the occasional double. They are going to try to manufacture runs in any way possible. And they are going to hope their bullpen can hang on to finish things off.

It may be a narrow path to victory, but it is possible. And when it comes together like it did tonight in a 6-4 victory over the Angels, it actually makes for quite entertaining baseball.

"It's so much fun," first baseman Dominic Smith said. "I feel like that's how we can build a winning culture. That's something that's going to be our team identity. We'll probably have a couple guys in this lineup who will hit 20 home runs, but for the most part, we're going to have to manufacture runs. And this is the way we're going to have to do it."

Continue reading

Chavis starts at second with García, Vargas both healing


ANAHEIM, Calif. – Michael Chavis made the Nationals’ Opening Day roster because of his positional versatility, the club wanted to make sure it had another player on its bench who could handle multiple infield positions if needed.

Chavis’ presence is coming in handy tonight, because with both Luis García an Ildemaro Vargas banged up, the 27-year-old is getting the start at second base for the Nats’ series opener against the Angels.

García, who is dealing with tightness in his right hamstring, went through early running drills to test his leg out. He didn’t appear to have any problems, but he also didn’t appear to be running at 100 percent. He’s not in the lineup for the third straight day, though he did participate in batting practice.

Vargas, who jammed his left shoulder making a diving play at second base during the first inning Sunday in Colorado, was able to finish out the game but admitted he was sore and was having trouble reaching for throws. He was set to meet with doctors this afternoon before learning about his availability for the game.

“I got real nervous,” Vargas said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “I’ve never felt anything like that on my shoulder. In the moment, I grabbed it and kind of tugged on it. I don’t know if I adjusted it or not, but I gave it a good tug. Today, it’s just stiff.”

Continue reading

Game 11 lineups: Nats at Angels

Alex Call Victor Robles and Lane Thomas WHITE jerseys in outfield

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Hello from “The Big A,” where the Nationals will see how they stack up the next three days with the star-studded Angels. With Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon batting 2-3-4 for the locals, it’s going to be a real challenge. But at least they don’t have to worry about Ohtani pitching until Tuesday.

Patrick Corbin will be tasked with keeping that lineup in check tonight in the series opener. The left-hander still seeks his first quality start of the season. The Nationals obviously would love to get six innings and three or fewer runs out of him tonight.

A Nats lineup that totaled only 17 runs through its first seven games came to life the last three days in Colorado, totaling 23 runs. The question now: Will that carry over into this series, or was that merely a product of Coors Field? They’ll face yet another left-hander tonight in Jose Suarez, remarkably the seventh southpaw they’ve gone up against in their first 11 games.

Where: Angel Stadium
Gametime: 9:38 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Clear, 67 degrees, wind 7 mph out to center field

LF Alex Call
RF Lane Thomas
3B Jeimer Candelario
DH Joey Meneses
1B Dominic Smith
C Keibert Ruiz
2B Michael Chavis
CF Victor Robles
SS CJ Abrams

Continue reading

Robles still hitting, Vargas jams shoulder, Thompson preps to close

Victor Robles

DENVER – When he did it in spring training, there were the obvious caveats attached. When he did it through the season’s first week, there was still reason to withhold judgment until the sample size was larger. And even though he continued to do it over the weekend, you still can’t talk about Victor Robles’ early season success without pointing out he just played four games at Coors Field, which can inflate any ballplayer’s offensive numbers.

So, yes, it’s still far too early to declare that Robles has been “fixed” or that his production through 10 games is definitely sustainable. But it’s not hard to look at what the Nationals center fielder is doing and believe that there is some legitimacy to it.

First, there are the cold, hard facts. Robles is batting .387 (12-for-31) with a .472 on-base percentage. He has drawn five walks. He has scored five runs.

Then there is the manner in which he has done this. He has dramatically cut down on his strikeouts, with only three of them to his name in 37 plate appearances. He is executing in near-flawless ways in fundamentals, whether placing a perfect safety squeeze to score the decisive run in Saturday’s win or singling through the vacated right side of the infield on a hit-and-run during Sunday’s loss. And we haven’t even discussed his work in center field yet, with several notable instances of restraint when in the past he would be tempted to throw the ball away.

All of these are encouraging signs, and reason to hope the 25-year-old is finally turning a corner after several disappointing seasons.

Continue reading

Rockies outlast Nats in high-scoring series finale (updated)

kuhl after homer

DENVER – It’s hard to call a six-run offensive performance unsatisfactory, especially for a lineup that hasn’t exactly been great at scoring runs so far this season. The usual standards of offensive success, though, don’t always apply 5,280 feet above sea level.

The Nationals, sorry to say, needed more than that this afternoon during a 7-6 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field. Maybe that’s more an indictment of their bullpen, which saw four runs cross the plate in the bottom of the sixth under its watch. But with several top relief arms unavailable after contributing to wins both Friday and Saturday nights, it was always going to be a challenge for the rest of that unit to pitch flawless baseball.

As such, the Nats failed to win this four-game series, settling instead for a long weekend split. Each loss came by only one run: a 1-0 heartbreaker Thursday afternoon, then today’s high-scoring, back-and-forth affair.

They leave town at 3-7, with a three-game series in Anaheim against the star-studded Angels next before they return to the East Coast.

"We talked about this all week here: You've just got to score as many runs as possible," manager Davey Martinez said. "Anything can happen. Look, we battled. It was just a tough day."

Continue reading

After harrowing ninth Saturday night, Nats figuring out bullpen plan

edwards and adams

DENVER – As he mapped out his bullpen plan for Saturday night’s game, Nationals manager Davey Martinez knew he wanted to use Hunter Harvey to get out of a jam (which proved to come in the sixth inning). He knew he wanted Kyle Finnegan to face the top of the Rockies lineup (which happened to come in the eighth). And he knew he wanted Anthony Banda to face a string of lefties (which happened to be due up in the ninth).

Everything seemed to be going according to plan, until Banda took the mound for the bottom of the ninth with a 7-2 lead and couldn’t retire any of the three batters he faced, with Mike Moustakas blasting a two-run homer on the 10th pitch of his at-bat.

So now Martinez was left to summon the only remaining experienced late-inning arm in his bullpen: Carl Edwards Jr., who was thrust into an unexpected save situation.

“We mapped it out,” Martinez said afterward. “One, we wanted to get Finnegan back in there and get him some more work. He’s still searching a little bit with his mechanics. He threw the ball a lot better. He was able to throw the ball inside, get a ground ball, we turned a double play. And then we had the matchups with Banda, all lefties. It just didn’t work out. We had CJ as well. It was just one of those days here.”

It was one of those days that are all too common at Coors Field, but it did still have a happy ending for the Nationals. Despite giving up three hits and allowing two more runs to score while he was on the mound, Edwards gutted his way through the bottom of the ninth and struck out Kris Bryant to end the game with the tying runner in scoring position, the Nats surviving with a 7-6 victory.

Continue reading