Game 44 lineups: Nats at Phillies

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

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

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

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where:
Citizens Bank Park

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

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams

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

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Cavalli, Thomas about ready to begin rehab assignments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gallo activated, Lipscomb optioned, García scratched

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

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

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

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

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

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Game 43 lineups: Nats at Phillies (updated)

irvin pitching gray

PHILADELPHIA – They lost two of three in Boston. Then they lost two of three in Chicago. How will the Nationals fare the next three days in Philadelphia, home of a team with a 30-14 record?

It’s going to be a challenge, especially for a Nats lineup that was shut out twice by the White Sox and is really struggling to score runs right now. That group does have one power hitter back for the first time in three weeks, though: Joey Gallo. Gallo has officially been activated off the 10-day injured list. The corresponding move: Trey Lipscomb was optioned to Triple-A Rochester. Gallo and Co. will hope to make some loud contact tonight against the always-tough Zack Wheeler.

Jake Irvin gets the ball for the Nationals, looking to hold a dangerous Phillies lineup in check. Trea Turner is currently on the IL, but the rest of their regulars are healthy and productive, including Bryce Harper. The Nats will need Irvin’s best tonight, given their own offensive woes.

Luis García Jr. was removed from tonight's lineup and is replaced by Ildemaro Vargas. He'll bat fifth behind Gallo, who was moved up to the clean-up spot. 

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Where:
Citizens Bank Park
Gametime: 6:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 70 degrees, wind 6 mph out to left field

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How, and when, can Nats expect to add power to lineup?

Joey Gallo

Runs are a hard thing to come by for the Nationals at the moment. This team, you may recall, was just shut out by the White Sox in back-to-back games, not exactly a source of pride.

Why has it been so hard for the Nats to score runs? Because this is a lineup that typically needs to do three things right to get someone across the plate. First somebody has to get on base. Then that somebody has to advance into scoring position. And then somebody has to drive that teammate in.

This is how it works when the majority of your hits are singles and doubles. You have to draw walks. You have to steal bases. And even after all that, you still need someone to deliver in a clutch situation.

There is, of course, another way to score a run, and all it requires is one swing of the bat from one player. It’s called the home run, and you can be forgiven if you don’t exactly remember what one of those looks like, because they’ve been in short supply around here.

The Nationals have hit only 35 homers in 42 games this season. That’s tied for third-fewest in the majors, with only the White Sox and Cardinals (32 a piece) behind them.

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As numbers plummet, Ruiz searches for answers

Keibert Ruiz

CHICAGO – The question was specifically about his strikeout with the bases loaded in the top of the third Wednesday afternoon, and he answered that part of the query with a compliment to White Sox starter Garrett Crochet.

But then Keibert Ruiz continued his answer and began speaking about himself in a broader sense, recognizing that one at-bat wasn’t an isolated incident but rather the latest in a lengthy list of at-bats that have not produced anything close to desired results.

“I know this is a tough situation for me,” the Nationals catcher said. “But I’ve just got to keep my head up, keep working hard and trust that everything’s going to be good.”

It most certainly is not good for Ruiz right now. Not at all. After his 0-for-4, three-strikeout showing Wednesday in a frustrating 2-0 loss, he’s staring at the following offensive slash line: .141/.186/.207.

He doesn’t qualify officially, because of the two weeks he missed dealing with a nasty case of the flu. But among the 270 major leaguers who have taken at least 90 plate appearances so far this season, Ruiz ranks dead-last with a .392 OPS.

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With several regulars sitting, Nationals shut out again (updated)

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CHICAGO – With the season now more than one-quarter complete, we pretty much know how most Nationals ballgames are going to go.

Their starting pitcher isn’t going to dazzle but is going to give them a chance, even if for only five or six innings tops. Their bullpen is going to be effective, especially when handed a lead. And their lineup is going to have chances to score runs, thanks in large part to nearly every player’s ability to steal bases. It just boils down to whether that group can produce the one or two clutch hits that actually score said runs.

When the formula works, it’s fun to watch. When it doesn’t work, it can be maddening. And today’s series finale against the White Sox, just like the nightcap of Tuesday’s doubleheader, most definitely fell into the maddening category.

Despite countless opportunities to break through at the plate, the Nationals could not convert and wound up suffering a 2-0 loss. Combined with Tuesday night’s 4-0 loss to old pal Erick Fedde, they dropped their second straight series to begin this three-city trip and will now need to find a way to take two of three in Philadelphia over the weekend to break out of that slump.

With a lineup lacking several starters who were given a rare day off, the Nats went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, slightly worse than the 0-for-8 they went Tuesday night.

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Abrams, García, Winker all sit vs. lefty; Thomas runs bases again

CJ Abrams Luis Garcia Eddie Rosario

CHICAGO – Ildemaro Vargas was asked if he could remember the last time he batted third.

“Little League,” the Nationals utilityman said, lowering his right hand to a couple feet off the ground as if to show how tall he was at the time. “Unbelievable!”

That streak ends today, because Vargas is batting third for the Nats in their series finale against the White Sox, the focal point of a highly unconventional lineup card Davey Martinez filled out this morning.

With his team playing its third game in 24 hours following Tuesday’s doubleheader, and with a tough left-hander (Garrett Crochet) starting for Chicago, Martinez decided to sit a number of regulars who rarely get a chance to sit. CJ Abrams, Luis García Jr., Jesse Winker and Eddie Rosario will make up today’s bench.

Abrams, in particular, has been a workhorse. He missed three games in early April with a bruised finger, but otherwise has been in the Nationals lineup every day, starting each of the team’s last 31 games. The dynamic shortstop has perhaps started showing signs of wear and tear in recent weeks: After a dominant April that saw him slash .295/.373/.619, he’s cooled off significantly in May, slashing .196/.222/.235.

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Game 42 lineups: Nats at White Sox

corbin @ SF

CHICAGO – The Nationals are playing decent baseball right now. They’re not, however, playing winning baseball. Since reaching the .500 mark on April 29 thanks to their sweep in Miami, they’ve gone 6-7. They’ve lost two in a row only once in that time, but they’ve also won two in a row only once. Every bit of positive momentum is halted by a subsequent loss.

Not that a win today would make that much difference, but it would at least give the Nats a series win over a White Sox club that admittedly has played better of late but still owns a wretched 13-30 record overall.

It would be especially nice if the Nationals could score some runs. And not just with one rally, but multiple rallies over multiple innings. During the aforementioned 13-game stretch they’re on, they’ve scored an average of 3.8 runs. And that includes the two breakouts against the Blue Jays, when they scored nine and 11 runs. More is needed today against left-hander Garrett Crochet, who has a 4.63 ERA but leads the league with 64 strikeouts.

Patrick Corbin gets the nod for the Nats, and though his season numbers (5.91 ERA) still don’t look good, he has been markedly better in recent outings (3.54 ERA his last four starts). The bullpen, thankfully, didn’t get overworked during Tuesday’s doubleheader. And with an off-day Thursday before the road trip continues in Philadelphia, Davey Martinez should have everyone at his disposal once Corbin departs.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Where:
Guaranteed Rate Field
Gametime: 2:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Sunny, 59 degrees, wind 14 mph out to right field

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Nats shut out by old pal Fedde, split doubleheader (updated)

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CHICAGO – Erick Fedde admitted this would be a big night for him. He was drafted by the Nationals in 2014, pitched for them 102 times from 2017-22, knew he deserved to be cut loose after all that and a 5.41 ERA.

Since then, Fedde has been a different pitcher. He rediscovered himself last season in the Korean Baseball Organization, winning league MVP honors after going 20-3 with a 2.00 ERA and 209 strikeouts. That earned him a two-year contract with the White Sox, for whom he has continued to pitch well.

So tonight’s start, the first time he’s ever faced the Nationals, was going to be memorable for the 31-year-old, no matter the outcome. But especially this outcome.

Behind seven scoreless innings from the most surprising ace in the majors, the White Sox coasted to a 4-0 victory to salvage a split of today’s doubleheader. The Nats never stood a chance against their old pitcher.

Fedde cruised the whole way, surrendering two singles, one double and nothing else to the 24 batters he faced in total. He struck out six, didn’t issue any walks and departed after 99 pitches that allowed him to improve to 4-0 with a 2.60 ERA for a Chicago club that has won only 13 games this season.

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Game 41 lineups: Nats at White Sox

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CHICAGO – And we’re on to Game 2 of today’s straight doubleheader, the Nationals and White Sox wrapping up a long afternoon and evening on the South Side. This one features an interesting pitching matchup.

Erick Fedde, the former first-round pick of the Nats way back in 2014 who never put it all together in six seasons with them, makes the start for the White Sox. After a year spent in South Korea, where he won the league MVP award, Fedde signed a two-year, $15 million with Chicago and has proceeded to go 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA in eight starts for his new club.

Mitchell Parker, meanwhile, makes his sixth career start tonight, seeking his first win since start No. 2 when he shut out the Astros over seven innings. The rookie left-hander has pitched well since then, he just hasn’t benefited from a lot of run support. (He’s not alone in that department.)

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CHICAGO WHITE SOX (GAME 2)
Where:
Guaranteed Rate Field
Gametime: 7:50 p.m. EDT (Approx.)
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Chance of rain, 55 degrees, wind 17 mph out to right field

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

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Speedy Nuñez keys late rally to lift Nats in Chicago (updated)

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CHICAGO – Nasim Nuñez sat on the bench on a cold, windy Chicago afternoon for seven innings. Which is nothing new for the rookie infielder. The Nationals’ Rule 5 draftee is going to remain on the roster the entire season for one reason: He’s the ideal pinch-runner.

Nuñez has appeared in only 10 of the Nats’ first 40 games this year. Six of those have come as a pinch-runner. And none of the first five was as meaningful as this one, in which the 23-year-old’s baserunning skills directly set the stage for his team to produce a three-run rally in the top of the eighth and ultimately defeat the White Sox, 6-3, in the opener of today’s doubleheader.

Summoned off the bench to run for Joey Meneses, who had just completed a 4-for-4 afternoon, Nuñez took off on John Brebbia’s pitch to Luis Garcia Jr., watched third baseman Zach Remillard field a grounder and throw to first for the out, and then just kept on going.

"They told me I should go, and it was a perfect situation," he said. "When I got to second and looked up, the third baseman was kind of lackadaisical. He was slow. So the opportunity just presented itself."

Nuñez slid in safely at third base, having just advanced 180 feet on a groundout, and having done it in part while carrying his helmet after it came flying off his head.

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After "brutal" April, Rutledge finally in a groove

rutledge pitching blue

CHICAGO – Jackson Rutledge was enjoying his off-day in Rochester, playing video games, when the call came Monday evening. He didn’t recognize the number, so he didn’t pick up at first. When he realized it was Red Wings developmental coach Billy McMillon, he realized he should probably call back.

Sure enough, Rutledge was informed the Nationals’ series opener against the White Sox had been rained out. The two teams would now be playing a doubleheader, and the right-hander needed to pack his things and prepare for a 6:30 a.m. flight to Chicago so he could serve as the team’s 27th man for the day.

Rutledge, who had just thrown 91 pitches Saturday in Scranton and had no reason to believe he’d be appearing in another game until later this week, was understandably caught off guard.

“A little bit of a surprise,” he said. “But I’m happy to be here.”

Truth be told, Rutledge probably figured all along he’d be the first starter called up from Triple-A if a spot in the Nationals rotation opened up. But when that very scenario occurred last month, with Opening Day starter Josiah Gray going on the 15-day injured list with a forearm strain, the call went not to Rutledge but to left-hander Mitchell Parker.

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Game 40 lineups (take two): Nats at White Sox

williams pitching gray

CHICAGO – Alright, let’s give this another try. After Monday’s series opener at Guaranteed Rate Field was rained out, the Nationals and White Sox will play two today. And it’s an old-school, traditional, single-admission doubleheader. Game 1 starts at 4:40 p.m. Eastern, with Game 2 set to start approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the opener. If everything goes smoothly, we should wrap up around the same time as we would’ve all along. (Wishful thinking, obviously.)

Both teams are sticking with their pitching plan, so it’ll be Trevor Williams vs. Chris Flexen in the opener as was planned from the outset. Mitchell Parker faces former National Erick Fedde in the nightcap.

Both teams also get to call up a 27th man for the day, and the Nats chose to go with Jackson Rutledge. The right-hander’s season has gotten off to a rough start at Triple-A Rochester (6.67 ERA, 1.630 WHIP in seven games), and he just threw 91 pitches three days ago in Scranton. But he’s only here in case the team needs a few innings of relief in either game. In a perfect world, he won’t be needed and he’ll head back to Triple-A and prepare for his next start.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CHICAGO WHITE SOX (GAME 1)
Where:
Guaranteed Rate Field
Gametime: 4:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Cloudy, 57 degrees, wind 16 mph out to right field

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams
CF Jacob Young
LF Eddie Rosario
1B Joey Meneses
2B Luis García Jr.
DH Nick Senzel
C Riley Adams
3B Trey Lipscomb
RF Victor Robles

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Rejuvenated Fedde gets chance to show Nats how far he's come

Erick Fedde

CHICAGO – Erick Fedde holds no grudges against the Nationals. He can’t fault them for giving up on him after the 2022 season, the latest in a string of disappointing seasons for the organization’s 2014 first round pick.

“I definitely understand them moving on,” he said Monday. “I never pitched well.”

While that’s not entirely true – he did pitch well in brief stretches during his time in D.C. – Fedde’s overall performance with the Nats was nothing to be proud of. In 102 big league games (88 starts) over six seasons, he went 21-33 with a 5.41 ERA and 1.523 WHIP. He never came close to pitching like an ace. He was perpetually competing with the likes of Joe Ross and Austin Voth for the final spot in an otherwise star-studded rotation.

That kind of resume doesn’t exactly lead to enticing contract offers. And when nobody came calling with a major league deal after the Nationals non-tendered him in November 2022, Fedde decided the best place to go was across the Pacific Ocean. He signed a $1 million contract with the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization, truly a life-changing decision.

“I think the biggest reason to go over there was I wasn’t going to be on the Triple-A/big league/DFA train that I’ve seen,” he said with a laugh. “Just somewhere I was going to get the ball every fifth day. I was going to have a chance to throw 175-plus innings. And work on some stuff.”

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Opener in Chicago postponed, Rosario named NL Player of Week

rosario

CHICAGO – The Nationals’ series opener against the White Sox was postponed due to heavy rain that descended upon the area this afternoon and doesn’t promise to let up all night.

The two teams will play a traditional doubleheader Tuesday, with the first game starting at 4:40 p.m. Eastern and the nightcap to follow 30-to-45 minutes after conclusion of the opener.

Though it was warm and muggy earlier in the day, the skies began to darken by midafternoon. The grounds crew at Guaranteed Rate Field preemptively rolled out the tarp and covered up the infield before either team could take batting practice, and for good reason: It started raining hard only a few minutes later.

Rather than wait it out for hours and hope conditions improved enough to get the game in tonight, officials called it off slightly more than an hour before scheduled first pitch at 7:40 p.m. Eastern. Neither scheduled starting pitcher began to warm up.

Trevor Williams, tonight’s originally scheduled starter, will now pitch Game 1 on Tuesday, opposed by right-hander Chris Flexen. Mitchell Parker will start as scheduled Tuesday, taking the mound for the nightcap against former Nationals righty Erick Fedde.

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Game 40 lineups: Nats at White Sox

rosario

CHICAGO – It was a warm, muggy morning and early afternoon here in the Windy City, but it has turned dark and, well, windy in the last 30 minutes. There’s a storm approaching, and they just rolled the tarp out to cover up the infield at Guaranteed Rate Field. This could be a problem throughout the evening.

If they’re able to play, the Nationals open a three-game series with the White Sox, hoping for better results against these guys than they had over the weekend against the darker colored Sox from Boston. They’re going to need to do more offensively, for sure, and a return to earlier form from CJ Abrams would sure help.

The Nats will also hope Trevor Williams can keep doing what he’s done all season. The right-hander has allowed a total of two runs over his last four starts, and he still hasn’t served up a homer in seven starts this year.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Where:
Guaranteed Rate Field

Gametime: 7:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Rain, 66 degrees, wind 7 mph right field to left field

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams
CF Jacob Young
LF Eddie Rosario
1B Joey Meneses
2B Luis García Jr.
DH Nick Senzel
C Keibert Ruiz
3B Trey Lipscomb
RF Victor Robles

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Finnegan savoring every MLB-leading save for winning team

Kyle Finnegan

Kyle Finnegan had pitched in 241 big league games before taking the mound Tuesday night at Nationals Park. Appearance No. 242 carried more weight than usual.

“This one, for whatever reason, felt a little more meaningful,” the right-hander said afterward. “It’s been a while since we’ve been over .500. We’ve been putting in all the work behind the scenes, and to see it starting to come to fruition has been exciting. And to do it against Baltimore in this series is special.”

Finnegan’s 62nd career save was his first as a member of a Nationals team with a winning record. That fact wasn’t lost on the 32-year-old, who has become one of the organization’s longest-tenured pitchers but not long enough to have experienced the good old days when meaningful baseball was played on a nightly basis on South Capitol Street.

So Tuesday’s 3-0 victory over the Orioles, with Finnegan recording the final three outs and then receiving high-fives from teammates as pink LED lights glowed above and a crowd of nearly 30,000 roared with approval, was arguably the biggest game he’s ever pitched.

One night later, he found himself right back in the spotlight, posting another zero in the top of the 10th to give his teammates a chance to win in the bottom of the inning. They couldn’t pull that one off, ultimately losing 7-6 in the 12th, but it was through no fault of their closer.

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Nats rally twice in dramatic fashion but lose to Orioles in 12 (updated)

Mitchell Parker

They turned out in large numbers – 34,078 of them, to be precise – to watch the conclusion of this two-game rivalry series, wondering if the Nationals would be able to duplicate their performance from Tuesday night’s opener and emerge with a sweep over the Orioles.

They didn't duplicate the performance. But they did put on a show that thrilled everyone in attendance, twice producing last-ditch rallies to tie the game before ultimately falling 7-6 in 12 innings.

With a furious rally in the bottom of the ninth, the Nats tied the game and sent it to extras. With another furious rally in the bottom of the 11th, they tied the game again and continued the proceedings deeper into the night. 

The magic ended there. The Orioles scored twice off a wild Jordan Weems in the top of the 12th, and the lineup could only score once in the bottom of the inning.

It was a thrilling ending to a highly captivating series between interleague rivals, who offered the large bipartisan crowd plenty of reason to want to see more of these matchups down the road.

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