Nats adjust rotation for Corbin's paternity leave, Gore's workload

espino pitches blue

ST. LOUIS – The Nationals will open the second half of the season with a change to their pitching staff, but only a temporary one.

Patrick Corbin was placed on the paternity list prior to tonight’s series opener against the Cardinals, with Paolo Espino recalled from Triple-A Rochester to take his roster spot for the weekend.

Corbin’s wife, Jen, gave birth to the couple’s second son, Miles, during the All-Star break. Because the Nats had the luxury of rearranging their rotation coming out of the break, they decided to let the veteran left-hander skip this entire weekend in St. Louis. Corbin is slated to rejoin the team in Chicago and start Tuesday’s game against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

It’s the second time Corbin has gone on leave in recent weeks. He went on the bereavement list on June 30 following his grandmother’s death, but he didn’t miss a start because that time off came between a pair of outings.

Espino won’t be starting in Corbin’s place. The 36-year-old right-hander will be available out of the bullpen as a long man, the same role he held when he was briefly called up from Rochester at the end of June.

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Game 91 lineups: Nats at Cardinals

williams pitches blue

ST. LOUIS – And away we go with the second half of the season. The Nationals come out of the All-Star break at 36-54, a 65-win pace. And believe it or not, they’re only two games behind the Cardinals, one of baseball’s biggest underachievers to date this year.

We know the Nats have been a much better road team in 2023, so let’s see if they can get the second half off to a positive start tonight. They’ll have Trevor Williams on the mound for the series opener, with Jake Irvin on Saturday and Josiah Gray on Sunday. Why not Patrick Corbin? He was placed on the paternity list today, so we won’t see him until next week in Chicago. Paolo Espino was recalled from Triple-A Rochester to take his place and provide some length out of the bullpen.

Davey Martinez is going with what now represents his regular lineup against a right-hander (in this case, the Cardinals’ Miles Mikolas). CJ Abrams has taken over leadoff duties until further notice, with Lane Thomas batting second ahead of Jeimer Candelario and the suddenly red-hot Joey Meneses, who hit four homers in his final three games before the break.

Where: Busch Stadium
Gametime: 8:15 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Chance of storms, 86 degrees, wind 6 mph right field to left field

SS CJ Abrams
RF Lane Thomas
3B Jeimer Candelario
DH Joey Meneses
C Keibert Ruiz
1B Dominic Smith
LF Corey Dickerson
2B Luis García
CF Alex Call

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Nats begin 2024 in Cincinnati before home opener vs. Pirates


As they prepare to open the second half of the 2023 season, the Nationals already know who they’re going to play and when in 2024.

Major League Baseball unveiled next year’s schedule this afternoon, an earlier-than-usual announcement that coincides with the final day of the All-Star break.

The Nats are scheduled to begin next season on the road March 28 against the Reds. It’s only the third time they’re ever opened on the road against a non-division foe, but the second time they’ve done so in Cincinnati, having also been there on Opening Day 2018 in Davey Martinez’s managerial debut.

Following that three-game road series, the Nationals will come right back to D.C. for an April 1 home opener against the Pirates. It’s the first time they’ve faced Pittsburgh in an opener and will be a welcome break from the usual tradition of opening against a fellow National League East opponent like the Mets or Braves.

Click here for the 2024 schedule.

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Second-half storylines aplenty for Nationals

josiah gray pitches white

There was no baseball Wednesday. It’s the first time that was the case since mid-February, before pitchers and catchers reported to Florida and Arizona. It’s nice to have a little break from the action, I suppose, but it’s not something you want to experience for too long.

Fortunately, the season starts up again Friday. The Nationals will open the second half in St. Louis, then head to Chicago after that before returning home. They’ve already played 90 games, more than 55 percent of the season. But there is still much to come before everyone packs up for good after the Oct. 1 finale in Atlanta.

Let’s run through the biggest storylines of the second half for the Nats. Some of these take place on the field. Some of them take place off the field. All of them are significant in one way or another …

From the outset, this season always was about the development and progression of any young core players who figure into the team’s long-term plan. That means MacKenzie Gore, Josiah Gray, CJ Abrams, Keibert Ruiz and Luis García, among others. What can we expect to see from those guys the rest of the way? Can Gore get more consistent and get to, say, 26-28 starts and 130-140 innings before the Nats decide he’s had enough? Can Gray continue what he did in the first half and finish with 32-34 starts and 170-plus innings for the first time? Can Abrams stick in the leadoff position (he looked good in his first three games there)? Can Ruiz start getting some of those hard-hit balls to fall, and show real progress behind the plate? Can García get more selective at the plate and more consistent at second base? There’s very little else that can happen on the field the rest of the season that matters more than all that.

We are less than three weeks away from the Aug. 1 trade deadline, and though the Nationals aren’t going to be headliners like they were the last two years, they could still be quite active. Jeimer Candelario seems the likeliest candidate to be dealt, but can Corey Dickerson do enough to make himself worthwhile to a contender as well? Is Mike Rizzo willing to part with any or all of his controllable, late-inning relievers (Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey, Carl Edwards Jr.)? Is Lane Thomas part of the plan moving forward or a prime “sell high” candidate? And would there actually be a taker out there for Patrick Corbin? Rizzo may not be able to reshape his entire farm system like he did last summer, but he can make moves that will benefit the club in the long run if he plays his cards right.

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What went right and what went wrong in the first half

Mason Thompson throwing gray

The Nationals entered the 2022 season with modest expectations. Such is life when you lost 107 games the previous year and spent a grand total of $17 million on free agents over the winter.

When they reached the All-Star break this week, the Nats found themselves with a 36-54 record, which equates to a 65-97 record over a full season. So while that doesn’t seem like anything to get excited about, it would still represent a 10-game improvement from 2022, and that’s not nothing.

Which isn’t to say a whole lot of things went well in the first half. There were a few positive developments, including some very significant ones. But there were some legitimate negatives as well, some which could threaten the viability of this franchise returning to contention within the next two years.

Let’s take stock of both the good and the bad to date. Here’s what went right for the Nationals in the first half, and what went wrong …

If you could’ve picked only one positive development for this team back on Opening Day, wouldn’t you have picked MacKenzie Gore and Josiah Gray? So much of this season was about their progression (plus Cade Cavalli, who unfortunately won’t be able to progress until 2024 due to Tommy John surgery in March). And while it hasn’t been a straight, upward line for both young starters, the arrow has ultimately pointed up more than down. Gray has been one of the most improved pitchers in the league, lowering his ERA from 5.02 to 3.41 even though his WHIP has gone up and his strikeout rate has gone down a bit. He’s been successful because he’s kept the ball in the park and because he’s been able to pitch out of jams. An All-Star berth (and a 1-2-3 inning of relief in Tuesday night’s game) is merely the cherry on top. Gore, meanwhile, is still a work-in-progress with a 4.42 ERA and 1.461 WHIP. But when he’s good, he’s as good as anybody, with four starts so far that featured one or two runs allowed and at least nine strikeouts recorded. And don’t overlook Jake Irvin, a pleasant surprise who wasn’t on anybody’s radar but now looks like a potential back-of-the-rotation starter for the future.

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Crews selection shouldn't feel like a letdown

Dylan Crews LSU yellow swing

There was a natural reaction for some to Sunday’s news the Nationals drafted Dylan Crews of disappointment. Not because the Nats made a mistake taking the LSU center fielder with the No. 2 overall pick, but because the Pirates prevented them from taking Paul Skenes by making the LSU ace the No. 1 pick in the country.

For months, we kept hearing about the perfect couple the Nationals and Skenes would make. Fans and club officials alike were formulating 2024 rotations in their minds. Players openly talked about welcoming him into their clubhouse next spring and then showing the 21-year-old he wasn’t quite ready for the big leagues yet.

Of course Skenes was going to wind up a National. How could he not?

So when the announcement came shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday that the Pirates had selected him, the subsequent selection of Crews felt like some kind of letdown.

News flash: It shouldn’t feel that way. The Nationals just got themselves a bona fide No. 1 pick with the No. 2 pick, one of the most accomplished college players ever, as much of a slam-dunk prospect as you’re ever going to find.

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Nats find another power bat with Morales in Round 2 (updated)

Yohandy Morales Miami

Kris Kline saw every top hitter in the country this season. He drafted the best of them in Dylan Crews, the Golden Spikes Award winner selected by the Nationals with the No. 2 overall pick Sunday evening.

And it’s quite possible the Nats’ longtime vice president of scouting was even more impressed in some ways with the hitter he selected in the second round of the draft several hours later.

"One of the loudest bats I heard this year," Kline said of University of Miami third baseman Yohandy Morales. "We were pretty happy with that one, to get him at 40."

As much attention was given to the Nationals’ first-round pick - and rightfully so given the talent available and the significance of that selection - internally, club officials believed their second-round pick was going to be just as important to the franchise. Though they lost the No. 1 overall pick to the Pirates via the new draft lottery, they still maintain the first choice for every other round based on their worst-in-baseball record in 2022.

"When you're picking that high (in the first round), it takes care of itself," Kline said. "A lot of the work, most of the work actually, went into pick 40."

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Nats draft LSU outfielder Crews after Pirates take Skenes (updated)

Dylan crews

In the end, the Nationals didn’t get to make the choice for themselves. The Pirates did it for them.

When Pittsburgh went with right-hander Paul Skenes as the No. 1 pick in this tonight’s Major League Baseball Draft, the Nats made the easy decision to follow with his LSU teammate, award-winning center fielder Dylan Crews, as the No. 2 selection. In the process, the organization used its first draft slot on a position player for only the seventh time in 11 years, though for the third consecutive year.

The Nationals later selected another position player, University of Miami third baseman Yohandy Morales, with the first pick of the second round.

General manager Mike Rizzo, vice president of scouting Kris Kline and their team thought they might wind up having to choose between Skenes or Crews if the Pirates went for a potential cost-saving move and took Florida outfielder Wyatt Langford or Indiana high school outfielder Max Clark with the top pick.

That scenario, which was speculated all week, never came to fruition. Pittsburgh wasn’t scared off by the injury risk of a power pitcher like Skenes and went ahead and drafted the flame-throwing ace anyway.

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As draft day arrives, will Nats have to make the ultimate decision?

davey and rizzo sitting

Since they arrived in Washington nearly two decades ago, the Nationals have been in this position – owners of one of the top two picks in the Major League Baseball Draft – twice. In each case, they owned the No. 1 pick. And in each case, they drafted a generational talent whose name and reputation were already well-known throughout the sport.

Tonight, they’re back in this position for the first time since 2009-10, when they selected Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper and set a course toward an eight-year run of success and an eventual World Series title.

It’s not the No. 1 pick this time around. But if ever there was a year to have the No. 2 pick, this appears to be it. No matter who they end up with, the Nationals are going to draft a player every notable expert insists is good enough to be the No. 1 player selected in the country. Not to mention one who should find himself on a fast track to the big leagues.

“This pick could be somebody that changes us really quick, within one or two years,” manager Davey Martinez recently admitted. “It’s definitely exciting how this is all going to work out.”

There was little drama the last time the Nats were here. Everybody knew Strasburg was the choice in 2009, and everybody knew Harper was the pick in 2010. That’s not the case this time.

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Nats storm out to big lead, weather storm before winning (updated)

Joey Meneses Cherry blossom

Forgive anyone who sat through today’s proceedings at Nationals Park and worried things were going to end up just like they did the previous five days here. It was hot again. It was humid again. It rained again. A first-place team was in the visitors’ dugout again. Surely, another loss by the home team was forthcoming again, right?

Not so fast. The conditions may have felt familiar, but the end result was most unfamiliar. The Nationals actually won.

Yes, for only the second time in their last 17 home games, the Nats emerged victorious, storming out to an early lead against the Rangers, then weathering another rain delay before cruising to an 8-3 win before a crowd of 29,042 that barely remembered how to celebrate such an occasion.

That crowd was treated to a 4-0 lead by the Nationals before they even made an out in the first, an 8-0 lead by the time the third inning came to a close.

"I talk about it all the time: It's a lot different ballgame if you go out there and score first," manager Davey Martinez said. "I hope these guys learned today by going out there and putting some runs up on the board early, our pitcher gets to relax a little bit, and they get to relax a little bit and have some fun. Hopefully, we come out tomorrow and do the same thing." 

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Candelario back in lineup, Hill remains in organization

Joey Meneses Jeimer Candelario five gray

Jeimer Candelario is back in the Nationals lineup after one day off with a knee injury, but he’s not back at third base yet.

Candelario, who was struck in the right knee with a pitch during the 10th inning of Thursday’s loss to the Reds, sat out Friday night’s series opener against the Rangers. He attempted to take swings in the cage prior to the game but wasn’t comfortable doing it.

The 29-year-old gave it another try today and felt better, telling manager Davey Martinez he could hit but probably not play the field. So he’ll serve as designated hitter for this afternoon’s game.

“We talked to him; he said he could hit,” Martinez said. “We’ll just DH him today, and hopefully by tomorrow he’ll get back on the field.”

The Nationals sorely missed Candelario’s bat during Friday’s loss, one that saw them score only two runs, each via Joey Meneses solo homers. Candelario has statistically been the team’s second-best hitter this season, trailing only Lane Thomas with 12 homers and an .814 OPS. He’s also second in the National League with 27 doubles.

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Game 89 lineups: Nats vs. Rangers

Jake Irvin Whites

Will the Nationals win a home game today? If they do, will they pop champagne in the clubhouse? At this point, anything’s possible.

Having begun this homestand 0-5, and having lost 15 of their last 16 home games overall, the Nats are desperate for something positive to happen on South Capitol Street. The good news: All the top relievers should be available today after sitting Friday night. So if Jake Irvin can give them five or six quality innings (no guarantee, of course) they should at least be in a good position to compete late.

Above all else, though, this lineup needs to start scoring some runs. The Nationals have totaled 14 runs on this homestand, an average of 2.8 per game for those who need help with the math. They’re asking an awful lot of their pitching staff to compensate for that. Perhaps they can finally enjoy some success this afternoon against Rangers lefty Andrew Heaney.

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Chance of storms, 86 degrees, wind 6 mph right field to left field

SS CJ Abrams
RF Lane Thomas
DH Jeimer Candelario
1B Joey Meneses
C Keibert Ruiz
LF Stone Garrett
3B Ildemaro Vargas
2B Luis García
CF Alex Call

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Meneses finally snaps homer slump with pair of blasts

Joey connect jerseys

Joey Meneses didn’t need to be told. He knew how long it had been since he’d hit a baseball over a fence in a game.

Not that it stopped anyone and everyone from talking to him about it. Which, in turn, made it awfully hard not to think about it.

“Absolutely,” the Nationals designated hitter said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “It seems like everybody reminds you of that. Friends. Teammates. Just in general, it seems like you get a comment saying: ‘Why aren’t the home runs coming?’ So you always have it in your mind.”

Perhaps that’s what prompted Meneses to do what he did in the bottom of the sixth Friday night: Toss his bat in defiant celebration and look at his dugout after he ended a two-month home run drought with a two-homer game.

“It’s somewhat of a relief,” he said. “I can take a deep breath and relax a little bit. It’s my job to hit, so it was great to be able to hit two home runs today.”

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Abrams, Meneses shine, but rest of Nats fall flat in loss (updated)

CJ Abrams runs cherry blossom

On the night they lost for the 15th time in their last 16 home games – a stretch of futility that is increasingly hard to fathom – the Nationals saw Trevor Williams give up two runs early and two runs late. They saw Joan Adon make his 2023 major league debut and give up home runs to two of the first three batters he faced. They saw Joey Meneses finally end his power slump with a pair of solo homers.

All of those developments were notable within the context of this particular game, a 7-2 loss to the Rangers. None was necessarily earth-shattering in the larger scheme of things.

In this rebuilding season, the focus has been and will continue to be on the handful of young players who could be building blocks for the future. And CJ Abrams has always been near the top of the list of players who fit that description.

So the most significant thing that happened tonight may not have been the end result, but the name of the player Davey Martinez wrote down in the No. 1 position on his lineup card.

"He's had almost 300 plate appearances now, so I think it's time," the manager said. "I think it's time we push him up, see what he can do. He's got all the ability to be a really good leadoff hitter. Now he's just got to understand what he needs to do every day to do that: That's to be consistent, not chase and try to get on base. Not try to do too much."

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Adon called up, La Sorsa optioned as Nats seek fresh arm

Adon throwing gray

A Nationals pitching staff that was overtaxed the last few days will have a fresh arm for the final series of the first half: Joan Adon.

Adon was recalled from Triple-A this afternoon, giving the Nats someone who could churn out a good number of innings if needed out of the bullpen against the Rangers. Left-hander Joe La Sorsa was optioned to Rochester to clear a roster spot.

The events of the last two days made some kind of move inevitable. La Sorsa threw 51 pitches in two innings of relief Wednesday night, making him unavailable to return until at least Saturday. Jordan Weems threw 27 pitches that night, then returned to throw 28 on Thursday, likely knocking him out a few days as well.

The 1-hour, 43-minute rain delay in the second inning Thursday really threw a wrench into plans, with starter MacKenzie Gore unable to continue after throwing only 17 pitches. Manager Davey Martinez wound up using six relievers to cover the remaining 8 2/3 innings necessary in a 10-inning loss to Cincinnati.

Hence the decision to promote Adon, who was scheduled to start for Rochester on Thursday night but was instead informed he was to report to D.C. The 24-year-old right-hander has made 15 starts at Triple-A this season, going 2-5 with a 4.81 ERA and 1.578 WHIP.

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Game 88 lineups: Nats vs. Rangers

Trevor Williams throw red

The Nationals had no luck against the Reds this week, dropping four straight to the surprise leaders of the National League Central. Will they fare any better this weekend against the Rangers, the surprise leaders of the American League West?

Texas has enjoyed its resurgence not as much through a rebuilding farm system like Cincinnati, but through a spending spree in recent years that included Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob deGrom. That last addition hasn’t worked out, but the others have done well, especially Seager, owner of a 1.040 OPS. Having said that, the Rangers enter this series on a bit of a downswing, having dropped nine of their last 13 games.

The Nationals need to play better all around this weekend. It begins tonight with Trevor Williams, who continues to give his team a chance, even if the right-hander doesn’t exactly dominate on the mound. Williams probably needs to provide some length tonight, given the fact Davey Martinez had to burn up his whole bullpen after Thursday’s second-inning rain delay.

The lineup gets another crack at an opposing left-hander, in this case, Cody Bradford. The 25-year-old makes only his seventh career appearance tonight, having tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief four days ago against the Astros. Davey Martinez will not have Jeimer Candelario, who sits after getting hit by a pitch on his right knee Thursday. He will, however, have CJ Abrams batting leadoff for the first time this season, with Lane Thomas second. More on that notable change to come ...

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Chance of storms, 83 degrees, wind 5 mph left field to right field

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Bullpen tiring, Adams producing, attendance holding

Mason Thompson

There was a certain admirable quality to what the Nationals bullpen did Thursday afternoon. After a 1-hour, 43-minute rain delay forced MacKenzie Gore’s start to end after only 1 1/3 innings and 17 pitches, Davey Martinez had to ask six relievers to churn out a combined 8 2/3 innings in a game that wasn’t decided until the 10th.

Of course, the bullpen’s performance would’ve been appreciated even more had Kyle Finnegan not surrendered the game-tying run in the eighth and Hunter Harvey surrendered the game-winning runs in the 10th.

But given the circumstances, and what was asked of them, Martinez couldn’t get too down on the group as a whole.

The key figure in the proceedings was Mason Thompson, who was summoned to take over when the rain delay ended, thrust into a jam in the top of the second. The right-hander proceeded to induce an inning-ending, 6-2-3 double play, then returned to pitch the third and fourth innings, ultimately allowing one run to the Reds.

“It starts with the first guy and wondering how far he can go,” Martinez said. “Mason did a great job. You’re hoping for an inning and two-thirds, and he gave us more than that. So that set the tone. Then the rest of the guys just followed suit. I thought they did really well.”

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Long day ends in another home loss for Nats (updated)


As soon as the skies opened in the top of the second at Nationals Park, this was guaranteed to be an unconventional day at the yard.

The grounds crew would need to put in extra work to get the field playable once the storm passed. Bullpens would need to be asked to work overtime, with starters burned up. Benches would be emptied, players would switch positions, designated hitters would be forfeited.

In the end, the path may have been different, but the result was not. The Nationals lost yet another home game, this time by a count of 5-4 in 10 innings to a Reds team that just completed a four-game sweep in impressive fashion.

Nick Senzel’s two-run homer off Hunter Harvey on the first pitch of the 10th was the deciding blow, though it was Senzel’s defensive efforts in the bottom of the ninth that made it possible in the first place.

With a chance to win it in regulation, the Nats got a one-out double from Riley Adams and then thought for a moment they got at least a walk-off double (if not a homer) from CJ Abrams. But Senzel’s leaping catch at the wall in right denied the home team a chance for a rare celebration, and ultimately sent the game into extras.

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Meneses gets rare start at first, Ruiz gets another start as DH

keibert ruiz swings blue

Joey Meneses had a little extra bounce in his step this morning, certainly more than you’d expect from a player facing the quick turnaround from a three-hour game the previous night to a 1:05 p.m. first pitch today.

The reason for Meneses’ good mood: He’s playing first base for the Nationals in today’s series finale against the Reds.

This has become a rare event. Meneses, who has served as the Nats’ designated hitter 74 times in the team’s first 86 games, is playing only his sixth game in the field this afternoon. It’s the first time he’s played first base since April at Citi Field in New York.

“He’s excited about it,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He takes ground balls every day. He gets a chance to go out there today and play the field. He’s up for it.”

With left-hander Brandon Williamson starting for the Reds, Martinez decided to give both Dominic Smith and Luis García the day off and go with a more right-handed-heavy lineup. That includes Ildemaro Vargas at second base and Keibert Ruiz as DH.

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Game 87 lineups: Nats vs. Reds

Meneses red

The Nationals, plain and simple, have not played good baseball this week. It’s not just the fact they’ve lost three straight to the Reds, it’s the way they’ve looked in losing those three games. Sloppy defense. Bad pitching. An inability to deliver at the plate with runners in scoring position. It’s been ugly.

One win in today’s series finale won’t change all that, but it sure wouldn’t hurt. Success would start with MacKenzie Gore, who needs a bounceback performance of his own after giving up seven runs in only 2 2/3 innings his last outing at Philadelphia. The lefty would love to go into the All-Star break on a better note, not to mention an ERA lower than the 4.48 mark he brings into today’s start.

The Nats face another unfamiliar pitcher today in Cincinnati’s Brandon Williamson, who makes his 10th career start. The 25-year-old left-hander enters with a 5.56 ERA, but he did hold the Padres to two runs over five innings in his last appearance.

Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM,
Weather: Chance of storms, 89 degrees, wind 6 mph right field to left field

RF Lane Thomas
3B Jeimer Candelario
1B Joey Meneses
LF Stone Garrett
DH Keibert Ruiz
2B Ildemaro Vargas
C Riley Adams
SS CJ Abrams
CF Alex Call

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