Nats swap outfielders again with Rutherford replacing Blankenhorn

rutherford city connect

The Nationals made another change to their ever-changing outfield for the final 11 games of the season, placing Travis Blankenhorn on the 10-day injured list with plantar fasciitis and recalling Blake Rutherford from Triple-A Rochester.

Blankenhorn had not played since Thursday in Pittsburgh, when the pain in his foot became significant enough to keep him off the field. The 27-year-old had only been called up from Triple-A two weeks prior, homering in his Nats debut but doing little after that.

“About three days ago, he said it was really bothering him a lot,” manager Davey Martinez said. “So we decided just to shut him down. He was hurting pretty good.”

In 10 total games, Blankenhorn went 5-for-31 with that one homer and RBI, six walks, six strikeouts and a .555 OPS, failing to seize the left field job when given an opportunity to take it over for the season’s final month.

Rutherford had already been given a similar opportunity in August, called up from Triple-A and given a chance to play on a regular basis after posting big numbers in Rochester. But the 26-year-old started his major league career in an 0-for-16 slump before going six for his next eleven.

Continue reading

Game 152 lineups: Nats vs. White Sox

abrams blue

There are 11 games remaining on the Nationals’ 2023 schedule. Nine of those come against the teams with the two best records in baseball. Which makes these final two games against the White Sox kind of important if they want to stockpile a couple more wins and inch closer to the 70-win mark.

It didn’t happen Monday night, not even close as Mike Clevinger went the distance and didn’t allow a run until Dominic Smith’s solo homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth (which set off a silly benches-clearing argument). At this point, it’s probably too much to expect this Nats lineup to get red-hot, but it would sure be nice to get just a little bit more production.

Perhaps it will happen against José Ureña, who has had quite the interesting season. You may or may not remember he opened the season with the Rockies, then was released after going 0-4 with a 9.82 ERA in five starts, one of which saw the Nationals knock him out after 2 2/3 innings at Coors Field. The right-hander then signed a minor league deal with the Nats and proceeded to make 15 starts for Triple-A Rochester, going 1-3 with a 6.31 ERA. He was released in August, signed with the White Sox and now finds himself in their September rotation, going 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA in two starts.

Jackson Rutledge was a teammate of Ureña in Rochester and now faces him tonight in his second career start. Rutledge’s debut was kind of a nightmare, and he surely will be motivated to flip the script tonight and perhaps emerge with his first career win in his first career start in D.C.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 7:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Clear, 72 degrees, wind 6 mph in from left field

Continue reading

Pre-pitch plan allowed Chavis to make game-saving play

Michael Chavis

MILWAUKEE – Watch the play, and it looks like Michael Chavis not only makes a fantastic diving stab to his left of Rowdy Tellez’s scorching grounder down the first base line, but then makes the split-second decision to throw to the plate and ultimately retire William Contreras for the double play that sealed the Nationals’ 2-1, 11-inning victory over the Brewers late Sunday afternoon.

Listen, though, to Chavis’ detailed breakdown of the unconventional, 3-2 double play, and you realize it was anything but a spur-of-the-moment decision by the fill-in first baseman.

“That’s one of the cases where the preparation really pays off,” he said.

The scenario: The Brewers had runners on the corners with one out in the bottom of the 11th, needing to plate one run to extend the game, two runs to win it. The left-handed-hitting Tellez was at the plate. The left-handed-throwing Robert Garcia was on the mound. And the right-handed-fielding Chavis was at first base, having entered the game two innings earlier to pinch-run for Dominic Smith and then subsequently taken over his position in the field.

As Tellez made his way toward the batter’s box, Chavis did what any good defensive player does and asked himself what he would do if the ball was hit to him. Except he broke it down in even more detail than that, considering how his play might be different depending on where precisely the ball was hit.

Continue reading

Nats finally convert in 11th to pull off wild win (updated)

GettyImages-1687122575

MILWAUKEE – There's no question at the end of this weekend which of the two ballclubs that competed at American Family Field is headed for the postseason and which is headed home for October. The Brewers looked the part of a first-place team. The Nationals looked the part of a last-place team.

And yet every one of these games was there for the Nats to take. They just couldn’t find a way to take any of them in key, late moments. Until they finally did what they needed to do in the most critical moments this afternoon to pull out one victory at last.

Unable to convert on countless scoring opportunities throughout the game, the Nationals finally came through in the top of the 11th and escaped with a 2-1 victory over Milwaukee. In the process, they snapped a five-game losing streak and avoided falling to 20 games under .500 with only 12 left to play this season.

"Just a great win," manager Davey Martinez said. "The guys battled. We battled yesterday, and we're in a lot of these games. To finish a series like this, against a really good team, it feels gratifying."

This was shaping up to be an incredibly frustrating afternoon. The Nationals led 1-0 in the sixth, then gave up the tying run. They were in prime position to re-take the lead in the eighth, then blew that opportunity. They stranded a runner on second in the top of the ninth. They stranded a runner on third in the top of the 10th. They finished 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

Continue reading

Nats make bullpen change, contemplate rotation change

abbott throws @ STL gray

MILWAUKEE – The Nationals made one change to their bullpen before today’s series finale against the Brewers and appear to be contemplating a change to their rotation in the coming days.

Needing a fresh arm after Trevor Williams’ two-inning start Saturday night taxed the bullpen, the Nats recalled Cory Abbott from Triple-A and optioned Amos Willingham back to Rochester.

“We just needed somebody with length,” manager Davey Martinez said. “It’s a stinky part of the job. I really like Willingham, wanted to see him more. But our bullpen’s been beat up, so we wanted to have two guys down there who can give us length in case something happens.”

Willingham was the first reliever summoned after Williams was knocked out early and wound up throwing 43 pitches over one-plus innings. The rookie right-hander wouldn’t have been available again for several days, so the team made the move to bring up Abbott, who tossed five hitless innings for Rochester five days ago and is available for long relief today if needed.

Though there’s still a chance Willingham could return to the big leagues before season’s end, this likely ends the 24-year-old’s rookie campaign, one that saw him start the year at Double-A Harrisburg and work his way up the organizational ladder.

Continue reading

Game 150 lineups: Nats at Brewers

garcia swing gray

MILWAUKEE – The Nationals have lost 15 of their last 19 games. A win over the Marlins way back on Aug. 26 left them only eight games under .500, and talk of a 75-win season was legitimate. A loss today, however, would drop them to 20 games under .500, and all of a sudden a 70-win season is no longer a sure thing.

They can help their cause this afternoon with a victory over the Brewers to avoid a series sweep, but it’s a tall task against Brandon Woodruff. The right-hander missed the majority of the season with a shoulder injury, but he’s been dynamite since returning last month. In nine total starts, he’s 5-1 with a 1.93 ERA, and he hasn’t allowed a run in either of his last two outings. Good luck to the Nats lineup today.

And good luck to Patrick Corbin, who is going to have to provide some length after Trevor Williams lasted only two innings and Davey Martinez had to ask a whole lot out of his bullpen Saturday night. Corbin was solid in Pittsburgh to begin this road trip, allowing two runs over 6 2/3 innings while striking out eight. But that came on the heels of back-to-back ugly showings against the Blue Jays and Mets, so who knows which version of the left-hander will show up today.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Where: American Family Field
Gametime: 2:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Indoors

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams
RF Lane Thomas
DH Joey Meneses
1B Dominic Smith
3B Ildemaro Vargas
2B Luis García
C Drew Millas
LF Jake Alu
CF Jacob Young

Continue reading

Nats battle back, but lose on grand slam off Finnegan (updated)

Finnegan red

MILWAUKEE – That the Nationals found themselves in this position tonight – tie game in the eighth inning – after the kind of start they got from Trevor Williams, was quite the surprise.

Truth be told, this game never should’ve been there for the taking, not after Williams needed an astounding 70 pitches to complete two innings and left his bullpen to pick up from there.

And yet, there it was, right there for the taking thanks to a yeoman’s effort from that bullpen and a lineup that scratched and clawed its way back from an early deficit to tie it up in the eighth.

Which perhaps only made the events that followed sting even more.

Kyle Finnegan, pitching for the first time in a week, loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth, was one pitch away from getting out of the jam, then gave up the grand slam to Mark Canha that flipped this game right back to the Brewers, who wound up winning 9-5.

Continue reading

García's process not translating into results yet

garcia gray

MILWAUKEE – The Nationals’ decision to demote Luis García to Triple-A in early August was grounded in a desire for the struggling second baseman to develop better pregame routines that would hopefully translate into better in-game results.

And when they made the decision to call Garcia back up from Rochester last week, the Nats seemed to be indicating he had taken that message to heart and was ready to see how it translated to the big leagues again.

Eight games in, though, Garcia’s results still don’t match the process. If anything, he’s producing less now than he did in his previous big-league stint.

Since his Sept. 8 recall, Garcia is a mere 2-for-22 at the plate. He has zero extra-base hits. He has drawn one walk while striking out five times.

“Since he’s been here, he’s worked super hard on everything,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s got a really good routine going. He’s doing everything we’ve asked him to do. The hits aren’t coming right now, but I’m happy that he’s going out there and really trying to compete and doing things we want. The hits will come.”

Continue reading

Game 149 lineups: Nats at Brewers

Williams gray

MILWAUKEE – The roof is closed at American Family Field – don’t you dare call it Miller Park! – because there’s a chance of rain this evening, so tonight’s game between the Nationals and Brewers will have a little different look and feel than Friday night’s series opener. Maybe that’s a good thing, because the Nats want to forget that game as much as they can.

The Nationals lineup faces another tall task tonight in Corbin Burnes, the Cy Young-winning right-hander who enters with a 3.47 ERA and 1.056 WHIP yet surprisingly hasn’t earned a win since July 20. In nine starts since, Burnes is 0-3 with a 3.43 ERA, done in not by his own performance but by his teammates’ lack of run support. That includes a July 31 game at Nationals Park when he gave up two runs over six innings, with the Nats ultimately winning 5-3.

On the other side, it’s another Trevor Williams start, and he’ll try once again to keep the ball in the yard. The right-hander has surrendered a league-leading 34 homers this season, 12 of those coming in his last six starts alone. Williams’ 5.44 ERA ranks 71st out of 77 major league starters with at least 130 innings pitched. If he struggles again tonight, you do wonder if he’ll get another chance to start before season’s end.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Where: American Family Field
Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Indoors

NATIONALS

Continue reading

Kieboom enjoys much-needed bounceback showing at plate

Kieboom gray

MILWAUKEE – Carter Kieboom was probably still thinking about his final at-bat of the night, the one that led off the top of the ninth, the one that saw him get ahead in the count 3-0 and then take what he thought was ball four from Devin Williams, only for Brian O’Nora to call it a strike and ultimately lead to a strikeout that changed the tenor of that inning.

It made for a frustrating conclusion to Friday evening for Kieboom, who appeared to have some words for O’Nora as he walked back toward the Nationals dugout. It should not, however, completely detract from everything else he did during the course of the game, his best game at the plate in a while.

“He thought that one pitch was a ball,” manager Davey Martinez said following a frustrating, 5-3 loss to the Brewers. “I haven’t looked at it yet. But he swung the bat really well today.”

Final at-bat aside, Kieboom indeed swung the bat much better Friday than he had in recent weeks. He doubled home a run in the first inning. He drew a walk in the fourth. He singled in the sixth. All told, Kieboom reached base as many times as he had in his previous seven games, totaling 22 plate appearances.

It’s a far cry from Kieboom’s first week back in the majors, during which he homered three times in his first 23 plate appearances and seemed to be telling the Nats he deserved another crack at the starting third baseman’s job he had squandered several times in past years before missing 2022 following Tommy John surgery.

Continue reading

Nats, Irvin jump out to early lead before faltering (updated)

GettyImages-1683587571

MILWAUKEE – The way they jumped all over Wade Miley in the top of the first suggested this might be a good night for the Nationals’ recently slumping hitters.

And the way Jake Irvin kept posting zeros against the first-place Brewers suggested the rookie was headed for another fine night on the mound.

How, then, did all of that turn into a 5-3 loss at American Family Field?

It happened because the Nats lineup did virtually nothing at the plate after that impressive opening statement. And it happened because Irvin’s pitch count and inability to avoid giving Milwaukee free baserunners came back to haunt him during a killer sequence in the bottom of the fifth that flipped the entire game.

That four-run outburst by the Brewers did in Irvin, spoiling what was shaping up to be a big-time outing by the young right-hander. And because his teammates couldn’t do anything to support him or the relievers who followed to make up the slim deficit, the Nationals were left to suffer yet another loss during a September to forget.

Continue reading

Rainey healthy but still fixing mechanics before returning to Nats

rainey pitches white

MILWAUKEE – Tanner Rainey’s surgically repaired elbow feels strong. He’s made 12 appearances over the last month on a minor league rehab assignment, including back-to-back scoreless innings for Triple-A Rochester in recent days. He’s now more than 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery.

So why haven’t the Nationals activated the reliever off the 60-day injured list and brought him back to the big leagues yet?

“I talked to Tanner, and he’s still working on some things, mechanically,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s still going to stay down there, still going to pitch, work on some things.”

When Rainey began his rehab assignment in early August, the thinking was that he’d rejoin the major league bullpen sometime in early-to-mid September. And since the right-hander has crossed just about every pertinent item off his rehab checklist, it would seem the time has come.

But while the results have looked good, Rainey still doesn’t feel like he’s all the way back from the ligament replacement surgery he had in August 2022. His elbow feels great, he insists. But his velocity hasn’t yet returned to the upper 90s he used to throw, and he’s had trouble repeating his mechanics from outing to outing.

Continue reading

Game 148 lineups: Nats at Brewers

Keibert Ruiz swing blue away

MILWAUKEE – A four-game series against the Pirates seemed like it would be just what the Nationals needed. Alas, it wasn’t. After winning Monday’s opener at PNC Park, the Nats dropped three straight, including Thursday’s 2-0 shutout played in record time. So now they have to hope to get back on track against a far more difficult opponent in the National League Central-leading Brewers.

Milwaukee enters with the NL’s best pitching staff (3.82 ERA, 1.185 WHIP). Washington enters having averaged only 3.5 runs on 7.2 hits and 2.6 walks over its last 17 games, during which time the team, unsurprisingly, has gone 4-13.

Somehow, this lineup is going to have to figure out how to string together some quality plate appearances and drive in some runs. That group will do so tonight against veteran left-hander Wade Miley, who is doing the best work of his career deep into his 30s. Over the last three seasons, he’s 21-13 with a 3.32 ERA.

Jake Irvin has surprisingly blossomed into the Nationals’ most consistently effective starter, and he’ll need to keep that up tonight against the Brewers. Over his last 15 starts, the rookie right-hander has a 3.59 ERA. The problem: He hasn’t been rewarded for his efforts, with only a 2-2 record and 11 no-decisions during that lengthy span.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Where: American Family Field
Gametime: 8:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 70 degrees, wind 9 mph in from right field

Continue reading

Nationals announce multi-year extension with Rizzo (updated)

Mike Rizzo

It took a few more weeks than initially hoped, but the Nationals and Mike Rizzo have finally agreed to a new deal that will keep the longtime general manager in charge of baseball operations into the next stage of the franchise’s rebuild.

The Nats formally announced a multi-year extension with Rizzo this morning, three weeks after they announced a comparable contract with manager Davey Martinez.

Though Rizzo’s deal wasn’t done at the time, he and the club had been in negotiations and believed they were on track to finalizing terms, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Those negotiations wound up taking longer than anticipated, with Martinez's two-year contract finalized first, a rarity in the sport.

"I was always confident it was going to happen," Rizzo said in a video conference with reporters. "It was just something that we never got around to getting the final deal done. As far as the timeline goes, I thought it was important to get Davey done, because the chemistry in the clubhouse, and a lame-duck manager with three months, is not the way you want to go through this thing. ... That had to be done, and I'm glad I got that done, sooner rather than later. I was always confident about my deal."

Rizzo, 62, will be back in his familiar role in 2024, but several other prominent and longtime confidants of his will not. Johnny DiPuglia, who led the team’s international scouting operation since 2009, resigned earlier this month. Kris Kline, who has run the team’s amateur scouting operation since 2009, has been re-assigned to a role as a special assistant to Rizzo who will focus more on professional scouting, a source familiar with the decision confirmed.

Continue reading

La Sorsa embracing nomadic life between MLB, Triple-A

Joe La Sorsa vs. LAD

Joe La Sorsa’s relief appearance Sunday wasn’t particularly memorable. It didn’t make a difference in the outcome of the game (a 7-3 loss by the Nationals against the Dodgers). It included no defining moment, no critical out recorded and no damaging hit surrendered.

But when it came time to dissect what happened on another long, rain-delayed day at the ballpark, Davey Martinez went out of his way to mention the rookie left-hander’s seemingly innocuous relief appearance.

“I give a lot of credit to Joe,” the Nationals manager said. “That was awesome. It saved our bullpen, big-time.”

Having used up pretty much every other reliever on his roster the previous two nights, Martinez’s options for Sunday’s game were thin. And when starter Trevor Williams lasted only 4 1/3 innings, the situation looked all the more dire.

Martinez went to Mason Thompson first, the right-hander facing two batters in the fifth before the game went into a 58-minute delay, then returning after that to finish the inning and return to face two batters to open the sixth. Next up was La Sorsa, who entered with a runner in scoring position but stranded him there with three quick outs.

Continue reading

Another rain delay, another loss for Nats (updated)

GettyImages-1672379445

They played a ballgame at Nationals Park this afternoon, the 143rd game of this 162-game season. For the third straight day, it included a rain delay. And for the second time this weekend, it included a loss to the Dodgers.

The finale of a long, drawn-out series ended with a dud, Trevor Williams digging the Nationals into yet another early hole en route to a 7-3 loss that never really felt within reach even though it technically was.

Those who were here for the entire weekend were treated to a grand total of 9 hours, 26 minutes of actual baseball, plus 6 hours, 42 minutes of delays. Outside of a few fun moments late Saturday night in the Nats’ 11-inning win, most of it was tough to experience in person.

The Dodgers, unsurprisingly, proved themselves to be the superior team, well on their way to a 10th division title in 11 years. The Nationals, after an uplifting stretch for much of July and August, have now lost 10 of 13 with three weeks to go in the season, two of them to be spent on the road, one of them to be spent back here.

"The long games, the extra innings ... this weekend was a grind," manager Davey Martinez said. "We didn't score many runs today, but I saw some really good things."

Continue reading

Gray getting extra rest before next start, Abrams sits with sore knee

gray v MIA

The Nationals will give Josiah Gray three extra days of rest before he makes his next start, hoping the time off gives the struggling right-hander a chance to catch his breath and still finish a once-promising season strong.

Gray has totaled only six innings in his last two starts, allowing seven total runs while walking eight batters and throwing 149 pitches in the process. His next turn in the rotation would have come Monday in the Nats’ series opener at the Pirates, but he now will wait until Thursday’s finale at PNC Park to take the mound.

That start will be 11 days removed from his previous outing, so this will be the equivalent of having an entire turn skipped in the rotation.

“As we all know, he’s our All-Star,” manager Davey Martinez said. “And while he’s been struggling a little bit of late, I just want to give him a little break.”

Gray was named an All-Star for the first time in his career, back when he sported a 3.00 ERA through his first 13 starts of the season. But in 14 starts since, his ERA has been a hefty 5.30, and over 69 2/3 innings he has issued 38 walks while serving up 11 homers.

Continue reading

Game 143 lineups: Nats vs. Dodgers

ruiz celebrates cherry

Hey, you know what would be great? If the Nationals and Dodgers could play a ballgame today that starts on time and isn’t interrupted by rain at any point. Wouldn’t that be just lovely?

It’s possible that wish will come true, if the storm that’s passing through town this morning clears out in time for a 1:35 p.m. first pitch. Keep your fingers crossed.

The Nationals have a shot at a series win after Saturday night’s bonkers, 11-inning victory via a walk-off wild pitch. The bullpen is not in great shape at this point, so there really is pressure on Trevor Williams to bounce back from a bad start last time out and give his team a chance. Considering the lineup he’s facing, that’s a tall task.

The Nats have been scoring some runs this weekend, so that’s a good thing. And they’ve hit for some power, which is also a good thing. We’ll see if they can keep that up this afternoon and emerge with what would have to be considered an impressive series win over one of the best teams in baseball.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Where: Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Storms ending, 88 degrees, wind 7 mph out to left field

Continue reading

Nats win wacky game over Dodgers in 11th on wild pitch (updated)

Chavis gray

For all the attention that’s been paid to MacKenzie Gore and Josiah Gray – and for all the attention that will be paid to Cade Cavalli once he returns from Tommy John surgery – the Nationals have another young starter who has made just as compelling a case to be part of this team’s long-term plan.

In some ways, Jake Irvin’s case is even stronger than his rotation mates, if for no other reason than the immutable fact he’s been the Nats’ most consistently effective starter for months.

The fourth-round pick from the 2018 draft may have the pedigree others do, and he may not have shown up on prospect rankings the way others did, but consider the body of work he’s amassed this year: Irvin has a lower ERA than Gore, a lower WHIP than Gray and has averaged more innings per start than either.

Irvin wasn't rewarded for his efforts tonight with an individual win, but at least his Nationals teammates somehow found a way to come away with a collective win, topping the Dodgers 7-6 in 11 wacky innings to cap a long day and night on South Capitol Street.

"That's all we're looking for: For the team to take steps forward," Irvin said. "Tonight was just a grind. The defense played absolutely outstanding. It was a lot of fun to watch."

Continue reading

Gore's season likely over with 15-day IL stint for blister

MacKenzie Gore gray

MacKenzie Gore’s season has likely to come to an end three weeks early after the Nationals placed the left-hander on the 15-day injured list with a pair of blisters on his middle finger that has impacted at least two of his recent starts.

Gore was hampered by the ailment during Friday night’s 8-5 loss to the Dodgers, in which he gave up three homers and was pulled after 89 pitches in only four innings. It was the second time this summer he had a start cut short by a blister, and it’s something that has plagued him in the past as well.

“It’s kind of always been a thing,” he said after the game. “It’s no excuse, but it’s frustrating. It is a real thing.”

Though he wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility, manager Davey Martinez made it clear it’s highly unlikely Gore will return to pitch before season’s end. He won’t be eligible to come off the IL until Sept. 24, at which point there’s only one week of games left.

“We’ll keep an eye on him, but I’d hate to start him up again,” Martinez said. “We’re getting close to the innings. Honestly, we’re beyond the innings we thought we’d get (coming into the year). But right now, I’m not going to rule anything out. Give me a few days. I want to sit down and have a conversation with him. But I think he’ll be shut down.”

Continue reading