Depleted Nats lineup shut out, plan to promote Abrams (updated)

Davey Martinez has written out more than his share of cobbled-together lineups this season, whether due to injuries, poor performances or (more recently) trades. The card the Nationals manager submitted for today’s series finale – a 6-0 loss to the Padres – brought his team’s current state of affairs into focus in a manner no previous one could.

Leading off was Alex Call, a 27-year-old left fielder claimed off waivers from the Guardians one week ago and called up from Triple-A Rochester this morning, having taken a 6:40 a.m. flight to Reagan National and come straight to the ballpark to take his team’s first at-bat of the game.

Batting second was Joey Meneses, the 30-year-old rookie sensation who entered with five homers in nine career games. Batting third was Luke Voit, the lone veteran with any track record, also in his first two weeks with the club after his acquisition from the Padres in the Juan Soto-Josh Bell blockbuster.

Lane Thomas, owner of a .673 OPS, was batting cleanup. César Hernández, owner of zero home runs in 489 plate appearances, was batting fifth. Maikel Franco, Tres Barrera, Ildemaro Vargas and Victor Robles rounded out the makeshift batting order, asked to score enough runs to beat Padres left-hander Blake Snell.

Few could have been surprised by the outcome.

"Snell was really good," Martinez said. "His fastball had good life. He was throwing strikes. The slider was good. But he was pumping strikes, and we couldn't get nothing going. Our plan was to make him throw strikes, and he did that. But his fastball location was really good, and his breaking ball was good."

The Nationals managed all of three hits, all singles, two by Meneses, in six innings against Snell. They didn’t fare much better against the San Diego bullpen, squandering a two-on, nobody-out potential rally in the eighth with back-to-back ground balls off the bats of Call (who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his debut) and Meneses.

"I was trying to figure out their lineup, honestly," Snell told reporters. "It was kind of hard."

This is the state of things around here right now, especially for an early day game with Nelson Cruz, Luis García and Keibert Ruiz all sitting.

"That was the lineup we had," Martinez said.

García, who hasn't played since straining a groin muscle Friday night, still isn't able to run comfortably, and Martinez acknowledged the club may need to consider placing him on the injured list if he doesn't show enough signs of improvement. In related news: Recently acquired shortstop prospect C.J. Abrams was pulled from Triple-A Rochester's lineup before today's game, and a club source confirmed late this afternoon he's coming to D.C. and likely will make his debut Monday night against the Cubs.

All that considered, it required a superhuman pitching effort to keep the Nationals in today's game, and they didn’t quite get that.

Paolo Espino’s task was the same one Aníbal Sánchez faced Saturday night: Try to keep the damage by a potent Padres lineup to a minimum before handing it over to a Nationals bullpen that has become the strength of the roster this summer. And Espino had a similar outing to Sánchez’s, completing five innings having allowed three runs (though in this case he was hurt more by soft singles and less-than-perfect defense than by any big bombs).

Martinez pulled Sánchez after five innings Saturday, knowing his bullpen was relatively fresh and capable of finishing things out from there. Today, he felt like he needed to push Espino into the sixth, trying to squeeze a few more outs from his starter, even though his pitch count already stood at 95.

It was all setting up to work out splendidly when Espino got two quick groundball outs, then got Trent Grisham to loft a high fly ball to center field for what should’ve been the third out. But as soon as Robles put his right hand to the sky, trying to shield the sun from his eyes, it was clear this would be no routine out. Robles, who one inning earlier robbed Josh Bell of extra bases with a diving catch in right-center, never did locate the ball, watching it fall to the ground for a cheap double.

And when Wil Myers followed with an RBI single to left, Espino had seen his quality start turn into a far-less-satisfying afternoon of four runs allowed in 5 2/3 innings.

"A little bit of bad luck there," Espino said. "I felt like I pitched really good (in the sixth inning) and that's something ... that's baseball. Stuff like that can happen. A little bit disappointed I wasn't able to finish the sixth inning. But they also did really good plays out there. (Robles) did an unbelievable play the inning before that. That's just baseball. Sometimes things don't go your way."

The Nationals would end up losing two of three in the weekend series, even though they did a relatively good job containing their two former teammates at the plate. Soto and Bell finished a combined 4-for-25 with two RBIs, seven walks and three strikeouts.

"I thought we did really well," Martinez said. "Hey, Soto's going to walk. We talked to our pitchers: Keep making your pitches. If he doesn't swing, he doesn't swing. He's going to get his walks. But I thought we did a good job of keeping them both in the ballpark and handled them really well."

Abrams will get first crack to prove trade was wor...
Nats promote Call from Rochester, option Palacios
 

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/