NEW YORK – The Nationals sent Erick Fedde to the mound at Citi Field tonight, first and foremost, in an attempt to win their series opener against the Mets. They also sent Fedde out there, second and furthermore, in an attempt to get enough innings from their starter to help set the stage for the rest of the series, knowing they need somebody to make a spot start Wednesday afternoon.
If Fedde – and Patrick Corbin on Tuesday – could provide enough depth to keep the bullpen from being overworked, manager Davey Martinez could then use long men Paolo Espino and Josh Rogers in tandem on Wednesday, negating the need to summon an inexperienced minor league starter for one game.
It took less than two innings tonight for that hopeful plan to go up in flames.
Fedde was rocked by the Mets for six runs and eight hits in only 1 1/3 innings, setting the Nationals on a runaway path toward a lopsided 13-5 loss and leaving the organization in an unenviable position as it now tries to figure out who’s going to pitch the next several days.
"It's brutal," the right-hander said. "It lets the whole team down. If anything, if you're able to at least go six (innings) and give up a bunch of runs, you put the team in a better position going forward. But today was just really unacceptable in a sense. I feel bad for the guys in the bullpen. I put them behind the 8-ball probably for the next week or so."
Feeling good about themselves after leaving D.C. with four wins in their last five games, with a chance to improve to the magical 50-game mark of 19-31 tonight, the Nats instead got a rude wakeup call from the first-place Mets, who battered around not only Fedde but all but one of those who followed him out of the bullpen hoping to douse the fire.
Martinez tried to avoid using Espino and Rogers as long as he could, but Andres Machado and Austin Voth left him no choice. Machado gave up three runs while recording only four outs and throwing 46 pitches. Voth then also gave up three runs while recording only four outs. He managed to do it on a mere 21 pitches, but his ERA by the time he departed stood at an unsavory 10.13, with the Mets leading 12-3 after four innings.
"Obviously, he's struggling," Martinez said. "We tried to talk to him about some different things, and doing some different things. I've got to go back and look, but he's missing his spots a lot, too. And when he does, he gets hit. I'll look at some of the stuff, see what we can do to help him. But right now, he's been struggling all year, and we've got to try to fix him."
The Nationals, remarkably, began this night in encouraging fashion. They scored three quick runs off Mets starter David Peterson in the top of the first, getting a bases-loaded single from Josh Bell and a sacrifice lineout from Lane Thomas to stake Fedde to a 3-0 lead.
Fedde took that lead and promptly gave it back, and then some. The Mets’ first four batters all reached against him, and only a bases-loaded double play helped him escape the bottom of the first with a mere two runs across the plate.
The bottom of the second was less kind to the right-hander. Fedde gave up hits to five of the six batters he faced, and the only one who made an out (Tomás Nido) did so via a line drive to center that required a diving catch by Victor Robles. Starling Marte’s two-run homer gave New York a 6-3 lead, and one batter later Martinez decided he couldn’t let this go on any longer.
"It just wasn't there for him today," Martinez said. "His misses were right down the middle to a good-hitting team. It didn't happen for him today ... He got the double play, they scored two, and I thought maybe he'll settle down a little bit. But he went back out there, and I didn't think it was going to get any better today."
Fedde handed over the ball and trudged off the mound, having followed up one of the best starts of his career (six scoreless innings against the Dodgers) with one of his worst. Eight of the 11 batters who put a ball in play against him did so with contact that was deemed “hard hit” by Statcast. His ERA rose from 3.55 when his night began to 4.60 when it ended.
"Honestly, I kept getting ahead, and I thought I was making good pitches early in the count," he said. "And then I'd get to a place where I was trying to put people away and I was missing right down the middle. And with the quality of lineup they have, that's not really the thing to do."
So, now what? The Nationals will need length (and hopefully quality) from Corbin on Tuesday, but they may need to make a move to bring in a fresh bullpen arm just in case. And then there’s the matter of Wednesday’s starter.
Espino (who stood all alone on an atoll in tossing three scoreless innings of garbage-time relief to lower his ERA to 2.28) can’t come back to pitch Wednesday. Rogers, who opened the season in the rotation, wound up pitching the bottom of the eighth and immediately served up a home run to Pete Alonso.
So that could leave the spinning wheel to come to a stop on 25-year-old Jackson Tetreault, who has a 3.35 ERA at Triple-A Rochester, isn’t on the 40-man roster but has the good fortune to be on the right five-day pitching schedule. The Nats have about 36 hours to decide.
"I don't even know that yet," Martinez said. "I know Espino came in and gave us some great length. That was awesome that he did that. He saved some of those other guys. I wanted to get Rogers in there, get him some work. He hasn't been out there in a while. ... We'll see. The game tomorrow is going to be the telltale. We'll see how the game goes tomorrow."