As expected after clinching a postseason berth Tuesday, the Nationals starting lineup looked a bit different for Wednesday night's game against the Phillies with Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon getting the day off.
"I still want to play these games to win," said Nationals manager Davey Martinez. "But we got to be smart about giving guys some days off. Today is no Anthony, no Trea. Both deserve days off, obviously. We'll see how it goes and hopefully get Juan a couple of days off in the near future."
Martinez has spoken several times this season about pregame conversations he has had with regulars telling them to take a day. Inevitably, those players would push back and say they were fine and wanted to stay in the lineup with the goal in mind of a postseason berth.
Following a broken finger that kept him out of the lineup from April 3 to May 16, Turner started nonstop from May 17 to Sept. 24. He played in both games of the doubleheader yesterday, and has two singles, three doubles and two homers, including a game-winning grand slam, in the series.
Rendon has played in 143 games this season, having endured a stop on the injured list from late April into May for a left elbow contusion after getting hit by a pitch in Miami.
So the pair had logged a ton of time and were major players in the club's resurgence and eventual postseason berth clincher last night. On Tuesday night, they accomplished their first goal: Punch a ticket to the second season.
"There was no fight today, let me tell you," Martinez said. "I'm going to be brutally honest. I looked at them last night and I told him, 'Hey, you're not playing tomorrow, you're not playing tomorrow.' They looked at me, 'OK!' They weren't going to argue about it."
Soto has a had a rough couple of weeks at the plate, hitting .053 over the last seven games and .156 in his last 15 games. In his last 45 at-bats, Soto has one homer with seven RBIs, 17 walks and 13 strikeouts. He walked four times in the first game of the series, but has just one hit in the three games. Soto is hitting .290 against left-handers. Tonight, the Phillies send southpaw Drew Smyly to the mound.
"For me, I think especially against left-handed pitchers, he stays in there," Martinez said. "So a part of me wanted him to play. But he's flying open a little bit. We're trying to get him to stay in there. He has had a couple of good swings against left-handed pitchers."
Catcher Kurt Suzuki is making solid progress as he looks to return from an elbow issue. He has not started a game since Sept. 5 in Atlanta. Today he during early pregame work in his catching position with throws to the pitcher and third base. The skipper is pointing toward some weekend starts for the veteran backstop.
"He threw about 90 percent, feels good," Martinez said. "So we will do it again tomorrow, see how he feels. I'm shooting for maybe Friday and Saturday to get him in the game. So hopefully everything goes well."