The Nationals suddenly find themselves with a serious dearth of healthy infielders.
Daniel Murphy is out of the lineup for the third straight day with a sore hamstring suffered in Tuesday's All-Star Game. Anthony Rendon was a late scratch due to flu-like symptoms. Add in Ryan Zimmerman, who has been on the disabled list since July 7 with a strained ribcage muscle, and the Nationals are taking the field for today's series finale against the Pirates without three of their regular starting infielders and zero healthy backups on the bench.
Manager Dusty Baker expected Murphy to start today at first base, so his absence from the lineup posted this morning came as a bit of a surprise. Club officials, though, described the decision to sit Murphy as more precautionary than anything, recognizing the Nationals already won the first two games of this series and have an off-day tomorrow that would allow Murphy to continue to rest until they return Tuesday night against the Dodgers.
Murphy jogged laps around Nationals Park and took a full round of batting practice Saturday afternoon and said his left hamstring "felt really good." He then joined Zimmerman for pregame sprints in the outfield and extensive baserunning drills before today's game, the kind of exercises a player wouldn't typically do with anything beyond a minor hamstring injury.
Rendon, meanwhile, was written into today's initial lineup, back in the cleanup spot one day after he homered and drove in two runs during the Nationals' 6-0 victory. But he was scratched a little more than two hours before first pitch with what the club termed "flu-like symptoms."
That forced Baker to scramble and reconfigure his lineup, which now features Stephen Drew (originally scheduled to play second base) at third base, Trea Turner (originally on the bench) at second base and leading off, and Ben Revere pushed down to the No. 2 spot for the first time this season.
Murphy and Rendon could be available off the bench if absolutely needed, but otherwise the Nationals' only healthy reserves will be outfielders Chris Heisey and Michael A. Taylor, plus backup catcher Jose Lobaton.