NEW YORK – Indignity for the Nationals came in multiple forms tonight.
It came in another lousy start for Patrick Corbin, who recorded only one more out (13) than hits allowed (12).
It came in another feeble offensive showing against a moderately accomplished opposing starter: the Mets’ Trevor Williams, who shut them out over five innings before his bullpen finished the job.
It came in the sight of Maikel Franco getting called out when Dee Strange-Gordon’s scorched liner struck him on the back as he led off first base.
And it came in the loss of Alcides Escobar to what appeared to be a serious hamstring injury suffered making a fine play in the bottom of the fourth, leaving the Nats thinking they might need to search for another shortstop before learning later Escobar appears to be fine.
The biggest indignity of all was the final tally: A 10-0 loss to the Mets on the heels of a 13-6 loss to the Mets in advance of a series finale that will see the Nationals send 25-year-old lefty Evan Lee (owner of an 0-3 record and 3.50 ERA at Double-A Harrisburg) to the mound to make his major league debut against a lineup that has blasted just about every member of the Nats pitching staff it has seen in the last 48 hours.
"We've got to do a better job of understanding what we need to do to get these hitters out," manager Davey Martinez said. "That's something we'll talk about tomorrow."
There was very little to like in this one, no real silver linings, only another blowout loss in a season already filled with too many of them. The Nationals have now played 51 games. They’ve lost 15 of them by five or more runs, eight of them by seven or more runs and six of them by nine or more runs.
Corbin was once again the biggest culprit in this one, putting his team in a hole early and then digging it deeper with each passing inning. He opened his evening allowing a leadoff single to Mark Canha, followed by a two-run homer to Starling Marte. He gave up two more runs in the bottom of the third on four singles. And after surrendering three more hits (bringing his total for the game to 12) in the fifth, he was pulled by Martinez in favor of righty Erasmo Ramirez.
"I was hoping to get through that fifth there, and possibly go back out (for the sixth)," Corbin said. "But even that inning there, I thought I made some quality pitches."
Not that Ramirez fared much better. He allowed all three runners he inherited to score, leaving Corbin charged with seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings, raising his already elevated ERA to an even gaudier 6.96.
"They're a really good team over there, a lot of professional hitters," Corbin said. "It's tough. You try to make the best pitches you can. Tonight was just one of those strange days where I felt good, I thought my stuff was pretty good and a bunch of those hits there. I'll probably look at it tomorrow, see if there's some things I could've done differently. But it's frustrating, especially when you feel pretty good."
So it continued for a Nationals pitching staff that has been absolutely battered by the Mets the last two nights. Francisco Perez, one of two relievers summoned from Triple-A Rochester today to help, gave up a two-run homer to Eduardo Escobar in the seventh. Jordan Weems, the other newcomer, did impress by retiring the side in the bottom of the seventh, striking out Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso in succession.
"He said his heartbeat was going a little fast, and I kind of figured that," Martinez said of Weems, later announcing Perez was being optioned back to Rochester to clear a roster spot for Lee. "But it was a good night to get him in there and get him to relax a little bit. The ball came out really well. He threw a couple nice sliders as well. I'm looking forward to watching more of him pitch."
Then there was the Escobar injury, which happened to come on a play that might have been one of his best of the season. With two on and two out in the bottom of the fourth, he ranged to his right and made a diving stop of J.D. Davis’ sharp ground ball, then managed to make a strong throw to second from his knee and barely nab a sliding Alonso for the third out of the inning.
Escobar tried to get back up, though, and immediately realized he could not. He grabbed the back of his right leg and went back to the ground as Martinez and director of athletic training Paul Lessard jogged out from the dugout to check on him, then eventually help him off the field, keeping him from putting any weight on his leg.
"Initially I did feel a little scared," Escobar said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. "As soon as I went down for the ground ball, as I turned to throw it to second base, I felt my hamstring just tighten up really bad. I tried to get up, and I couldn't. In that moment, I felt like it was probably something that was more serious."
Strange-Gordon, who began the game in left field, took over at shortstop. At the time, with thoughts of Escobar going on the injured list, the Nationals were starting to make plans to call up another infielder, whether they consider prospect Luis García defensively ready to return, or whether they go with utilityman Lucius Fox instead.
By night's end, they may have avoided the worst and be able to get by without any more roster moves.
"I don't think it's anything serious or long-term," Escobar said. "Just talking to the trainers, with the treatment I'm going to get, luckily it was just a cramp. I'm not going to get put on the IL as of right now. I don't foresee it being anything too serious. As soon as we started doing the treatment just now, it's felt a lot better."
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