Opener in Chicago postponed, Rosario named NL Player of Week

CHICAGO – The Nationals’ series opener against the White Sox was postponed due to heavy rain that descended upon the area this afternoon and doesn’t promise to let up all night.

The two teams will play a traditional doubleheader Tuesday, with the first game starting at 4:40 p.m. Eastern and the nightcap to follow 30-to-45 minutes after conclusion of the opener.

Though it was warm and muggy earlier in the day, the skies began to darken by midafternoon. The grounds crew at Guaranteed Rate Field preemptively rolled out the tarp and covered up the infield before either team could take batting practice, and for good reason: It started raining hard only a few minutes later.

Rather than wait it out for hours and hope conditions improved enough to get the game in tonight, officials called it off slightly more than an hour before scheduled first pitch at 7:40 p.m. Eastern. Neither scheduled starting pitcher began to warm up.

Trevor Williams, tonight’s originally scheduled starter, will now pitch Game 1 on Tuesday, opposed by right-hander Chris Flexen. Mitchell Parker will start as scheduled Tuesday, taking the mound for the nightcap against former Nationals righty Erick Fedde.

The doubleheader won’t force the Nationals to jumble their rotation. Because they already have a scheduled off-day Thursday before opening a weekend series in Philadelphia, everyone will be fine to make their next turn on full rest, so there will be no need to call up a fill-in starter for a game.

The Nats will be allowed to promote a 27th player for the doubleheader, likely an extra pitcher.

* Based on the mental mistakes he made during Sunday’s loss in Boston, and his manager’s harsh words afterward, the sight of Victor Robles in the Nationals’ planned lineup tonight may have caught some people by surprise.

There’s more to the equation than that, though. Jesse Winker is still dealing with back spasms, and that left the Nats with only three healthy true outfielders on their roster. Hence, Robles was going to start in right field and bat ninth one day after he dropped a routine fly ball and ran himself into a killer out at third base when he didn’t realize teammate Riley Adams was already standing on the bag and not attempting to advance himself.

Manager Davey Martinez admitted he probably would have pulled Robles from Sunday’s game – which wound up a 3-2 loss to the Red Sox – after the two mistakes, but Winker’s back issue prevented him from doing it.

Winker played the first five innings before departing, going 0-for-2 at the plate. He’s now hitless in his last 14 at-bats, a slump that has seen his OPS drop from .808 as recently as six days ago to its current mark of .737.

Martinez was hopeful Winker could be available to pinch-hit tonight if the situation arose, but his back was still stiff this afternoon. The good news: Winker says this issue isn’t connected at all with the major back injury he dealt with last season with the Brewers, one that eventually required surgery.

“This is more like a back spasm,” Martinez said. “He was pretty tender today, pretty sore. He felt a lot better today than he did yesterday. But he said it’s no relation to what he had before.”

The Nationals outfield tonight was going to consist of Robles in right field, Jacob Young in center field and Eddie Rosario in left field. The latter has suddenly become the team’s hottest hitter, and he was recognized by Major League Baseball for it this afternoon, named National League Player of the Week.

Rosario officially went 7-for-15 with a double, three homers, five RBIs, five walks, three stolen bases and a major league-best 1.733 OPS during the week that ended Sunday. His hot streak extends a bit further back, kicking off with the home run he hit the previous Sunday against the Blue Jays, giving him four total homers in his last six games played.

All of this came after a wretched start to the season for the 32-year-old. Prior to that game against the Blue Jays, he was batting .096 with a .316 OPS, having just endured an 0-for-31 slump.

Rosario has always been a slow starter throughout his career, and Martinez used that as justification for keeping him in the lineup despite his prolonged slump.

“I try to reiterate to him every day: ‘You’ve been here before. You’re a veteran guy. You understand where you’re at. Don’t get down on yourself. Don’t look at your numbers. Just worry about your at-bats,’” the manager said. “He’s been really good at that. He just wants to help us win, and now he’s starting to see results. That’s awesome.”

* Joey Gallo will remain on his rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester a bit longer, but it does appear the slugger will be back with the Nationals before week’s end.

Gallo, out since April 27 with an AC sprain in his left shoulder, has played in eight rehab games with Rochester and Single-A Fredericksburg, going 4-for-26 with a double, three homers, eight walks and eight strikeouts. He is already eligible to come off the 10-day injured list, but he’s scheduled to stay in Rochester and play at least Tuesday and Wednesday before the club makes a decision. If all goes well, he could be activated in time for this weekend’s series against the Phillies.

“We want to make sure he’s going to play first base two days in a row, and see how he feels then,” Martinez said. “He got hurt diving, so I want to make sure if he does have to make a play, he’s good. He’s swinging the bat good. He’s hit a couple home runs. But we want to make sure he’s completely healthy.”

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