Sweep at hands of Giants leaves Nats feeling sick

When looking for omens of what’s to come the rest of the afternoon at the ballpark, this one was impossible to miss.

Two pitches into today’s series finale at Nationals Park, third baseman Lucius Fox inexplicably began jogging from his position toward the home dugout in apparent distress. He made it only a few feet to the right of the pitcher’s mound before he realized he had no choice but to bend over and vomit right there on the infield grass in front of 26,003 fans watching in person and countless more watching on TV.

"Apparently he had a bit of a stomach flu," manager Davey Martinez said. "I guess it's going around. They gave him fluids before the game. He said he was good. He did everything. And then, as you could see, it wasn't good."

Two pitches after that, with the remnants of Fox’s pregame meal still visible near the mound and backup catcher Riley Adams now playing first base for the first time in his career, Joan Adon served up a leadoff homer to Joc Pederson.

Bench coach Tim Bogar "approached me right after the national anthem that Lucius wasn't feeling too hot," Adams said. "He told me pretty last-second there was a good chance I might sneak in there. And obviously it was one or two pitches in, and I had to go in."

Not that the Nationals couldn’t have recovered from that unfortunate opening sequence on an otherwise lovely Sunday afternoon at the ballpark, but that they didn’t perhaps was more fitting. This team has done more than its share to induce nausea among its fans over the last calendar year. Today, during a 12-3 loss to the Giants, it happened to one of their own players.

Fox, the rookie infielder forced into starting duties because Josh Bell was sidelined with a tight hamstring and regular third baseman Maikel Franco had to shift across the diamond to start at first base, would be escorted off the field and back to the clubhouse for further treatment. And with outfielder Victor Robles not in the lineup due to a tight groin muscle, the Nationals essentially played the entire game with zero healthy players on their bench.

Those who were still able to take the field bore witness to another game that got out of hand late, the Giants tacking on six runs in the top of the ninth to turn this one into another rout and secure their first series sweep in D.C. since June 2008.

Most of the drama had occurred hours earlier, just as the game was getting underway in most unfortunate fashion.

Whether it was a result of the chaos taking place around him or not, Adon couldn’t prevent things from getting worse. Two pitches after Fox departed, he surrendered that leadoff homer to Pederson. And when Brandon Crawford doubled and Wilmer Flores singled him home later in the inning, the Nationals finally returned to their dugout for the bottom of the first, already trailing 2-0.

"I was just trying to stay focused out there after that incident," said Adon, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. "And trying to do everything I can to help the team win today."

The Giants would score two more off Adon in the top of the second, though he was less to blame for those than the guys in the field behind him. The inning began inauspiciously when Franco (back at his usual third base position) ran into Alcides Escobar on a routine grounder to short. It was the latest in a serious of miscommunications between the two veteran infielders, a baffling recurring theme that must be driving their manager mad.

"It's a lack of communication, honestly," Martinez said. "Escobar has got to say something. He's got to tell him whether he can get it or not. Or even Franco (needs to say he's got it). They need to start speaking up."

The inning also featured a wild pitch charged to Adon when catcher Keibert Ruiz whiffed on a breaking ball in an apparent cross-up of their signs, then a sacrifice fly to bring one run home, then a drive to deep center by Brandon Belt to bring another home. On that Belt drive to the wall, Lane Thomas struggled to corral a ball over his head, another recurring theme, playing it into an RBI triple instead of the third out of the inning.

Things would settle down after that, with Adon charged with one more run in the fifth but retiring seven of the last eight batters he faced. Still, the rookie right-hander emerged with a 6.98 ERA through four starts, hardly a rousing success.

The Nationals had some early chances to get right back into the game, thanks in large part to Yadiel Hernandez. Starting in left field against Giants righty Logan Webb, Hernandez lined an RBI single to center in the bottom of the first, then drove a slider to the opposite field for a two-run homer in the third, his first of the season.

"To be honest, I hadn't see that pitch the previous at-bat," Hernandez said of the slider from Webb, also with Martinez interpreting. "The previous at-bat, he threw me a couple changeups, and I got a base hit. The next at-bat, I went out there looking for a two-seamer, a sinker. He threw it, but I didn't connect. Then he threw me the slider, and I was able to make good contact with it."

But that’s where the offense stalled for the afternoon. Webb retired 11 of the last 13 batters he faced, with César Hernández reaching twice and nobody else in the Nats lineup following suit.

So it was the Nationals lost their fifth straight heading into their first scheduled off-day of the season. They might feel sick to their stomachs about it, but right now they can’t afford to because they’re too busy trying to compensate for the losses of several players, including one who was lost today precisely because he felt sick to his stomach.

"The Giants are a good team, obviously," Adams said. "We weren't all clicking on all cylinders. We've got to pick each other up and get ready for Tuesday."

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