Nats routed by Phillies after Gore departs early (updated)

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PHILADELPHIA – The Nationals were riding high into Saturday’s late afternoon game against the Phillies.

One of their young starting pitchers tossed perhaps his best game as a major leaguer when Josiah Gray shoved for six innings of one-run ball in last night’s 2-1 win.

That set the Nats up today to win their third straight series and to do something they haven’t done since June 27-30, 2021: Have a winning streak longer than three games.

But that all came crashing down with today’s 19-4 thrashing by the Phillies, much to the delight of the 42,784 fans at Citizens Bank Park.

Score aside, the story of this one for the Nationals was MacKenize Gore’s early departure.

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Another off-day for Meneses as Vargas enters lineup

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PHILADELPHIA – The Nationals are trying to get Joey Meneses right.

Despite a lack of power from the everyday designated hitter, Meneses has been one of the Nats’ more consistent hitters this year.

He enjoyed a career-best 18-game on-base streak from May 21 to June 11, during which he slashed .357/.430/.443 with an .873 OPS, four doubles, one triple, 10 RBI and nine walks to eight strikeouts.

But since that streak ended, he is slashing a paltry .179/.190/.250 with a .440 OPS, four doubles, seven RBIs and one walk to a staggering 18 strikeouts.

So for the fourth time in just over two weeks, Meneses will take a seat as the Nationals face Phillies right-hander Zack Wheeler after he only missed a combined three games over the first 66 of the season (two of those games when he was placed on the paternity list for the birth of his first child).

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Abrams gets another day off, Smith stays in lineup

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CJ Abrams is starting to get more regular days off as Nationals manager Davey Martinez tries to give his young shortstop more opportunities to rest his body and mind in his first full big league season.

Abrams, who started 31 of the Nats’ first 32 games this season, is not in the lineup for today’s series finale against the Phillies. It’s the fifth time he hasn’t started in the team’s last 27 games. It’s also the second straight Sunday he’s had off.

“Just kind of let him relax a little bit,” Martinez said.

It’s been an eventful stretch for Abrams, who played a key role in recent road wins in Kansas City and Los Angeles but also committed three errors in his last five games, a couple of them particularly costly ones.

With the team off Monday, this gives Abrams a chance for an extended rest before he returns to the lineup Tuesday night against the Diamondbacks.

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Adams, Vargas make most of rare chance to start

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SAN FRANCISCO – Riley Adams doesn’t find himself in this position very often, greeted by teammates in the dugout after launching a three-run homer, so why wouldn’t the Nationals’ backup catcher crack a wide smile and don the colonial wig that has become this team’s new home run celebration?

“Just to be able to drive in some runs in that situation with two outs and help my team, that’s all that mattered there,” he said following the Nats’ 11-6 thumping of the Giants on Wednesday. “It’s pretty cool to see them, and it’s my first time putting on a wig in a while, so I was happy about that.”

Celebration opportunities are few and far between for Adams, because playing time is few and far between. This was the Nationals’ 37th game of the season, but it was only his sixth game played despite being on the active roster since Opening Day.

Such is life for the No. 2 catcher on a team that recently locked up its No. 1 catcher with an eight-year extension. Adams, though, is fine with the role. As are others on the Nationals bench who understand their job isn’t to get regular at-bats. It’s to be ready and make sure to make the most of the few at-bats they do get.

“I know my role. I’ve known my role from the get-go, from the start of the season,” backup infielder Ildemaro Vargas said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “So I have to be prepared. I work off the field a lot more than most of the guys, because I have to be ready.”

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Nats blast Giants, give Gray plenty of support in win (updated)

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SAN FRANCISCO – Run support is a funny thing. It comes and goes, often without rationale or explanation. Some guys get tons of it. Some never get it. Some have no idea what they’re going to get from one game to the next.

Josiah Gray had been the biggest victim in the Nationals rotation, really in the major leagues, through much of April, the recipient of a grand total of one run from his teammates through his first four starts of the season.

And then something funny happened. The Nats started hitting on the days Gray pitched. They scored five runs April 25 in New York. They scored seven runs April 30 against the Pirates. And this afternoon, they torched left-hander Sean Manaea early and often en route to an 11-6 dismantling of the Giants, who scored four late runs off the bullpen to make the final margin look far more competitive than it was in reality.

That kind of support allowed Gray to cruise through seven innings on a cool, 57-degree Wednesday afternoon along the shores of the San Francisco Bay, earning his third win of the season and leading the Nationals to another series win on the road.

"It's been great," Gray said. "I think with our guys going out there early and scoring runs, it kind of puts you at ease. You go out there and make your pitches, and when you see three runs in the first two innings, it gets you at ease. You don't have to nibble as much. These guys have been phenomenal the way they've supported me the last few outings. I hope it keeps going, because when we're scoring runs early and often, we're a really good team."

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Game 37 lineups: Nats at Giants

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SAN FRANCISCO – The Nationals have an opportunity today to win another road series and head home with a .500 road trip. They’ve been a .500 team away from D.C. the entire season to date, entering this one with a 9-9 record (as opposed to 6-12 at home). And they’ll have one of their best starters on the mound this afternoon at Oracle Park.

Josiah Gray opened this trip with a rare blah start in Arizona, allowing three runs and seven hits in only five innings. He would very much like to get back on track today with an outing more reflective of the way he’s pitched through the majority of the season’s first six weeks. The Nats would love to get six-plus innings out of the right-hander, but with most of the bullpen fresh and a day off Thursday, Davey Martinez should have the flexibility to manage the later innings however he likes.

Sean Manaea starts for the Giants, and Martinez has a few changes to his lineup against the left-hander. CJ Abrams gets a rare day off (on the heels of a shaky performance Tuesday both at the plate and in the field), so it’s Ildemaro Vargas at shortstop. Keibert Ruiz also gets a well-deserved day off, his first of the trip, so it’ll be Riley Adams behind the plate. And Stone Garrett is back in left field against the left-hander, with Jake Alu coming off the bench following an 0-for-4 performance in his major league debut.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Where: Oracle Park
Gametime: 3:45 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 58 degrees, wind 15 mph out to center field

NATIONALS
RF Lane Thomas
2B Luis García
DH Joey Meneses
3B Jeimer Candelario
CF Alex Call
1B Dominic Smith
LF Stone Garrett
SS Ildemaro Vargas
C Riley Adams

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Vargas returns from IL, Downs optioned to Triple-A

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The Nationals have their utility man back in the dugout tonight, with Ildemaro Vargas activated from the 10-day injured list about 3 1/2 weeks after he jammed his left shoulder making a diving play in the field.

Vargas rejoins the team after a brief rehab stint with Triple-A Rochester, where he appeared in three games and went 1-for-10 at the plate.

“I watched some of his swings last night,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I know he struck out, but he hit some balls hard. He felt good. He said he had no pain whatsoever.”

The 31-year-old infielder hurt himself April 9 in Colorado when he jammed his shoulder while making a play at second base against the Rockies. He finished the game but was in significant pain the following day, so the Nationals placed him on the IL and called up Jeter Downs to fill his role on the bench.

Downs, 24, wound up appearing in only one game during his three weeks on the big league roster, and that came late in Saturday night’s blowout loss to the Pirates. A onetime top prospect of the Dodgers and Red Sox, he was claimed off waivers this winter by the Nationals, who intended to have him play every day at Triple-A and see if he could recapture the form that made him so coveted he was a key piece in the trade that sent Mookie Betts from Boston to Los Angeles.

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Vargas leaves for rehab assignment; Martinez on lineup changes

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NEW YORK – The Nationals had one noticeable player missing from the clubhouse before tonight’s series finale against the Mets. Ildemaro Vargas, on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder strain since April 11, left the team to start a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester.

“He went out this morning, though they, unfortunately, had a day game today,” manager Davey Martinez said of his backup utility infielder. “So he's got to start playing tomorrow.”

Vargas jammed his shoulder while making a diving play earlier this month in Colorado. He had recently been able to most of the usual baseball activities, but Martinez had said it still bothered the switch-hitter when swinging right-handed.

When he arrives at Rochester, Vargas will get most of his reps at shortstop while also getting at-bats from both sides of the plate.

“Yeah, he's got to go out there,” Martinez said. “I want him to play some shortstop. I want to see him field. He's definitely got to swing the bat. Hopefully, he can swing both left-handed and right-handed. But we'll see how he does and we'll see how long it's gonna take for him to go out and come back. There's no timetable yet, but hopefully it's only a few days.”

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Doolittle throws live BP session

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NEW YORK – Sean Doolittle took a significant step forward in his rehab from a procedure on his left elbow.

The left-hander, signed to a minor league deal and working out at the Nationals complex in West Palm Beach, finally faced live hitters in a batting practice session for the first time since the early portions of spring training.

“Doolittle actually threw a live BP,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame meeting with the media in his office at Citi Field. “I'm still waiting on the results now, but the gist of it is that he felt really good. And so I want to see what the velo is and how many pitches he threw. I haven't got it yet.”

Even with the specific details of the outing still to be known, getting on the mound and facing live hitters is no small feat for the 36-year-old.

“We were trying to get him about 20 pitches,” Martinez said. “So like I said, I haven't seen the results yet. But from what I heard, he said he felt really good afterwards.”

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Workhorse Ruiz bumped up to No. 2 spot in lineup

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MINNEAPOLIS – Trying to find some kind of spark for a lineup that has been shut out its last two games, Davey Martinez has moved Keibert Ruiz up to the No. 2 spot for tonight’s series opener against the Twins.

Ruiz had mostly been batting fifth or sixth this season, with two other games in the cleanup spot. He’s been one of the team’s few productive hitters in recent days, with a pair of three-hit games during the Nationals’ last homestand to raise his batting average 40 points to .262.

Martinez had tried to stick with Dominic Smith in the 2-spot, but the first baseman has looked lost at times at the plate, has zero extra-base hits so far this season and sports a weak .550 OPS. Smith was moved down to the No. 6 position tonight, the lowest he’s batted so far this year.

“We really need to get Dom going. He’s a big part of our offense,” Martinez said. “I just dropped him down a little bit. Keibert’s swinging the bat well. I talked to him today and not changing anything. Just continue to put the bat on the ball. He’s done well, so we’ll give him an opportunity to bat second today and see how it goes.”

Though he hasn’t hit for much power either, with one double in his last seven games, Ruiz has been hitting the ball with more authority, going 9 for his last 24. Even more impressive, he hasn’t struck out during this stretch.

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Updates on Dickerson, Doolittle, Kieboom and more

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The start of a new series brings the latest injury updates from Nationals manager Davey Martinez.

It’s a new habit he’s starting this season. It’s helpful for him so he doesn’t get caught off-guard when we ask about a hurt player. It’s helpful for us so we don’t forget about a player to ask about.

Corey Dickerson, Sean Doolittle and Carter Kieboom are the headliners, with each making some steps forward in their respective rehabs.

Dickerson, now eligible to come off the 10-day injured list with a left calf strain, is able to do basic baseball activities including hitting and throwing. It’s just running that still is an issue.

“The soreness is diminishing. He's hitting, he's throwing,” Martinez said of Dickerson. “The next step is to get him on the field and start doing some agility stuff and then get him to run. Once he builds to that, the agility stuff is going to be the key. Once he can do that and do it well with no pain, he can start running. So hopefully we get him back.”

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Dickerson goes on IL with calf strain, Garrett recalled

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Though he won’t undergo an MRI until later today, Corey Dickerson was already placed on the 10-day injured list this morning by the Nationals, who couldn’t afford to wait for test results on their veteran left fielder’s left calf.

Needing another healthy outfielder on the active roster for today’s series finale against the Braves, the Nats called up Stone Garrett, who arrived from Triple-A Rochester this morning and reported straight to Nationals Park.

The team is calling Dickerson’s injury a left calf strain for now, pending results of his MRI. The 33-year-old told manager Davey Martinez he first felt tightness as he jogged off the field following the top of the seventh inning of Saturday’s 7-1 loss. Not wanting to take any chances, Martinez had utility man Ildemaro Vargas take over in left field for the final two innings of the game.

“I’d rather it be a shorter stint than try to push it and it becomes a bigger issue,” the manager said.

Dickerson, who signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Nationals this winter, missed one month with a left calf strain last season while playing for the Cardinals.

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How Kieboom and Candelario news affects Nats at third base

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Today is an off-day for the Nationals, the last one until the team breaks camp and heads north for an exhibition game against the Yankees in D.C. on March 28 before Opening Day against the Braves two days later.

But enough news trickled out of the team’s side of the complex at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches yesterday to get us through today. And both of the major headlines affect the Nats at third base.

The first was the morning news that Carter Kieboom suffered a setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. The 25-year-old had just played in his first major league game in 17 months on Thursday as the designated hitter against the Marlins and now will be slowed down in camp.

“It started to flare up on me,” Kieboom said of his right shoulder tightness after Sunday’s game against the Astros. “And the last thing I want to do in this situation where I'm coming back is have something like this bother me and then you start kind of tweaking your own mechanics and start compensating for things. And that's what gets you in trouble again. So it's important to pay attention to these things. Whether it's an early onset of it, it's important to take care of it now that way it's a one-to-two-to-three-day thing versus a two-to-three-week thing. So we're on it very early and it's just something to stay on top of.

“It's important to have proper mechanics and with a healthy arm, I can have proper mechanics. It's something coming back from an elbow injury, you don't want a sore shoulder. You start dropping your arm and stuff like that. So I think we're on it very early and I feel very confident with it.”

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Bogar affirms that Nats value versatility

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The writing has been on the wall all offseason. Baseball has changed over recent years, and the Nationals have committed to adapting to it.

Versatility is the name of the game.

Gone are the days managers would trot out the same eight defenders in their same designated positions along with a starting pitcher expected to go seven or eight innings every day over the course of a 162-game season.

Now it’s all about getting more bang for your buck. Can a player fill multiple roles? Can he play all over the infield, or both the infield and the outfield? Can a fringe starting pitcher also be a swing man out of the bullpen?

Find a way to keep your best players fresh and on the field as much as possible based on what the matchups dictate.

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Meneses delivers Nats' first walk-off win with three-run homer (updated)

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In years past, today’s result between the 44-86 Nationals and 49-82 Athletics would have been actually important. The finale of a three-game set between teams who have two of the worst records in the major leagues and split the first two matchups would have had draft-order implications for the following year.

But alas, the implementation of the MLB Draft lottery gives the three teams with the worst records an equal chance at next year’s No. 1 overall pick, rendering this just another getaway-day game between two bottom-feeders.

Whatever the stakes, the end result was an exciting 7-5 walk-off victory for the Nationals in 10 innings.

Who else but Joey "Four Bags" Meneses to deliver the game-winning blow?

With two runners on base in a 5-4 game in the 10th, the Nats' new slugging right fielder and No. 2 hitter stepped to the plate to hit a three-run homer for an extra-inning win.

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Martinez on Adrianza trade, Harris return and selecting Vargas

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And here. We. Go.

With the trade deadline about 24 hours away, the baseball world is already abuzz with moves and even more rumors. The Nationals, who figure to play a major role in this year’s deadline, have already gotten the ball rolling, making their first of the numerous trades expected over these next two days.

This afternoon the Nationals traded utility player Ehire Adrianza to the Braves, for whom he played last year, in exchange for 26-year-old outfielder Trey Harris. Adrianza signed a one-year contract with the Nats in March but had his season delayed due to a quadriceps strain during the last week of spring training.

After finally joining the big league club, the 32-year-old played a variety of roles for manager Davey Martinez, appearing at second base, third base, shortstop and left field over 31 games. Adrianza hit .179 with two doubles, seven RBIs, one stolen base and five runs scored with the Nats.

“I talked to Ehire. He gets an opportunity to go back to where he was from and go help them,” Martinez said during his pregame press conference. “And they're in the playoff run, so I'm excited for him that he gets to go back there. I wish I would have seen more of Ehire here because I know the kind of player that he is. He got off to a slow start, and I really believe it's because he was injured. You know, he had a bad injury with the quad and he really couldn't get going. But I loved having him. He was a constant professional. I know I could count on him going out there and doing whatever I asked him to do, no matter what. So I wished him all the best. And I told him, I said, ‘Maybe we'll cross paths again here one day soon.’”

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