Young and Lipscomb get rare days off in Fenway finale

lipscomb fielding white

BOSTON – After running out the same lineup for the first two games against the Red Sox, Davey Martinez mixed it up for Sunday’s finale at Fenway Park.

Jacob Young and Trey Lipscomb are getting rare days off today. Victor Robles returns to center field with Jesse Winker in left and Eddie Rosario in right, while Ildemaro Vargas takes over at third base and Nick Senzel serves as the designated hitter. And Riley Adams is giving Keibert Ruiz some rest for just the fourth game since returning from the injured list with a case of influenza.

“Jacob has been playing. He's just been beat up a little bit, so I want to give him a day,” Martinez said during his pregame media session. “Give Lipscomb a day and get Vargas in there. For me, it's about keeping all these guys engaged and keeping them fresh. Riley's in there today, Senzel's back in the day. But these young guys are playing really well. I gotta make sure I take care of them and that they're fresh. Here we go today. Try to go 1-0 today.”

Neither Young nor Lipscomb made the Opening Day roster out of spring training. But both were early call-ups and have been getting the majority of the playing time in their respective positions. Young has played in 30 of the Nats’ first 38 games, starting 27 of them. Lipscomb has played in 29 games, starting all but one of them.

Young is fourth in the National League with 12 stolen bases and started his career a perfect 25-for-25 in stolen base attempts, which is tied for the fourth-longest streak to start a major league career. He is also one of three current major league players to have at least a .275 average, 20 runs and 10 stolen bases (Trea Turner and Bobby Witt Jr.).

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Robles returns to active roster, but not lineup yet


Victor Robles is back on the Nationals roster, but not back in their lineup yet.

The Nats activated Robles off the 10-day injured list this afternoon, the outfielder having proven he has fully recovered from the left hamstring strain he suffered during the season’s first week. The club optioned Alex Call to Triple-A Rochester to clear a roster spot.

Robles played in only four games before suffering his injury running the bases. He was off to a solid start, reaching base in three of his five plate appearances and stealing two bases, on the heels of a strong spring in which he hit .368 with a .455 on-base percentage.

All that progress, though, was disrupted by his injury, which knocked him out a full month. He went on a rehab assignment in Rochester last week and over the course of six games went 7-for-20 with a double, a triple, three RBIs and three walks, convincing club officials and himself he was ready to return.

“I feel great,” he said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “My legs feel great. I have no discomfort when I’m running around.”

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Nats return to former infield alignment after rough Saturday

Trey Lipscomb defense

To the eye, the Nationals have played better defense this season, whether in the form of above-average plays in the infield, strong throws from the outfield or improved work behind the plate.

The metrics don’t quite see as much improvement yet.

The Nats enter today with minus-14 Defensive Runs Saved, which ranks 26th out of 30 major league clubs, according to Sports Info Solutions. They rate better in FanGraphs’ overall defensive metric, checking in at 19th in the majors.

The most encouraging sign of improvement is in the old-fashioned department of errors: The Nationals have been charged with only 14 of them this season (tied for fifth-fewest in the majors), and that includes the four errors they committed during Saturday’s ugly 6-3 loss to the Blue Jays.

“Just one of those days,” manager Davey Martinez said afterward. “We’ve been playing really good defense, and I harp on it all the time. Today just wasn’t that day.”

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Young available off bench, Gray feels good after first bullpen session

Young dugout gray

Jacob Young is available off the bench for Saturday’s game after departing in the top of the fifth inning of Friday’s 9-3 victory over the Blue Jays.

While batting leadoff and playing center field, Young was 1-for-2 with a leadoff double in the third, coming around to score the Nats’ first run of the night, but was replaced two innings later by Jesse Winker with back spasms, manager Davey Martinez confirmed after the game.

The 24-year-old outfielder was seen in the Nats clubhouse this afternoon coming back from the batting cages with his bat and gloves, presumably taking swings to test out his back. Although he’s not in the starting lineup, with Alex Call taking over in center field and CJ Abrams bumped back up to the leadoff spot, Martinez said Young should be available to either pinch-hit or pinch-run.

“He's better today. He's better,” Martinez said of Young. “He'll be available, maybe, to come off the bench. Pinch-hit or pinch-run or something. But he's doing better.”

Even though Young is feeling better, Martinez did not play with the idea of putting him back in the starting lineup today.

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García's blast off the bench lifts Nats back to .500 (updated)

garcia abrams dugout

Asked this afternoon about the new-look lineup he put together after his Nationals were held to two total runs the previous three days, Davey Martinez smirked.

"The definition of insanity, right?" the manager said. "Hey, I'm going to try to do something."

That new look – Jacob Young leading off, ahead of CJ Abrams – did produce the Nats’ first run of the night against the Blue Jays. But it was Martinez’s other big decision later in the evening that paid off the most.

With his offensively challenged team desperately needing runs in bunches, Martinez sent Luis García Jr. to the plate to pinch-hit for Trey Lipscomb with two on in the bottom of the seventh. Seconds later, García was circling the bases to flashing red stadium lights, his three-run homer giving the Nationals a lead they ultimately expanded into a much-needed, 9-3 victory over Toronto.

"It's hard to explain with words the emotions that run through you," said García, who is now batting .300 with an .800 OPS, via interpreter Octavio Martinez.

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Young won't dwell on end of streak, hopes to start new one


ARLINGTON, Texas – This wasn’t how Jacob Young envisioned the streak coming to an end. If he was finally going to be thrown out trying to steal a base, he didn’t want it to be the result of an overslide.

“You’d rather get thrown out by six steps than have something like that happen,” the Nationals rookie said with a laugh. “But in my mind, it was going to end eventually. I feel like throughout (the streak), we were able to change a lot of games doing it. We’ll just keep on going and start a new one.”

Young had been a perfect 25-for-25 stealing bases since making his major league debut late last season. It was the fifth-longest streak to begin a career in major league history. And when he took off for second in the top of the ninth Wednesday night, he had good reason to believe he was about to be 26-for-26.

Young beat Rangers catcher Jonah Heim’s throw, his left hand reaching second base before shortstop Corey Seager applied the tag. But his momentum carried him past the bag, and perhaps with a little extra push by Seager’s glove, he came off the base with the tag still applied. Second base umpire Alan Porter called him out, and thus did the streak end.

Young had a brief conversation with Porter, asking about the possibility of a push. The umpire told him what Seager did was legal.

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Game 29 lineups: Nats at Rangers

Gore pitching gray

ARLINGTON, Texas – Hello from Globe Life Park, home of the defending World Series champions. The Nationals come to town flying high after a four-game sweep of the Marlins, but the challenge over the next three days will be markedly more significant. If they can pull off another win tonight, though, it’ll be notable for a couple of reasons: 1) The Nats would own a winning record at any point in the season for the first time since July 1, 2021, and 2) They would finish April with a winning record for the first time since 2017 (when Dusty Baker was manager).

The Nationals have been getting excellent starting pitching through this run, so they’ll hope that continues tonight with MacKenzie Gore. Though he didn’t have his best stuff last week, Gore impressively held the Dodgers to only one run in six innings. He should enter this start with confidence.

At the plate, the Nats will try to keep the pressure on by not only getting on base but advancing once they’re on. We saw how effective they could be running over the weekend in Miami. Look for more of the same tonight against Texas starter Jon Gray and catcher Jonah Heim, who has thrown out only 3-of-18 base stealers so far this year.

Globe Life Park
Gametime: 8:05 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish),
Weather: Indoors

SS CJ Abrams
LF Jesse Winker
1B Joey Meneses
2B Luis García Jr.
C Keibert Ruiz
DH Nick Senzel
RF Eddie Rosario
3B Trey Lipscomb
CF Jacob Young

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Nats' formula of creating "havoc" coming to fruition with young speedsters

CJ Abrams running

MIAMI – The Nationals came into this four-game series with the Marlins in search of some offense.

No, this team is not built to hit home runs, with their 26 longballs ranking 21st in the major leagues. They’re built to get on base, use their speed to advance by stealing or taking an extra base on a ball put in play, and then scoring with productive at-bats at the plate.

They have been very good at the first two parts of that formula (they are second in the majors with 48 stolen bases). But not so much with the third (bottom third in runs scored).

They began the weekend with their slash line with runners in scoring position ranking near the bottom of the majors and with their 60 RBIs with RISP last in the National League.

But they have found a good mixture of that formula through the first three games in South Beach, thanks in large part to CJ Abrams, Jesse Winker, Trey Lipscomb and Jacob Young.

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Nats complete epic comeback win to seal series over Marlins (updated)

Nick Senzel home run hug

MIAMI – The Nationals entered Sunday’s game against the Marlins looking to win their fourth series of their last six, which would be an impressive finish to the season’s first month after they dropped four of their first five.

Very quickly it looked like they would have to wait until Monday night’s finale to wrap up this four-game wrap-around set, as they fell behind 7-0 in the first two innings with Patrick Corbin on the mound.

But the boys battled back rapidly, scoring 10 unanswered runs in the fourth and fifth innings to take the lead and then two more insurance runs late to keep it. And on the ninth anniversary of the infamous “Dan Uggla Game” in Atlanta (when the Nats rallied from a 10-2 deficit to beat the Braves 13-12 thanks to Uggla’s three-run home run in the ninth) the Nationals showed their relentlessness again in a 12-9 victory in front of a stunned announced crowd of 15,894.

“This group, I say all the time, they fight, they play hard and they're just relentless. They really are," manager Davey Martinez said after the epic rally. "They stick together. It's been a fun group so far. They want to win. They really do. They're hungry to win and you can see that. There was no give up. We were down and we kept working good at-bats and hit some big home runs."

The first five runs were manufactured in the fourth against Marlins lefty starter Ryan Weathers, with the usual suspects from yesterday’s offensive outburst leading the way.

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Parker handles adversity, Winker hits grand slam in rout of Marlins (updated)

Winker in dugout

MIAMI – It was unfair and unrealistic to think Mitchell Parker would continue his dominant start to his major league career much longer. At some point, major league hitters would catch up to the 24-year-old.

Even the lowly Marlins, who own the second-worst record in the majors, have good big-league hitters in their lineup. And with two starts worth of video on Parker, it wasn’t going to be an easy walk in loanDepot park for the lefty.

And so it was that Parker ran into his first bit of adversity in his third major league start. But he continued to impress by battling it and grinding through four innings, allowing the Nationals to win their second game in a row against the Marlins. The win was mainly fueled by Jesse Winker’s grand slam, resulting in the Nats' 11-4 rout in front of an announced crowd of 12,695.

“Winker with the big blow," manager Davey Martinez said after the win. "He put us up top and I think the guys kind of loosened up a little bit. We started swinging our bats. ... It was a good day offensively, a good day. So we gotta come back and do it again tomorrow.”

Parker displayed great command in his first two starts by striking out 12 and issuing zero walks, which were an issue for him since he entered the Nats system as a 2020 fifth-round pick. The free passes came back to haunt him in the first inning as he issued the first two of his big league career to help Luis Arraez reach third base.

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Playing with "hair on fire," Nats are stealing bases at record pace

Trey Lipscomb steals second base

SAN FRANCISCO – The most surprising thing about the Nationals’ 7-1 loss to the Giants on Wednesday? Nobody on the team stole more than one base during the game.

This wouldn’t normally qualify as any kind of surprise. Except the 2024 Nationals have made such feats on the basepaths so commonplace, it’s suddenly shocking when it doesn’t happen on any particular day.

The season is only two weeks old as of today, so much could still change. But at this early juncture on the baseball calendar, the Nats lead the majors with 25 stolen bases. And they’ve been caught only twice, making for a 93 percent success rate that dwarfs anything they’ve done before.

“They’re playing with their hair on fire,” manager Davey Martinez said. “And I like it.”

This was a point of emphasis from Martinez and his coaches to their players throughout spring training. They knew this lineup’s shortcomings (power) and strengths (young athleticism). Instead of lamenting what they didn’t have, why not take full advantage of what they do have?

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Corbin roughed up as Nats fail to complete San Francisco sweep (updated)


SAN FRANCISCO – A wild, eventful, successful opening series to this long West Coast trip gave way to an entirely undramatic loss in this afternoon’s finale.

A Nationals club that did so many things well – and overcame a sudden string of injuries – to take two straight from the Giants the previous two nights, did little well during a 7-1 loss at Oracle Park. And because of it, there was no first sweep of 2024, nor a return to .500 for now.

Patrick Corbin could not make enough pitches to prevent San Francisco from racking up seven runs and 11 hits off him, the left-hander’s worst of three starts to begin the year.

Corbin’s defense did him few favors, failing to make several plays that could have bailed him out and ended innings much sooner.

And the Nats lineup inflicted very little damage against Jordan Hicks, who was all over the place yet somehow allowed only one run on four hits and two walks in six innings.

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Nats get power, execution and a tense save to earn third straight win (updated)

CJ Abrams

SAN FRANCISCO – The 2024 Nationals aren’t constructed to win games with power. More often than not, they’re going to need to manufacture runs when presented with the opportunity.

Of course, nobody said they can’t do both on the same night, and emerge victorious because of it.

Thanks to an early blast from CJ Abrams, some patented small ball late and then a major escape act from Kyle Finnegan in the ninth, the Nats pulled off a 5-3 win over the Giants tonight at Oracle Park, taking the first two games of this series and securing their first three-game winning streak of the young season.

"I just think that's kind of the way we're built," said rookie center fielder Jacob Young, who became the third member of the team already this year to steal three bases in a game. "We have a bunch of guys who can do a lot of different things. ... We have a lot of ways we can hurt you."

Abrams’ two-run homer in the third – a 423-foot missile to deep right-center that nearly cleared the bleachers to reach McCovey Cove – gave the Nationals an early lead and served as a hearty welcome back for the young shortstop, who missed the previous three games with a bone bruise on his left pinky finger.

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Another rough start by Gray sends Nats to another series loss (updated)

GettyImages-1617578897 gray home blue

The Nationals know what Josiah Gray looks like at his best, slinging up any of seven different pitches to keep hitters off-balance and induce a host of swings and misses while escaping the occasional jam.

The Nationals also know what Gray looks like at his worst, unable to locate his fastball, unable to put away hitters, unable to extend outings due to high pitch counts.

And two starts into his 2024 campaign, the 26-year-old right-hander has resembled only the latter version of himself, not the former.

Hoping to bounce back from a disappointing Opening Day outing in Cincinnati last week, Gray instead regressed in some ways, getting roughed up by the Pirates early and often and failing to make it out of the fifth inning during what wound up a 7-4 loss in a rain-delayed series finale at Nationals Park.

One week after allowing seven runs on eight hits and two walks in four innings against the Reds, Gray was charged with six runs on seven hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings today, digging his teammates into a big hole early that made the rest of the affair mostly moot.

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Robles goes on IL with hamstring strain, Young comes up from Rochester

GettyImages-1499542595 victor robles

Victor Robles’ encouraging start to the season came to an abrupt halt Wednesday night when the Nationals center fielder strained his left hamstring running the bases, leading to his official placement today on the 10-day injured list.

Fellow outfielder Jacob Young was recalled from Triple-A Rochester to take Robles’ roster spot.

There was no immediate guess on a timetable for Robles to be out, but the strain is significant enough that club officials didn’t really consider keeping him on the active roster and hoping he’d be ready to return within days.

“It stinks about Vic,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He worked really hard to get back. Hopefully we can get him back soon, but it’s going to take him some time.”

It’s a frustrating development for Robles, who missed most of last season with a back injury that proved far more severe than initially believed. The 26-year-old was back healthy this spring and looked like he was finally starting to perform the way the Nats have long hoped he would, drawing three walks in his first five plate appearances after slashing .368/.455/.526 during spring training.

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Game 6 lineups: Nats vs. Pirates

GettyImages-1529404506 Gray home white

They managed to play Monday’s home opener as scheduled with no interruption. They managed to play Wednesday night as scheduled with no interruption. Can the Nationals and Pirates do the impossible and play today’s series finale as scheduled with no interruption?

There’s once again rain in the forecast, so that may be too much to ask for. But perhaps the baseball gods will smile upon us again and provide a window of dryness during the late-afternoon/early-evening hours.

The Nats will again be looking to win the rubber game of a series, having missed their chance to do that Sunday in Cincinnati when Kyle Finnegan blew the save. All things considered, if they could emerge from this opening week with a 3-3 record, everyone would have to be satisfied.

Josiah Gray is back on the mound for his second start, hoping for better results than his Opening Day outing. If nothing else, the right-hander really would like to go deeper in the game, perhaps even becoming the first Nationals starter to complete six innings this season.

The Nats are making a roster move today: Jacob Young is coming up from Triple-A Rochester, with Victor Robles headed to the injured list with a left hamstring strain. Young fits the profile well to take Robles’ spot, so look for him to share center field with Eddie Rosario and come off the bench to pinch-run and play defense late in games.

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Late-night cuts leave Nats with only one more roster decision

Trey Lipscomb spring training

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Nationals made four more cuts following tonight’s split-squad, day-night doubleheader, and in the process left themselves with only one more decision to make before their Opening Day roster is set.

The club optioned outfielders Alex Call and Jacob Young and catcher Drew Millas to Triple-A Rochester and reassigned reliever Jacob Barnes to minor league camp, leaving only 27 healthy players remaining heading into the final day of spring training.

The demotions of Call and Young leave the Nationals with four remaining outfielders, all of whom are expected to make the team: Lane Thomas, Victor Robles, Eddie Rosario and Jesse Winker. The latter two, who are on minor league contracts, will need to be added to the 40-man roster.

The demotion of Millas leaves the Nats’ catching tandem from the majority of the last two seasons (Keibert Ruiz and Riley Adams) intact.

The reassignment of Barnes, who pitched a scoreless inning tonight and finished the spring with an 0.87 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings, appears to solidify the Nationals’ Opening Day bullpen. Barring a late addition from outside the organization, the eight-man relief corps will include Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey, Dylan Floro, Tanner Rainey, Jordan Weems, Derek Law, Matt Barnes and Robert Garcia (the lone left-hander in the group). Law and Barnes, who signed minor league deals after camp began, will also need to be added to the 40-man roster.

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Young sticking to strengths to stand out in outfield shuffle

jacob young @TOR

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Unlike some other Nationals prospects, Jacob Young has been in this situation before. He’s no stranger to a major league clubhouse after spending the last month-plus of the 2023 season with the Nats.

He is new to a major league clubhouse at spring training, however, now enjoying his first big league camp. The 24-year-old is hoping his limited, but not insignificant, big league experience helps him this spring and onto the Opening Day roster.

In 33 games last year, Young hit .252 with a .658 OPS, seven doubles, one triple, a perfect 13-for-13 stolen bases, 10 walks and 22 strikeouts, while also playing solid, if not stellar, defense in the outfield.

“That experience, it was great,” Young said. “It was a lot of dreams come true, getting to do your first of a lot of things. It was good to kind of experience that with the family and my wife and everyone. It was just really cool to kind of get that under my belt. I think it's got me more ready for something like this. You know, the guy who just knows more of (his) routine. So it was a great experience. And then the offseason was awesome. I was down in Jacksonville just training. So it was a good offseason. I got to relax a little bit, but a lot of training.”

Young entered spring training on the 40-man roster. He’s a part of an outfield group that has some question marks and a lot of young talent on the way. Although he has an upper leg on his fellow prospects, he’s not a sure thing to make the roster once camp breaks north.

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How secure is Robles' job in center field?

Victor Robles leap white

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – It was something of an offhand comment, thrown in near the end of a longer answer to a question about his bench options to begin the season. But what Davey Martinez said Wednesday made a few ears perk up.

“We’re going to have a battle for center field with Young and Robles,” the Nationals manager said in his first media session of the spring, suggesting Victor Robles and Jacob Young were on equal footing entering camp.

That was a bit surprising, if only because Robles was re-signed over the winter for $2.65 million after missing most of the season with a back injury. Young, meanwhile, began 2023 at Single-A Wilmington and finished with 33 big-league games in D.C.

So, the inevitable follow-up question came Thursday during Martinez’s second media session of the spring: Is there an open competition in center field, with both Robles and Young having the same chances of starting Opening Day?

“If I had a say right now, I’d say Vic has a little bit of the upper hand,” Martinez clarified. “But I liked everything I saw about Jacob. He’s young, but you’ve got to remember, Vic is still really young. And he got hurt. I want to give him the opportunity to come back this year, and have a good spring training and see what he can do. I love what Jacob did, and I know he can play up here and help us win games. I think he showed that, and I think he’s going to get better. But Vic was our center fielder, and right now I say they’re going to compete. If they both were equal, I would say that Vic has the upper hand.”

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With Gallo signing, Nats lineup starting to take shape

Joey Gallo Twins white

It was a tricky task just days ago: For this week’s “The Hot Stove Show” on MASN All Access, I was struggling to put together a potential Opening Day starting defensive lineup graphic with the Nationals roster as it stood at the time.

Some positions were obvious: Keibert Ruiz was the starting catcher, CJ Abrams at shortstop and Lane Thomas in right field.

Some I could piece together: At the Winter Meetings, general manager Mike Rizzo and skipper Davey Martinez said Joey Meneses was going to play more first base. When Nick Senzel signed, he said he was being brought in to be the everyday third baseman. And until some prospects get more seasoning, no one is immediately pressing Luis García Jr. or Victor Robles for their jobs at second base and center field, respectively. (Yet.)

The starting pitcher came down to Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore. I went with Gray as he has tenure with the team and was the more consistent pitcher over the course of last season. It seemed the most logical choice, with the idea that short of an injury, Gore would have to very obviously outperform Gray in camp to get the Opening Day duties instead.

That left the designated hitter, left field and three bench spots open.

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