Sloppy Nats shut down by Clevinger after benches clear (updated)

Dominic Smith benches clear

The Nationals were looking to build off their dramatic win Sunday in Milwaukee and start their final homestand of the season on a strong note. In fact, manager Davey Martinez has mentioned multiple times over the last week the importance of his team finishing the regular season strong heading into the offseason.

Obviously, wins would be nice, but that also includes clean baseball all around.

While welcoming the White Sox, who are the last sub-.500 team they will face this season, to town for three matchups, the Nats did not get off to a good start to these last seven games to be played on South Capitol Street in the 2023 campaign.

The Nats dropped tonight’s opener to the White Sox 6-1 as Mike Clevinger pitched a complete game against the home squad in front of an announced crowd of 20,977 at Nationals Park, with some ugly scenes along the way.

The ugliest from both sides came when benches and bullpens cleared in the bottom of the ninth inning.

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Scrappy Nats rally for fifth straight series win (updated)

irvin pitching blue

MIAMI – The Nationals have been playing great ball lately. After last night’s 7-4 win over the Marlins – their first of the season against the Fish and first in Miami since last season – they were in line to win their fifth straight series this afternoon.

A sign of their good play recently is the amount of close games they’ve been in. Four of their last five wins have been by just a one-run margin. These Nats are as scrappy as ever after making it five of their last six.

The Nationals won another tight game in front of 13,966 fans at loanDepot Park, this time thanks to a ninth-inning rally for a 3-2 win.

“That was a good one," said manager Davey Martinez. "That's a well-played game."

The Nats tied it in the ninth after Lane Thomas hit a leadoff triple to right-center and Joey Meneses was hit by a pitch, with Jacob Young making his major league debut as a pinch-runner at first. But Dominic Smith’s hard-hit ball was fielded by Luis Arraez, who then threw out Thomas at home. An infield popout by Carter Kieboom put two outs on the board.

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Nats bullpen has gone from mess to elite in three weeks

Jordan Weems white jersey

When the Nationals left Wrigley Field on July 19, they did so with a bullpen in shambles.

Hunter Harvey had just joined an injured list that already included Carl Edwards Jr. The rest of the group featured one established late-inning arm in Kyle Finnegan, a once-promising setup man now in the midst of massive slump in Mason Thompson and a bunch of other inexperienced and ineffective pitchers who had just endured through a nightmare of a series.

Over the course of their last two games against the Cubs, Nationals relievers had collectively surrendered 20 earned runs on 18 hits and seven walks in only 5 2/3 innings of work. They twice turned competitive, low-scoring games into lopsided blowouts.

At that point, all Davey Martinez could do was acknowledge the situation he was in, and hope things would improve with time and experience.

“They’re going to get another opportunity,” the manager insisted after an embarrassing 17-3 loss. “Many more opportunities. Hopefully they bounce back and learn from today.”

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Untested bullpen blasted in blowout at Wrigley (updated)

willingham and team blue

CHICAGO – Davey Martinez knew it was probably going to come to this tonight. With Mason Thompson and Kyle Finnegan having both pitched 1 1/3 innings in order to seal Monday night’s win over the Cubs, the Nationals manager was going to have to entrust some high-leverage situations to young, untested relievers in this game.

So it was no surprise when the bullpen door underneath the right field bleachers opened up in the sixth and seventh innings of a tight ballgame and out trotted Amos Willingham and Jose A. Ferrer. Sadly, it may not have surprised many when those two rookies – and then journeyman Paolo Espino – imploded before everyone's eyes, combining to allow an astounding 14 runs and turn a tight ballgame into a farcical, 17-3 loss.

This is the current state of the Nationals bullpen. With Hunter Harvey (elbow strain) and Carl Edwards Jr. (shoulder inflammation) on the injured list, Martinez has only two semi-proven late-inning options in Thompson and Finnegan. And when he needed those two to record the final eight outs of Monday’s 7-5 win, he left himself with no choice but to see how these newcomers might handle a big moment.

It did not go well.

Willingham, a 2019 17th round pick who hadn’t pitched above Single-A before this season, got out of a sixth-inning jam but did not retire any of the four batters he faced in the seventh. Patrick Wisdom homered to open that inning, and three singles followed before Martinez pulled the 24-year-old.

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Nats pitching staff falters in nightcap loss (updated)

Jake Irvin throw gray

ST. LOUIS – Under the circumstances, Davey Martinez had to do what he had to do earlier in the day. His Nationals had a chance to win the completion of Friday night’s suspended game, so he used all of his top relievers to make sure his team did ultimately prevail in extra innings over the Cardinals.

The danger in going for it this afternoon, of course, was leaving the bullpen without those top arms tonight. And the Nats paid the price for it.

A trio of secondary relievers gave up four runs in the span of two innings, turning a tie game into a 9-6 loss to cap a long day of baseball in downtown St. Louis that featured yet another rain delay.

After Jake Irvin lasted only three innings in a laborious start, Martinez turned to rookies Amos Willingham and Jose A. Ferrer, then veteran Paolo Espino to keep the game within reach. They couldn’t do it, with Willingham and Ferrer combining to allow three runs in the fifth and then Espino allowing one in the sixth and then another tack-on run in the eighth.

The Nationals wound up splitting the doubleheader and will need to win Sunday’s finale to emerge with their fifth series win in their last six tries. Tonight’s loss prevented them from pulling off their first four-game winning streak since June 27-30, 2021.

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Ward lands on IL, Nats keep two lefties in bullpen

ward pitching gray

After spending the majority of the season to date with zero left-handers in their bullpen, the Nationals are going to keep two for the time being after making another roster move today, but not the one that seemed the likeliest.

With Patrick Corbin returning from the bereavement list, the Nats placed Thaddeus Ward on the 15-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation, keeping both Jose A. Ferrer and Joe La Sorsa in a bullpen that suddenly includes two lefties.

Ferrer just made his major league debut Saturday after his promotion from Triple-A Rochester. The 23-year-old pitched a scoreless inning against the Phillies, then did it again during Sunday’s 5-4 victory. He’ll now get a chance to stay and prove he can enjoy continued success at this level.

“He’s throwing the ball well,” manager Davey Martinez said. “The biggest thing I like is he’s throwing strikes. It’s something I talked to him about when he got here: ‘It doesn’t matter how hard you throw, or what you throw. It’s about throwing strike one.’ And so far, he’s done that.”

La Sorsa, who made two appearances for the Rays earlier this season before the Nationals claimed him off waivers and called him up late last month, impressed in his first two outings but allowed four runs while facing only five batters during Saturday’s 19-4 loss in Philadelphia.

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Nats routed by Phillies after Gore departs early (updated)


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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Ferrer wants to improve slider while soaking in major league experience

Jose Ferrer red spring

PHILADELPHIA – It was an easy move for the Nationals to make when they found out Patrick Corbin needed to go on the bereavement list for a family matter.

Corbin had just pitched a gem Wednesday in Seattle, leading the Nats to a 4-1 victory over the Mariners. His spot in the rotation won’t come up again until Tuesday against the Reds, so the Nats could add an arm to their bullpen for this weekend series against the Phillies.

Luck would have it Triple-A Rochester was playing a little over an hour away against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate. And with Jose A. Ferrer already on the 40-man roster, he could easily be activated to take Corbin’s spot on the active roster during the veteran starter’s time away from the team.

So it was that the Nats recalled Ferrer and had him meet the team in Philadelphia on Friday. After spending much of the season with no lefties in the bullpen, now Davey Martinez has two: Ferrer and Joe La Sorsa.

Ferrer flew up the Nats’ farm system last year. He went 3-2 with 11 saves, a 2.48 ERA, 0.995 WHIP, 78 strikeouts and just 11 walks in 65 ⅓ innings over 48 relief appearances between Single-A Fredericksburg, High-A Wilmington and Double-A Harrisburg last year. Among Nationals minor leaguers, the 23-year-old was third in saves and appearances.

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