Game 24 lineups: Nats at Mets

trevor williams cherry

NEW YORK – Here we go again: For the second straight series, the Nationals have put themselves in position to earn their first three-game sweep since June 14-16, 2021, when they took three straight at home against the Pirates. It’s also the second straight series they’ll have this opportunity on the road, this time at Citi Field against the Mets, who entered this series only a half-game out of first place in the National League East. The Nats last swept a three-game road series Aug. 23-25, 2019 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Trevor Williams will look to become the fourth straight Nats starting pitcher to turn in a quality start and fifth in the last six games. He’ll also be doing so while taking the mound at Citi Field for the first time since signing a two-year, $13 million contract with the Nats this offseason.

Williams is off to a strong start with his new team. He’s a respectable 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.078 WHIP over his first four starts, completing at least five innings each time out and allowing no more than three runs per start.

The Nationals offense will be tasked with facing their first left-hander of this series in Joey Lucchesi. The 29-year-old made his first major league start since recovering from Tommy John surgery last year on Friday in San Francisco, completing seven shutout innings and allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out nine in a win over the Giants.

Victor Robles is the only Nationals regular to have faced Lucchesi ahead of tonight, going 4-for-8 with a solo home run. Meanwhile, Dominic Smith gets a day off and Stone Garrett will DH against Lucchesi, moving Joey Meneses to first base. And Luis García takes tonight off, but it’s Michael Chavis playing second base instead of Jeter Downs.

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Chavis starts at second with García, Vargas both healing


ANAHEIM, Calif. – Michael Chavis made the Nationals’ Opening Day roster because of his positional versatility, the club wanted to make sure it had another player on its bench who could handle multiple infield positions if needed.

Chavis’ presence is coming in handy tonight, because with both Luis García an Ildemaro Vargas banged up, the 27-year-old is getting the start at second base for the Nats’ series opener against the Angels.

García, who is dealing with tightness in his right hamstring, went through early running drills to test his leg out. He didn’t appear to have any problems, but he also didn’t appear to be running at 100 percent. He’s not in the lineup for the third straight day, though he did participate in batting practice.

Vargas, who jammed his left shoulder making a diving play at second base during the first inning Sunday in Colorado, was able to finish out the game but admitted he was sore and was having trouble reaching for throws. He was set to meet with doctors this afternoon before learning about his availability for the game.

“I got real nervous,” Vargas said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “I’ve never felt anything like that on my shoulder. In the moment, I grabbed it and kind of tugged on it. I don’t know if I adjusted it or not, but I gave it a good tug. Today, it’s just stiff.”

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Chavis, Adams get first chance to play


Every member of the Nationals’ Opening Day bullpen had made his season debut by Sunday. Tonight, every member of their Opening Day bench will have done the same.

Riley Adams and Michael Chavis are each in the starting lineup for the first time, Adams catching and Chavis at second base for the Nats’ game against the Rays, their fifth overall game this season.

Manager Davey Martinez said he didn’t want either reserve to sit too long, especially after playing as regularly as they did during spring training. Chavis took 44 plate appearances in the Grapefruit League, batting .225 with a double, a homer and four RBIs; Adams took 42 plate appearances, batting .237 with two doubles, a team-high three homers and six RBIs.

Neither has played, though, since last Tuesday’s exhibition finale against the Yankees. The hope is that both managed to stay engaged through their workouts over the last week despite the lack of actual game action.

“You’re talking about two guys who are workaholics,” Martinez said. “They get plenty of swings throughout the day to keep themselves ready. They’re both in great shape. But I’ve got to understand they’ve got to get in the game. They’ve got to play a little bit, too. It’s part of it, so today they get an opportunity to play.”

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What we made too big a deal about, and what we glossed over

Joey Meneses

Spring training is over. The Nationals packed their bags after Sunday’s 2-2 tie against the Marlins and took their charter flight home to D.C. as the somewhat-proud owners of a 12-12-3 record in Grapefruit League play. (Hey, after going 4-11 last year en route to 55-107 in the regular season, any hint of success is ready to be proud.)

There’s one more exhibition to play Tuesday afternoon against the Yankees at Nationals Park. Then the Braves arrive for Thursday’s 2023 season opener, and we’re off and running.

We touched on a whole lot of topics over the last six weeks, some more frequently than others. So consider this something of an exercise in course correction. Too often we pay too much attention to something in spring training that doesn’t matter much in the regular season. And conversely, too often we ignore a subject that absolutely proves significant over the ensuing six months.

So as everyone gets settled in to their homes and apartments and looks ahead to Opening Day, let’s run through some topics we perhaps made too big a deal out of this spring, and some others we might have glossed over …

The primary topic of spring training, for better or worse, is always going to be starting pitching. Those are the guys who need the most work to get ready for the season. They’re the ones who are going to draw the most attention. And after the Nationals rotation went a horrific 30-86 with a 5.97 ERA last season, this revamped unit was always going to be the center of attention this spring. In the end, these guys will probably be fine. Yes, Cade Cavalli’s Tommy John surgery was a huge blow. But Josiah Gray looked great this spring, MacKenzie Gore flashed his ability to dominate, Patrick Corbin looked serviceable and Trevor Williams looked like a nice addition. This isn’t going to morph into anything close to a club strength, but it really shouldn’t be a disaster this year like it was last year.

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Downs' bruised hand adds wrinkle to bench competition

Jeter Downs Red Sox swing white

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Three players vying for the final spot on the Nationals’ Opening Day bench remain in big league camp, but one of them is not currently playing.

Jeter Downs, who has twice been hit by a pitch on the hand in the last week, didn’t play Wednesday afternoon against the Yankees and isn’t on the lineup card for tonight’s game against the Astros.

Manager Davey Martinez said X-rays on Downs’ hand were negative, but he does have a contusion and needs at least a few days to heal. That complicates the infielder’s chances of heading north with the club, given how few opportunities remain to make a case.

“I want to see him get some at-bats,” Martinez said. “We’ve been working on some stuff with him hitting, and I want to see him back out there to see if he can do these things we’re asking him to do. But I don’t want to him push himself to try to get back out there. I want to make sure that (he’s healthy).”

Downs, the former top prospect of the Dodgers and Red Sox whom the Nationals claimed off waivers this winter, is batting just .176 (6-for-34) with three RBIs, three walks and 12 strikeouts this spring. His ability to play multiple infield positions as well as the outfield, though, makes him intriguing as a 26th man on the roster.

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Next on Nats' shopping list: left fielder

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After most teams closed down shop over the holidays, the Hot Stove League should re-commence this week, as teams try to address the remaining holes on their rosters in advance of spring training. (Which begins in only six weeks!)

Most of the top free agents already signed last month, but there is a swath of unsigned major leaguers still out there. And that could play to the Nationals’ advantage.

We knew the Nats weren’t going to be in on any prominent (i.e. expensive) free agents, but they have needed to make at least a few affordable additions this winter. And after addressing third base (Jeimer Candelario) and No. 5 starter (Trevor Williams), the clear top remaining need is in left field.

As we’ve mentioned before, the depth chart in left field currently begins with Alex Call and Stone Garrett. And with all due respect to those guys, it’s just not realistic to think the Nationals would open the season with those two and nobody else at the position.

So the time should be coming soon when Mike Rizzo strikes a deal with somebody more experienced. And there are a decent number of potential candidates out there.

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