Green searching for more contact while trying to keep up with Nats' top outfield prospects

Elijah Green

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. – The Nationals have a plethora of top outfield prospects getting closer to the major leagues.

Top prospect James Wood just rejoined Triple-A Rochester’s roster after a three-week stint on the injured list. And he’s now reunited with the Nats’ No. 2 prospect Dylan Crews, who just earned his first promotion to Triple-A and hit his first home run with Rochester in his second game.

Robert Hassell III remains at Double-A Harrisburg, where he finds himself on the IL after a strong start to the season. And Daylen Lile has moved up from High-A Wilmington to get his first taste of Double-A ball.

But there is another top outfield prospect that may seem like he’s getting left behind.

Elijah Green still finds himself at Single-A Fredericksburg, unable to yet move out of the lower levels of the minor leagues now in his second full season in the Nats system.

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Nats again can't slug in strike zone in loss to Snakes (updated)

thomas trots v ARI

The Nationals’ aggressiveness at the plate has been on display all season. They want to swing at strikes, get on base and steal bases to score runs.

The approach of swinging at strikes is all well and good on paper. But you have to do some damage with those hitter’s pitches to make it meaningful.

They’ve had some trouble with it this week against the Diamondbacks. It didn’t work at all on Tuesday while seeing a grand total of 96 pitches during a 5-0 shutout. It barely worked Wednesday when they needed Jesse Winker’s two-run home run to rescue them in a 3-1 win after seeing only 104 pitches.

And it didn’t work again Thursday in a 5-2 loss to the Snakes as the Nats dropped their first series in their last four attempts in front of an announced crowd of 21,158.

The Nationals offense was once again doomed by not doing too much in the strike zone.

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Gray feels good after third rehab start, Abrams not in lineup after MRI on wrist

josiah gray pitches grey

Josiah Gray was back in the Nationals clubhouse this morning after making his third rehab start with Double-A Harrisburg last night.

Gray, on the 15-day injured list since April 9 (retroactive to April 6) with a right elbow/forearm flexor strain, threw 79 pitches over five innings in last night’s outing, his second with the Senators. He gave up two runs on three hits and three walks with five strikeouts.

Results aside, the right-hander said he felt good.

“I felt good, felt really good,” he said at his locker. “I got five innings there, (about) 80 pitches. Everything was really crisp. Changeup, curveball, fastball, cutter were on point and everything felt in control. Felt that I was throwing my best stuff out there. So I'm just looking forward to the next step and seeing where we go from there.”

Gray wasn’t sure what his next steps would be at the time. He was going to meet with manager Davey Martinez and the Nats training staff before today’s matinee finale against the Diamondbacks. The Nationals embark on a nine-game cross-country road trip tonight, and Gray didn’t know whether or not he would be going with them.

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Game 74 lineups: Nats vs. Diamondbacks

gore

The Nationals have a chance today to win their fourth straight series after getting swept at home by the Mets earlier this month. A win over the Diamondbacks would also give them 10 wins in 13 games during that same stretch. And a win would also bring them back to .500 and keep them firmly in a National League wild card spot.

Not to put too much pressure on a single game in June, but a victory to close out this series against the defending NL champs before embarking on a nine-game road trip that will take them all over the country would be huge for this team.

But they’ll likely have to do it without CJ Abrams, who was a late scratch from yesterday’s starting lineup and underwent an MRI on his left wrist. We should get some more insight into that surprising injury later this morning.

With or without Abrams, the Nats will look for better offensive results against Arizona pitching. Right-hander Ryne Nelson makes his 13th appearance (12th start) for the visitors. Although his overall numbers aren’t that impressive (4-5, 5.49 ERA, 1.640 WHIP), he’s coming off a six-inning outing against the White Sox in which he held them to one run and struck out eight. He also completed 7 ⅔ innings of two-run ball against the Giants earlier this month on just 80 pitches, so the Nats need to work the count better than they have lately.

MacKenzie Gore makes his 15th start this afternoon. The left-hander is coming off a dominant performance against the Marlins that included seven innings of one-run ball, 10 strikeouts and a dust-up in the dugout. Here's hoping that today will produce similar results on the field without the dramatics off it.

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Winker's much-needed blast rescues Nationals (updated)

Jesse Winker

For 14 innings across nearly 23 hours, they swung and swung and kept swinging and kept making outs. And then with one mighty swing, Jesse Winker changed the agonizing narrative that had defined the first half of the Nationals’ series against the Diamondbacks and got his team back on track.

Winker’s two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth snapped the Nats out of their scoreless funk. And thanks to a tack-on run provided by Ildemaro Vargas, another effective start by Patrick Corbin and another strong showing by the back end of the bullpen, they emerged with a cathartic 3-1 victory.

"Good teams, that's what they do," manager Davey Martinez said. "They're not going to hit every day. I talk about it all the time: Hitting is hard. And you're going to go through those lapses where it's like that, where you score two or three runs but you've got a chance to win. That's what I love about this team: They don't give up."

It wasn't a perfect day at the yard for the Nationals, who had to scratch shortstop CJ Abrams from the lineup shortly before first pitch with a left wrist issue. Martinez said Abrams, who isn't sure how he hurt himself, is getting an MRI to determine the extent of the injury.

Shut out on four hits and no walks Tuesday night even with a healthy leadoff man, the Nationals totaled just two hits and one walk through five innings this afternoon against Arizona starter Brandon Pfaadt, whose pitch count remained ridiculously low thanks to another string of first-pitch outs made by an overly aggressive lineup.

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Parker gets personal PFP session to work out kinks

Mitchell Parker

The sun was blazing, straight overhead, no shade in sight, as Mitchell Parker fired pitches from the mound and then reacted to field bunts and other assorted ground balls hit to his left and right.

No other Nationals pitchers were out there this afternoon. This was a personal PFP (pitchers’ fielding practice) session for Parker alone, a response to three misplays he made during his last two starts.

When he was done, Parker walked out to right field for his standard between-starts throwing session in the bullpen. And by the time he returned to the clubhouse, his shirt was completely soaked through.

“There was no negative to it,” the rookie left-hander said afterward. “During the (last misplay Sunday), I kind of figured this was going to be happening. Luckily, we’re going to get to it before it becomes a bigger issue. I appreciate the work to get out there and work on it. It’s a good thing.”

Parker has been perhaps the biggest positive surprise to the Nats’ season to date. In 12 starts to date, he’s 5-3 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.079 WHIP, having yet to be charged with more than three runs in any outing.

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Game 73 lineups: Nats vs. Diamondbacks (Abrams scratched)

Patrick Corbin

Tuesday’s series opener against the Diamondbacks has to be considered one of the Nationals’ worst games of the year. They weren’t blown out, but they put forth almost zero offensive punch, totaling three singles, one double and zero walks against Slade Cecconi and two relievers, seeing a grand total of 96 pitches during a 5-0 loss. It wasn’t much fun to watch.

So the Nats can only hope it gets better today, especially on the offensive side of things. They face D-backs right-hander Brandon Pfaadt, who doesn’t walk many batters (1.9 per nine innings) and strikes out a lot (9.0 per nine innings). Pfaadt, though, enters with a 4.38 ERA in 14 starts, having allowed four or more runs in three of his last four outings.

The Nationals might need to score some runs today with Patrick Corbin taking the mound for them in what could be a critical start for him. The lefty was good last time out against the Tigers, but he’s still 1-7 with a 5.84 ERA overall. And with Josiah Gray making another rehab start tonight for Double-A Harrisburg, the identity of the Nats’ starter when this spot in the rotation comes up next time is very much in question.

Update: CJ Abrams was a late scratch for today's game. Nasim Nuñez will now make just his third major league start, playing shortstop and batting ninth.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Where:
Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 90 degrees, wind 9 mph out to left field

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Winker's knee passes test; Nats defense confronts speedy Carroll

Jesse Winker

On a night when hardly anyone in the Nationals lineup did anything of consequence, Jesse Winker did more than anyone else. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t able to play the team’s last game after hurting his knee.

Winker went 2-for-3 in the Nats’ 5-0 loss to the Diamondbacks, recording the team’s lone extra-base hit (a fourth-inning double) as well as a single in his final at-bat. The veteran left fielder did so with no apparent lingering issues in his right knee.

Winker hurt himself rounding second base and slamming on the brakes to dive back into the bag Saturday against the Marlins. He went to get an MRI that night, hoping it wasn’t anything serious but a bit worried it could have been something bad.

When the MRI came back clean, Winker and the Nationals were relieved. He sat out Sunday’s game, then enjoyed the team’s day off Monday before returning to work Tuesday, back in the lineup batting third and playing left field.

Winker ran the bases fine and had no problems in the field. Afterward, he was asked if he thinks he can jump right back into playing every day, or if he might need to manage his knee a little and take some days off.

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Nats put up little resistance in shutout loss to D-backs (updated)

Jake Irvin

It’s still too early in the season to call a series truly meaningful, not with the calendar still showing June and with more games left on the schedule than have been played to date.

But the Nationals haven’t been in this position in a while, so why not get a little excited about a mid-June three-game set against the defending National League champs, both teams smack dab in the middle of a wild card race that features a host of teams sitting just below the .500 mark, waiting for someone to make a move.

The result of tonight’s game doesn’t necessarily portend anything about what’s still to come over the next 3 1/2 months, but it wasn’t exactly a positive showing by the home team. A 5-0 loss to the Diamondbacks was about as unexciting as it gets, with Jake Irvin laboring early and a punchless lineup completely rendered ineffective by three Arizona pitchers.

The Nats (35-37) didn’t much look the part of a surprise contender, not on this night. The Diamondbacks (36-37) looked much more like the team that squeaked into the 2023 postseason with 84 regular season wins and then rode the wave all the way to a World Series loss to the Rangers.

Davey Martinez can only hope for a better showing the next two afternoons.

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Wood, Crews playing for Rochester tonight; Gray, Cavalli resuming rehab

James Wood Rochester

James Wood and Dylan Crews are teammates again. And for the first time, they’re teammates one step away from the major leagues.

Wood was activated off the minor league injured list today, just as Crews was promoted from Double-A Harrisburg, putting the Nationals’ top two prospects together in tonight’s lineup for Triple-A Rochester. Crews will lead off for the Red Wings and start in center field. Wood will bat right behind him and start in left field.

“They’re part of our big future here, and the future’s looking bright,” Nats manager Davey Martinez said. “The fact they’re up at the highest level in the minor leagues only tells me that they’re getting close.”

Wood was already dominating Triple-A pitching and seemed on the cusp of a final promotion to D.C. when he suffered a hamstring strain May 23 and landed on the 7-day IL. He returns just shy of four weeks later, healthy and hoping to pick up where he left off before getting hurt, when he was batting .355 with a .465 on-base percentage and 1.062 OPS in 45 games.

Crews, meanwhile, got his much anticipated promotion to Triple-A after a strong month-plus in Harrisburg following a slow start to his season. The No. 2 pick in last summer’s draft had a .664 OPS with only three extra-base hits in April. Since then, he has produced an .834 OPS with 16 extra-base hits in 39 games.

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Game 72 lineups: Nats vs. Diamondbacks

irvin

Summer has arrived in the nation’s capital, a conclusion you probably already drew for yourself upon stepping outside at any point today. It’s hot, it’s muggy and that means the ball is probably going to start flying at Nationals Park for the next few months.

That’s not a bad thing for the Nationals, who wouldn’t mind hitting a few more homers. Provided they keep giving up as few as they have so far this season. They’ve hit only 58 through 71 games (third-fewest in the majors) but they’ve given up only 59 (second-fewest).

Jake Irvin has done a nice job keeping the ball in the yard, serving up 0.8 home runs per nine innings, a big improvement from last year’s 1.5 rate. He’s also been great at keeping the ball in the strike zone, reducing his walk rate from 4.0 to 1.7 per nine innings. The right-hander will look to keep that up tonight against the Diamondbacks, who may be the defending National League champs but enter this series a half-game behind the Nats in a wide-open wild card race full of teams hovering just below the .500 mark.

Arizona’s struggles so far this season have been on the pitching front, and that includes tonight’s starter: Slade Cecconi. The 24-year-old rookie, a first-round pick in 2020, is 1-5 with a 6.70 ERA. And notably, he’s served up 12 homers in only 44 1/3 innings. Perhaps the Nationals lineup can take advantage of that on a hot summer night in D.C.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Where:
Nationals Park
Gametime: 6:45 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 89 degrees, wind 11 mph out to left field

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Checking in on top pitching performances on farm

Jarlin Susana

The Nationals, of course, have some of the top position player prospects in baseball. But there are some arms that are impressing on the mound as well.

One of the best stories on the Nats farm this season is Brad Lord, a 2022 18th-round pick out of the University of South Florida.

After posting a 4.04 ERA and 1.328 WHIP in 27 games (17 starts) between Single-A Fredericksburg and High-A Wilmington last year, the right-hander has been one of the best starters in all of Minor League Baseball this season.

Lord earned his first promotion to Double-A Harrisburg after one scoreless start with Wilmington. In 12 starts with the Senators, he is 7-1 with a 1.55 ERA, 1.052 WHIP, 9.6 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate and 3.40 strikeout-to-walk rate.

Last week, he produced his second-career double-digit strikeout performance with seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball and 10 strikeouts for his seventh win of the season.

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Nats finally finding success developing pitchers from within

Mitchell Parker

The streak began, interestingly enough, with Mitchell Parker on the mound. It was June 6, the opener of a four-game series against the Braves, the Nationals reeling from a three-game sweep at the hands of the Mets.

Each of those losses to New York included a ragged performance by the Nats’ starter. So it was up to Parker, a rookie making his 10th career big league start, to reverse that trend. And though his team wound up losing that night, it wasn’t Parker’s fault. He allowed only two runs over seven innings, only four Atlanta batters reaching base against him.

Fast-forward 10 days, and Parker was back on the mound facing the Marlins, this time seeking a three-game sweep for the Nationals. And with six innings of one-run ball, he led his team to victory and continued a remarkable stretch of pitching by the entire rotation.

Over those 10 games, Nats starters have given up a total of nine earned runs. Not once have they been charged with more than two in any individual game. They’ve struck out a combined 55 batters while walking only 13.

“Everyone’s throwing well,” Parker said after Sunday’s win, the team’s eighth in nine games. “It’s contagious.”

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Parker, Thomas, Young help Nats remain undefeated vs. Marlins (updated)

Lane Thomas

In this season of progress, the Nationals are beginning to establish which quality opponents they can hang with. They’re also establishing which opponent they can dominate: the Marlins.

There should be no question at this point how these two division rivals stack up in 2024. With a 3-1 Father’s Day victory on South Capitol Street, the Nats improved to 7-0 against Miami. They’ve already clinched the season series, with six games still to play in September.

The Nationals have outscored the Marlins 48-18 for the season. They outscored them 15-2 this weekend, and the only two runs they surrendered came on infield singles.

"You've got to beat teams in your division in order to know where you're at," said manager Davey Martinez, whose team was a miserable 6-26 vs. Miami the last two seasons. "We've done that with them. ... It's the only way you're going to win your division, right? You've got to beat the teams in your division."

Suffice it to say, the pitching was exquisite, and today was no exception, with Mitchell Parker once again delivering a winning performance before the bullpen took over late.

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Winker hopes to return in few days after MRI comes back clear

Jesse Winker

The MRI on Jesse Winker’s right knee showed no structural damage, and the Nationals left fielder believes he can rejoin the lineup within a few days.

“It’s definitely nothing major, nothing that’s going to prevent me from playing,” he said. “I think I just need a couple days of rest.”

Winker hurt himself in the bottom of the first Saturday afternoon when he took a big turn around second base on Ildemaro Vargas’ single to left-center, then had to slam on the brakes and dive back into the bag, getting tagged out in the process. He remained in the game for two more innings but felt knee pain while in the field in the top of the third and decided to depart at the end of the inning.

“I slammed on the brakes and dove back, and I kind of lost my footing,” he said. “So it happened somewhere in there. But there was no pop, or anything I could point to. I just had some pain walking out to the outfield, but then I really felt it the first fly ball.”

The Nationals had Winker get an MRI on Saturday, so they’d have results in time to know if they needed to make a roster move in time for Sunday’s game. When that test came back clean, they felt comfortable proceeding with Winker remaining on the active roster, even if he can’t play for another few days. (The team has Monday off, then returns Tuesday to open a three-game series against the Diamondbacks.)

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Game 71 lineups: Nats vs. Marlins

Mitchell Parker

The Nationals, in case you haven’t been paying attention, have dominated the Marlins this season. Like, completely dominated them. They’re 6-0 heading into today’s series finale on South Capitol Street, and the combined score of those six games is 45-17. It’s been even more pronounced this weekend, with a combined score of 12-1 thanks to brilliant pitching by MacKenzie Gore and DJ Herz and plenty of offense to boot.

So it’s Mitchell Parker’s turn today to try to keep things rolling and move his team to within one game of the .500 mark. Parker held Miami to one run on April 27, but he did put eight runners on base in that one and was pulled after throwing 82 pitches in only four innings. He’s coming off a shaky outing in Detroit as well, so this would be a good time for the rookie to get back on track.

The Nationals have seen plenty of Jesus Luzardo, their former prospect, though it’s actually been a full year since they’ve seen the lefty: June 18, 2023. We’re still waiting word on Jesse Winker’s MRI to find out how his right knee is. His status could have some real ramifications in the short and long term.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs MIAMI MARLINS
Where:
Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 85 degrees, wind 7 mph out to left field

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams
RF Lane Thomas
1B Joey Meneses
DH Nick Senzel
LF Ildemaro Vargas
C Keibert Ruiz
2B Luis García Jr.
CF Jacob Young
3B Trey Lipscomb

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With 13-strikeout gem, Herz carries Nats to victory (updated)

herz pitching gray

The first time he struck out Tim Anderson, it was merely a nice way to start the afternoon. The second time he did it, it was the continuation of an already impressive outing. The third time he did it, DJ Herz hopped off the mound, slapped his hand to his glove and floated all the way back to the Nationals dugout, where teammates and coaches alike couldn’t wait to greet the rookie left-hander with high-fives and hugs.

The third start of Herz’s major league career had just come to an end, and it included a standing ovation from the crowd of 25,637 at Nationals Park who just watched this previously unknown 23-year-old put together one of the most dominant and most efficient starts in club history.

With six innings of one-hit, zero-walk, 13-strikeout ball on 84 pitches in a 4-0 victory over the Marlins, Herz etched his name alongside some of the best pitching performances the Nats have ever witnessed.

"I think this outing, I wanted to control my body language a little more, be a little better with that," Herz said. "And the first five innings, it was perfect. And then I got the last strikeout, and I kind of had a little feeling that I was done and just let my emotions fly a little bit. It was awesome."

He’s only the fourth person to wear the curly W cap and strikeout out 13 or more batters without issuing a walk. Max Scherzer did it four times during his Hall-of-Fame career. Stephen Strasburg did it twice, including in his historic major league debut. And John Patterson did it during the inaugural 2005 season at RFK Stadium.

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Nats hope veteran Ramírez can provide right-handed punch

ramírez batting blue

Seeking another right-handed bat to a lineup that has lacked for consistent production, the Nationals signed Harold Ramírez to a minor league contract today, with the understanding the veteran outfielder/first baseman could be called up to the majors in short order.

Ramírez, 29, owns a career .287/.325/.408 slash line in parts of six seasons with the Marlins, Guardians and Rays and was a highly productive member of Tampa Bay’s lineup last year with a .313/.353/.460 slash line in 122 games. But after slumping this season to a .589 OPS, Ramírez was designated for assignment and then released Friday.

The Rays owe Ramírez the bulk of his $3.8 million salary, and the Nationals now only responsible for a prorated portion of the major league minimum ($740,000) if he reaches the big leagues with them. He’s due to report to Triple-A Rochester and play for the Red Wings tonight, and if things go well he could be promoted in a week or so.

“We signed him to help us here, not Triple-A,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We want him here. But we’ve got to get him going. He hasn’t played in about seven, eight, nine days. I want to give him some at-bats before he comes up.”

Ramírez has played the bulk of his career at the two corner outfield positions while also serving as a regular DH, but he does have 39 games of experience at first base. Martinez mentioned all of those positions in listing where Ramírez could help them, then specifically suggested he could be a right-handed option for them in left field, which has been manned by the left-handed Jesse Winker most of the season.

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Game 70 lineups: Nats vs. Marlins

herz pitching gray

The Nationals and Marlins have played five times so far this season. The Nationals have won all five games. The combined score of those games: 41-17. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Nats dominate an opponent to this extent. They’ll gladly take it.

The Nationals have pitched well against most clubs this year. They haven’t hit well against everyone, so that makes their offensive output against Miami particularly pleasing. And they’ll look to keep it going today against left-hander Trevor Rogers, who they beat in late April with three runs in five innings. Davey Martinez’s lineup looks a little different against the lefty. Ildemaro Vargas, Drew Millas and Trey Lipscomb are all in there, with Lipscomb starting at third base and Nick Senzel serving as DH for this one.

DJ Herz makes his third career start, his first against the Marlins, and the left-hander will be looking to complete five innings for the first time. With Josiah Gray (who tossed four strong innings in a rehab assignment at Double-A Harrisburg Friday night) inching closer to a return, each of Herz’s starts now become increasingly important as he tries to state his case to stay up here.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs MIAMI MARLINS
Where:
Nationals Park
Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Mostly sunny, 84 degrees, wind 10 mph in from left field

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams
RF Lane Thomas
LF Jesse Winker
1B Joey Meneses
2B Ildemaro Vargas
DH Nick Senzel
C Drew Millas
3B Trey Lipscomb
CF Jacob Young

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Nats balancing lefty-heavy rotation with righty-heavy bullpen

herz on mound white

The Nationals are currently doing something they haven’t done in their nearly 20 years since relocating to D.C.: Running out a rotation with four left-handers.

Injuries to right-handers Josiah Gray and Trevor Williams have called for replacements, who just happened to be left-handers to make for a mostly lefty rotation that is rarely seen in baseball.

They are in the middle of a stretch where they have all four starting in succession. Three are scheduled to start against the Marlins this weekend started by MacKenzie Gore on Friday, and continuing with DJ Herz today and Mitchell Parker on Sunday.

It’s an ironic roster quick for manager Davey Martinez, who isn’t used to having too many lefties on his roster, starter or reliever.

“I couldn't even explain that really,” he said. “I sit back and go, 'How in the world did that happen?' But I like the ones we got, that's for sure. They're doing really well. Even DJ. I talked to him a little bit about the shape of his breaking ball. Right now, his changeup is good, his fastball is good. We worked out a little bit on the shape of his breaking ball. So when that starts coming around, he could really, really, really do well. So the other guys, they got no fear, right? I love them. They attack the zone. They're not afraid to throw their pitches when they need to, sliders or splits. They've been really good.”

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