Nats can't overcome Gore's rare blowup start, lose to Mets (updated)

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Though he hasn’t been lights-out every time he has pitched this season, MacKenzie Gore had shown significant progress from last season in one key area: The ability to avoid letting a shaky start go completely awry.

That streak ended tonight with easily the left-hander’s worst outing of the year. Unable to consistently locate any of his pitches, the young Nationals starter couldn’t take advantage of some rare healthy run support from his teammates and ultimately was the pitcher of record in an 8-7 loss to the Mets that saw the home team come up just short with a last-ditch attempted rally in the ninth.

"A lot of fight with our team and in our clubhouse. We always feel like we're in it," said Jesse Winker, who had three hits and drove in three runs. "We almost got the job done."

This game didn’t resemble any of Gore’s previous 11 starts, nor did it resemble many of the Nats’ previous 58 games. They had been 19-7 this season when scoring at least four runs, 19-5 when scoring at least five runs.

That wasn’t enough offense tonight, not with Gore laboring throughout his outing.

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Abrams, Young out of lineup again, but no IL moves yet

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CJ Abrams and Jacob Young are once again out of the Nationals lineup, leaving the team shorthanded once again with two regulars dealing with injuries.

Abrams, who jammed his left shoulder making a diving play at shortstop Friday night, is sitting for the third straight day. Young, who took a pitch off his right hand Saturday afternoon, is sitting for the second straight day.

Davey Martinez said Abrams has reported improvement in his shoulder each day, but it does continue to bother him when he swings.

“CJ said he felt better today than he did yesterday, so it is getting better,” the manager said. “I figured just give him another day, and hopefully if we need him (off the bench), he’s available.”

Young tried to hit in the cage today and reported his hand remains sore, so the Nationals decided not to push it and gave him his second straight day off.

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Game 59 lineups: Nats vs. Mets

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The Nationals are home again, something that hasn’t happened very much this season. They’ve played only 23 games in their own ballpark to date, the lowest total in the majors. (They’ve played 35 games on the road, for comparison.) So this seven-game homestand against the Mets and Braves is a welcome development for everyone, even if they have played relatively well away from D.C.

First up are the Mets, who are in a bit of a tailspin and face their own travel dilemma later this week. Following Wednesday’s 4:05 p.m. getaway game, they’re taking off for London and a two-game series against the Phillies. It will be interesting to see where their focus is these next three days, with that trip looming.

The Nationals send MacKenzie Gore to the mound, and he was outstanding against the Braves last week, striking out 10 with zero walks across 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander did well in three starts against New York last year, allowing only four runs in 15 innings.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. NEW YORK METS
Where:
Nationals Park

Gametime: 6:45 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 82 degrees, wind 5 mph out to left field

NATIONALS
CF Lane Thomas
RF Eddie Rosario
2B Luis García Jr.
DH Keibert Ruiz
3B Nick Senzel
LF Jesse Winker
SS Ildemaro Vargas
1B Joey Gallo
C Drew Millas

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Millas hopes to make most of first extended look in D.C.

Drew Millas

CLEVELAND – Drew Millas was sitting in the dugout in Rochester during Saturday night’s game against St. Paul, not in the Red Wings lineup and not having any reason to think his manager was about to start yelling at him.

And then he heard Matt LeCroy bellow out: “Millas, come down here!”

Not sure what this could possibly be about, the young catcher approached his Triple-A manager and was surprised by what he heard next: “You want to go to the big leagues?”

“Yeah,” Millas responded.

“Alright,” LeCroy shot back. “You’re going.”

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Behind early rally and Irvin's latest gem, Nats finish trip strong (updated)

Lane Thomas

CLEVELAND – The schedule has not been kind to the Nationals through the season’s first two months, from far more games on the road (35) than at home (23) to a current stretch of 17 consecutive games without a scheduled day off to a number of series against some of the top contenders in both leagues.

How have the Nats handled it all? Maybe they haven’t thrived, but they’ve more than held their own under the circumstances.

With a 5-2 victory over the Guardians today, the Nationals secured a winning road trip at 4-3. They started the week taking three of four in Atlanta. They preceded that with a series win over the American Leauge West-leading Mariners, leaving them 6-4 so far during this particularly grueling stretch heading into a seven-game homestand against the Mets and Braves.

They may have lost this weekend series to Cleveland, currently in first place in the AL Central. But they admittedly gave away Saturday’s game with several defensive and baserunning gaffes. And then they bounced back and won today’s finale despite a depleted lineup missing both CJ Abrams and Jacob Young, thanks to one big early outburst and another strong pitching performance led by Jake Irvin.

"I think to win the majority of games on a road trip, against two teams that have played really well so far this year, I think it's a win in everyone's mind," outfielder Lane Thomas said. "I think we left some stuff on the table the first two games here, but they played well. I think we definitely could've made the first game closer and maybe been in contention yesterday. But it's a tough league, and we play a lot of games for a reason. Going forward, I think we have a chance to beat a lot more good teams."

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Millas replaces Adams on roster, Young sits with hand injury

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CLEVELAND – The Nationals swapped out backup catchers this morning, optioning Riley Adams to Triple-A and recalling Drew Millas from Rochester, hoping the latter can provide a more potent bat in the big leagues while the former tries to rediscover his swing (while also getting playing time at another position) in the minors.

Adams got off to a hot start to the season and filled in admirably when starting catcher Keibert Ruiz dealt with a bad case of the flu, batting .293 with six extra-base hits and an .863 OPS through his first 12 games.

But he’s been in a prolonged slump since then, batting just .132 with one double and 16 strikeouts over his last 13 games. He hit a low point Saturday afternoon, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and letting a bounced pitch from Mitchell Parker get past him and roll all the way to the first base dugout as the Guardians’ José Ramírez scored all the way from second for what proved to be the decisive run in a 3-2 loss.

The Nationals hope more consistent playing time at Triple-A will give Adams a better chance of rediscovering his swing.

“It was a timing thing. He’s just got to get himself ready earlier,” manager Davey Martinez said. “It’s hard to do when you’re not playing every day. So getting him at-bats every day, and getting him locked in again, definitely will help him.”

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Game 58 lineups: Nats at Guardians (Abrams scratched)

irvin @ MIA

CLEVELAND – The Nationals need a win in today’s series finale to avoid getting swept by a Guardians team that has won 14 of its last 17 and is absolutely rolling right now.

Both games this weekend have been competitive, with Friday night’s opener turning ugly late when the Nats bullpen gave up five runs and Saturday’s affair a tight one-run loss that hinged on two bad defensive plays. So Davey Martinez would love a cleaner game from his guys this afternoon, though the field will be wet after it rained this morning.

Jake Irvin gets the start, looking to continue what he’s been doing. The right-hander struck out a career-high 10 batters Tuesday in Atlanta, and he enters this game with a 3.43 ERA and sparkling 1.032 WHIP. Veteran Carlos Carrasco, fresh off a brief stint on the injured list, starts for Cleveland. Carrasco had two rough outings in late April but otherwise has allowed three or fewer earned runs in his seven other starts this year.

The Nationals made a roster move this morning, recalling Drew Millas from Triple-A and optioning Riley Adams to Rochester in a swap of backup catchers. Adams had been struggling at the plate for a few weeks, and his struggles behind the plate Saturday may have also exacerbated the move. Millas, who was up here briefly earlier this season when Keibert Ruiz was sick, was batting .308 with six doubles, five homers and 22 RBIs in 30 games with Rochester.

UPDATE: For the second straight day, CJ Abrams has been scratched, his left shoulder still bothering him when he tries to swing. Lane Thomas moves into the leadoff spot, with Ildemaro Vargas again taking over at shortstop and batting ninth.

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Sloppy, banged-up Nats drop another close game (updated)

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CLEVELAND – Over the course of this afternoon’s game at Progressive Field, the Nationals allowed two runs to score on a popup, allowed another to score all the way from second base on a wild pitch, had one of their own runners tagged out after rounding third base too far, had another picked off first base even when he wasn’t being held on, saw their manager get ejected, saw their shortstop get scratched shortly before first pitch due to injury and saw their center fielder depart later due to injury.

It was, by any measure, an ugly performance from the visitors, the kind of performance they couldn’t afford against one of the majors’ hottest teams.

And yet, somehow the Nats still found themselves with a chance to beat the Guardians, if only they could come through with one modest rally before game’s end. Alas, they could not. And so this went down as a 3-2 loss, and certainly one of the weirder and more frustrating losses of the season.

"You feel like we lost that game more than they won it," catcher Riley Adams said.

Already playing without shortstop CJ Abrams, who was scratched less than an hour before first pitch due to a jammed left shoulder suffered Friday night, the Nationals also lost center fielder Jacob Young to a swollen right hand he first noticed after making a long throw to third base in the seventh inning.

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Robles' time in organization ends with unconditional release waivers

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CLEVELAND – Victor Robles won’t be remaining in the Nationals organization after the club made another procedural move today that ensures the longtime outfielder will have to try to revitalize his career with another franchise.

The Nats requested unconditional release waivers on Robles today, a transaction that comes five days after they designated him for assignment. The DFA move immediately removed the 27-year-old from the 40-man roster but left him in limbo for the week while the club explored its various options.

The Nationals could have traded Robles to another team, but no satisfactory offers were made. He’s now available to 29 other clubs via waivers, but any claiming team would be responsible for his $2.65 million salary.

If Robles went unclaimed, the Nats could have attempted to outright him to Triple-A Rochester, though as a veteran with five years of big league service time, he could have refused the assignment and become a free agent. By requesting unconditional release waivers, they are already stating their intention not to keep him in the organization.

So, once Robles officially passes through waivers unclaimed, he’ll be released. If another team decides to sign him at that point, it would only have to pay him a prorated portion of the league minimum salary ($740,000). The Nationals would be responsible for the rest of his guaranteed deal, which expires at the end of the season.

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Game 57 lineups: Nats at Guardians (Abrams scratched)

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CLEVELAND – Friday night didn’t go particularly well for the Nationals, who totaled one run on four hits and one walk and then watched as a close game blew up on them late, turning into a 7-1 loss to the Guardians. This series is no small task, what with Cleveland having now won 14 of 17 behind excellent pitching and a surprisingly productive lineup.

So it’s up to Mitchell Parker to try to keep the positive pitching vibes going for the Nats today. The last four starters each gave up two or fewer runs. Parker gave up three runs to the Braves his last start, hardly anything to be ashamed about. The rookie left-hander continues to impress, and he’ll once again face a lineup that has never seen him before, which has to play to his advantage.

Only one member of the Nationals lineup has ever faced Ben Lively before: Jesse Winker, who is 1-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout. Otherwise, everyone will be going up against an unknown right-hander, one who has been excellent himself. Like Parker, Lively has yet to allow more than three runs in any start this season.

In other words, expect yet another low-scoring, tight ballgame decided by situational hitting and clean defense. Just like so many games we’ve watched this season.

UPDATE: CJ Abrams has been scratched from today's lineup. He said he jammed his shoulder making a diving play early in Friday night's game. Jacob Young will now bat leadoff, with Ildemaro Vargas taking over at shortstop.

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On the Nats' lack of hitting (and lack of Rainey appearances)

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CLEVELAND – There are any number of stats you can point to when trying to show how much the Nationals have struggled offensively so far this season.

The Nats rank 25th out of 30 major league clubs in runs scored, 27th in hits, 27th in homers.

They’ve been shut out six times, most in the National League. They’ve been held to two or fewer runs 22 times, tied for most in the NL.

Here’s a new one, though, one that might just illustrate the problem more than any other: The Nationals have been held to four or fewer hits in 13 of their 56 games to date. That’s 23 percent of their games, nearly one-quarter of their total, in which they’ve finished with no more than four hits.

How bad is that? Well, consider this: The Nats were held to four or fewer hits 12 times last season. That’s over the entire season. They’ve already surpassed that total with 106 games still to be played.

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Sleepy Nats waste Corbin's quality start in Cleveland (updated)

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CLEVELAND – A bleary-eyed Nationals team showed up for work this evening, flying high from a series win in Atlanta but dragging from a delayed flight following a getaway night that didn’t have them in bed until about 5 a.m.

Was a lack of sleep to blame for their eventual 7-1 loss to the Guardians? Or was it just another rough night at the plate for an offensively challenged club? Or was Cleveland’s pitching staff just that good?

Take your pick. Any or all of those reasons could be valid. Whatever the explanation, the Nats lost yet another ballgame that was low-scoring and tight late to a talented opponent. It’s happened before, and it’ll probably happen again. But it’s not cause for panic, especially if they stay true to form and bounce back Saturday after they get a well deserved good night’s sleep.

"It's tough. I still think getaway days should be at 1 (p.m.)," starter Patrick Corbin said. "You never know what can happen. We play every day. It's tough, but it happens to everybody. You have to try to find ways to battle through it. Hopefully guys can get some rest tonight and come back tomorrow."

The shame of this loss was that it came on a night Corbin was quite good. The veteran left-hander, who entered with a 6.12 ERA, became the fourth straight Nationals starter to allow two or fewer runs. Somehow, he still emerged with a loss, his sixth of the year.

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After very long night, Nats take it easy prior to series opener

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CLEVELAND – The Nationals clubhouse was mostly empty three hours before tonight’s series opener at Progressive Field, only a few players lounging around and chatting while the rest waited to take a late bus to the ballpark following an exceptionally late night of travel.

A 7:20 p.m. getaway night game in Atlanta was bad enough. Then a lengthy delay with the team’s charter plane meant the Nats didn’t finally check into their Cleveland hotel until nearly 5 a.m.

Suffice it to say, Davey Martinez canceled batting practice and told everyone to report to the park later than usual, hoping they would get some much needed rest in the meantime.

“We pushed the buses back a little bit, but these guys are all getting ready,” Martinez said during his 5 p.m. pregame session with reporters. “A lot of them are already in the cage. We’ll have our (pre-series scouting) meetings and try to get ready to go.”

The Nationals weren’t pleased with the scheduling of their four-game series against the Braves, which began with a 4:10 p.m. Memorial Day affair but then concluded with three straight 7:20 p.m. starts. This also comes during a tough stretch of 17 consecutive scheduled game days, with their next day off still a ways away on June 10.

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Game 56 lineups: Nats at Guardians

corbin @ SF

CLEVELAND – The Nationals come to town feeling pretty good about themselves. They just took three of four from the Braves in Atlanta, getting some outstanding pitching along the way. Now they face another legitimate challenge in the Guardians, quietly one of the hottest teams in baseball.

Cleveland has won 13 of 16, a stretch that included a nine-game winning streak. This lineup doesn’t feature a whole lot of big names, but it leads the American League in runs scored, so obviously it’s been effective.

It’s up to Patrick Corbin to try to keep that lineup down and keep the Nats’ rotation on a roll. We know that’s easier said than done with the left-hander, who was better in his last start but still gave up four runs in six innings. The issue: home runs. Corbin gave up a pair in that game against the Mariners and three of them before that against the Twins.

The Guardians have some good young pitching as well, and Tanner Bibee falls into that category. The 25-year-old, who finished runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 2023, hasn’t been as sharp this season but still enters this one with a 3.99 ERA and only four runs allowed his last three starts combined.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CLEVELAND GUARDIANS
Where:
Progressive Field

Gametime: 7:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Clear, 69 degrees, wind 4 mph in from center field

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Rosario soaks in ovation and contributes to Nats' wins in return to Atlanta

Eddie Rosario

ATLANTA – As Eddie Rosario walked to the plate for the first time on Monday, Braves catcher Sean Murphy moved from his normal position behind it to in front of it, unofficially pausing the game. He knew what was about to happen.

The public address announcer introduced Rosario as the Nationals’ fourth batter in the first inning and the crowd of 38,858 fans stood up and applauded, an unusual thing to do for an opposing player. But Rosario wasn’t any ordinary opposing player.

The 32-year-old outfielder, who played three seasons with the Braves while winning the 2021 World Series and being named the National League Championship Series MVP along the way, tried to let the ovation pass. But the applause grew louder.

Finally, Rosario stepped out of the box, took off his helmet, waved it to the crowd and patted his heart in appreciation. He also acknowledged his former teammates and coaches who had joined the moment from the home dugout and playing field.

Then he hit the third pitch he saw from Charlie Morton down the left field line for an RBI double, giving his new team an early lead over his former squad.

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Nats stick to winning formula to win series against Braves (updated)

meneses batting gray

ATLANTA – The Nationals won two of the first three games against the Braves with some big hits and great pitching. They haven’t always gotten home runs, but they got one from CJ Abrams on Monday and one from Lane Thomas on Wednesday. They haven’t always seen their starter go deep in the game, but Mitchell Parker, Jake Irvin and MacKenzie Gore combined for 17 ⅔ innings.

With a chance to win the four-game series, the Nationals went back to the recipe for success that has helped them win most of their games thus far this season. And it was some good cooking that resulted in a 3-1 victory in front of 37,784 fans, who also watched the Nats win the set.

As it has for the past week, it started on the mound. The Nationals stuck to their plan that has proven to be very successful with Trevor Williams, who completed 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball with four hits, two walks and two strikeouts on 95 pitches, 56 strikes.

“Going into the fourth game of a series, you get a good feel for what the lineup is going to do," Williams said after the game. "And all the guys the last three days gave tremendous outings. So for them to do what they did, we were able to execute our game plan for the most part. It was a well-fought win for us. Thankful for the guys behind me that they were able to make some plays and we were able to execute some pitches and get us out of some jams.”

The only run scored on him came in the third when Jarred Kelenic hit a triple to left that Eddie Rosario missed while sliding, and then Michael Harris II scored him with a sacrifice fly on the first pitch.

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Gray throws another live BP, Cavalli making another rehab start tonight

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ATLANTA – Josiah Gray threw another live bullpen session today, one more step closer to returning from the 15-day injured list.

Gray landed on the IL with a right elbow/forearm flexor strain after just two starts in which he allowed 13 runs in 8 ⅓ innings. But after a long and patient rehab process, he finally returned to a mound to face live hitters for the first time on Saturday at Nationals Park.

He only threw 23 pitches, plus 27 warmup pitches, that first time. He got up to 76 today, including his warmups, at Truist Park while mixing in his off-speed stuff more.

“It was good. Better,” said manager Davey Martinez, who watched Gray alongside pitching coach Jim Hickey. “He threw a total of 76 pitches. And he threw the ball well. His breaking ball was sharp. A lot better today than it was the other day. Fastball was coming out pretty good. So he's doing good. He's in a good place right now. We'll continue to build him up and then we'll see where we go from there. I think he'll have one more live and then we'll make a decision and what we're going to do next.”

Likely to stay on a normal five-day rotation, the 26-year-old’s next live BP will come next week back in D.C. after the Nationals return from Cleveland.

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Game 55 lineups: Nats at Braves

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ATLANTA – A victory tonight will give the Nationals their second win in a four-game series this season, the first coming as a sweep in their only other four-game set to date in Miami last month. 

Trevor Williams will look to continue this dominant stretch by Nats starting pitchers. Nationals starters have pitched to a 2.36 ERA (11 earned runs in 42 innings) with 52 strikeouts and just five walks over the last seven games. Williams contributed to that with five innings of one-run ball, no walks and eight strikeouts on Saturday. He’s 4-0 with a 2.29 ERA and 1.078 WHIP in 10 starts.

Williams and Stephen Strasburg (8-0 in 2016) are the only two Nats starters (2005-present) to not suffer a loss through their first 10 starts of a season. Let’s see if Williams can make it 11.

Besides being shut out on Tuesday, the Nats have scored 15 runs this series. They were supposed to face former Nationals farmhand Reynaldo López, but will instead see lefty Ray Kerr. The 29-year-old made his first start on May 24 this season, where he allowed five runs in four innings against the Pirates. 

The original starter López was packaged with Lucas Giolito and Dane Dunning in the December 2016 trade with the White Sox for Adam Eaton. He and Giolito were then traded together again last year to the Angels, with López being selected off waivers by the Guardians a month later.

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On the Nats' great starting pitching stretch

MacKenzie Gore

ATLANTA – The Nationals have always focused on starting pitching. They boasted some of the best rotations between 2012-19, en route to winning four division titles, a National League Wild Card berth and a World Series championship.

Now after a few lean years, they’re starting to see a new generation emerge as one of the best rotations in baseball. And over the last week, manager Davey Martinez, pitching coach Jim Hickey and pitching strategist Sean Doolittle have their young rotation on an impressive stretch.

Following last night’s 7-2 win over the Braves, Nationals starters have pitched to a 2.36 ERA (11 earned runs in 42 innings) with 52 strikeouts and just five walks over the last seven games.

During that stretch, Jake Irvin has allowed two runs and two walks with 16 strikeouts in 12 ⅓ innings over his last two starts. MacKenzie Gore has allowed three runs (two earned) and one walk with 18 strikeouts in 12 ⅓ innings over his last two starts. Mitchell Parker gave up three runs and no walks with six strikeouts over six innings on Monday. Trevor Williams gave up one run and no walks with eight strikeouts in five innings on Saturday. And even Patrick Corbin turned in a quality start Sunday, giving up four runs (three earned) and two walks with four strikeouts in six innings.

“They're pitching really well,” Martinez said. “They’ve got the fastball. We always talk about how McKenzie's stuff is really good. They're utilizing his fastball, but they're also mixing in the breaking balls when they need to, and they've been effective. And they're getting better at being efficient. That's what I love about him. Hickey talks about that every day with these guys, understanding what you can do in certain situations. They're buying in and doing well.”

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Thomas homers and Gore fans 10, but Senzel injured in Nats' win (updated)

gore pitching gray

ATLANTA – Davey Martinez cautioned his team about the challenges facing a new pitcher ahead of tonight’s game against the Braves.

Right-hander Spencer Schwellenbach made his major league debut for the home team three years after being drafted, having Tommy John surgery and making only 24 minor league starts between last year and the start of this season, topping out at Double-A two weeks ago.

Was the plan to be more patient or aggressive against the rookie?

“You could look at it both ways,” Martinez said before the game. “Like I said, you want to get strikes. We got a young team that is very aggressive and they love to swing. But you gotta get him in the zone. … The key is to work some at-bats, see some pitches, see what he's got and then go from there.”

For the first half of the game, the Nats couldn’t decide if they wanted to be patient or aggressive against Schwellenbach. Some guys battled long at-bats, while others took hacks early. Either way, it led to poor results, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and leaving four runners on base into the fifth inning.

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