Game 91 lineups: Nats vs. Cardinals

wood 1st hr

It’s been a long and eventful homestand, with a pair of four-game series and a whole lot of news, both involving the roster and the All-Star Game. And it finally comes to an end this afternoon with one more game against the Cardinals. A win would leave the Nationals with a 4-4 record on the homestand, which, all things considered, would be fine. Not great, but fine.

The pitching staff, as we know, is on fumes at this point. The Nats’ last three starters have combined for only 12 2/3 innings. So they really do need some length today from Mitchell Parker. The rookie left-hander has completed six innings in three of his last four outings, so he has the ability. He’s reached the 100-pitch mark only once in 15 total starts; Davey Martinez might have to push him beyond that number today.

For the fourth straight day, the Nationals lineup faces a veteran St. Louis right-hander. This time it’s Miles Mikolas, who enters with a 5.19 ERA and 1.222 WHIP. He was lit up by the Reds two starts ago for 10 runs, but he did bounce back last time out and held the Pirates to two runs over six innings.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Where:
Nationals Park

Gametime: 4:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Hot and humid, 94 degrees, wind 8 mph out to left field

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams
RF Lane Thomas
LF James Wood
DH Jesse Winker
C Keibert Ruiz
2B Luis García Jr.
1B Juan Yepez
3B Trey Lipscomb
CF Jacob Young

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How Irvin, Finnegan got squeezed out of All-Star selection

Jake Irvin

When the All-Star selection show aired Sunday evening and only one Nationals player – CJ Abrams – was unveiled, it shouldn’t have caught anyone by surprise. The Nats are a one-All-Star kind of team and have been for several years now.

For the first time in a while, though, they legitimately had three candidates with strong cases to make the roster.

Abrams clearly was deserving of his first career selection. His .859 OPS currently ranks seventh among all National League players, and he’s one of only four NL players with at least 14 homers and 14 stolen bases at the moment, along with Elly De La Cruz, Francisco Lindor and Shohei Ohtani.

But you know who else was deserving? Jake Irvin. His 2.80 ERA ranks fifth in the NL, his 1.000 WHIP ranks fourth and his 106 innings pitched rank eighth.

And you know who else was also deserving? Kyle Finnegan. His 23 saves rank second in the NL, while his 2.17 ERA and 0.964 WHIP rank fourth among all regular closers.

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Abrams earns first All-Star selection of young career

Abrams swinging white

One of the key young faces of the Nationals’ rebuild is going to represent the organization at the All-Star Game for the first time.

CJ Abrams, who has blossomed into one of the sport’s best shortstops over the last calendar year, was selected as the Nats’ lone All-Star representative this afternoon, an appropriate honor for the 23-year-old acquired in one of the most significant trades in baseball history.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “I’m just grateful for everybody in this clubhouse right now, for my family, friends and the fans. I’m excited to go represent the Nats in Arlington.”

Abrams was placed on the National League squad by Major League Baseball, which is tasked with filling out the final spots on All-Star rosters, making sure every club is represented after fans vote for starters and players and coaches vote for reserves and pitchers.

Right-hander Jake Irvin, who entered the day fourth in the NL in ERA and WHIP, and closer Kyle Finnegan, who ranks second in saves, also received consideration and could still wind up getting an invitation to Texas next week if other pitchers need to be replaced either for injuries or recent usage issues.

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Pitching wears down again during loss to Cards (updated)

Herz pitching white

A stretch of 17 games in 17 days in blistering early July heat has long loomed on the Nationals’ schedule. This was going to be a test not only of this growing team’s ability to compete with opponents in the pennant race, but also of this team’s physical and mental fortitude.

All of that is being put to the test right now, and though the Nats have managed to pull off some inspired wins along the way, the grind clearly is getting to them. Especially their pitching staff.

Today’s 8-3 loss to the Cardinals saw DJ Herz labor for 4 1/3 innings, putting added strain on a bullpen that already was running on fumes. What had been a decided strength through most of the season’s first half has devolved into a liability this week, with five top relievers pressed into overtime duties and the other three forced to pitch out of necessity.

Among the biggest takeaways from the last two days, in particular: The Nationals sorely lack a long man in the pen. And they may not be able to proceed much longer without one unless their starters can consistently churn out six innings a piece.

"Most of our bullpen has been going one-plus innings right now," manager Davey Martinez said. "We're trying to get to that All-Star break, to give them a break. We need some length tomorrow from our starter, that's what we need."

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Nats promote third base prospect House to Triple-A

House siriusxm All-Star green

One day after making a change at third base in the major leagues, the Nationals made a change at third base in the minors, promoting Brady House to Triple-A Rochester and perhaps indicating the 2021 first-round pick has a chance to reach D.C. by season’s end.

House, the 21-year-old slugger from Georgia, earned this promotion after hitting 13 homers with 34 RBIs and a .734 OPS in 75 games at Double-A Harrisburg this season. Combined with his brief stint there at the end of last season, he wound up with 16 homers, 46 RBIs and a .767 OPS in 111 total games at Double-A.

“He’s knocking on the door,” manager Davey Martinez said. “And he’s just another one of those guys we feel like can help us up here in the big leagues.”

House’s promotion to Triple-A comes one day after the Nationals called up Trey Lipscomb to the majors, replacing struggling veteran Nick Senzel at third base. Lipscomb, a third-round pick in 2022 from Tennessee, will be given the opportunity to play every day and seize that position. But he’ll do so with House now on his heels.

Originally drafted as a shortstop out of high school, House moved to third base last year after a back injury derailed his 2022 season. He worked his way up through three levels of the minors in 2023, then got his first opportunity to participate in big league camp this spring, where he worked with the Nats coaching staff for the first time.

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Game 90 lineups: Nats vs. Cardinals

herz pitching blue

Saturday was a good day for the Nationals, who fielded their youngest lineup in years and scored 14 runs thanks to homers by James Wood, CJ Abrams and Keibert Ruiz. Now, can they keep something like that up? Too often this season we’ve seen an offensive explosion followed up by a lifeless showing at the plate. The challenge today: Don’t let up.

As has been the case in each of the first two games of this series, the Nats will face a veteran right-hander. They did well against Sonny Gray. They did great against Lance Lynn. Today, it’s Kyle Gibson, who enters with a 3.88 ERA but has allowed four runs in five or fewer innings in each of his last two starts.

DJ Herz starts for the Nationals, and if you think you know what you’re going to get from the left-hander, you’re fooling yourself. He’s been impossible to predict so far, with two absolutely dominant starts (including his last one against the Mets) and four shaky starts in which he didn’t complete five innings. It would be great to get back-to-back solid outings from the rookie, but the Nats have to be realistic about the situation.

It's a big day here for other reasons: The All-Star rosters will be announced later this evening, so it could wind up being a really memorable day for Abrams, Kyle Finnegan or Jake Irvin. Or perhaps even more than one of them …

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Where:
Nationals Park
Gametime: 1:35 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 93 degrees, wind 6 mph in from left field

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Young Nationals torch Cardinals in blowout win (updated)

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Hope for the Nationals came on a 97-degree late Saturday afternoon, the kind of afternoon in which the shaded side of the ballpark is packed while the sunny side is vacated. And the kind of afternoon in which the youngest players on the field delivered the promise of what’s to come during what this organization hopes is a rousing second half to this season of transition.

One of the majors’ least-powerful lineups over the last three months torched Lance Lynn and the Cardinals for a season-high 14 runs, thanks in large part to three home runs hit by players ages 25, 23 and 21. And even though their own young starter failed to seize a huge early lead and made things far more interesting than they needed to be, the Nats still had all kinds of reason to celebrate a 14-6 victory on South Capitol Street.

"It's cool, just seeing what we're capable of," rookie James Wood said. "And also just knowing how much more we can grow."

Wood led the way with his first career homer in his sixth career major league game, also adding a two-run double to give him five RBIs in the first three innings alone. He was joined by CJ Abrams and Keibert Ruiz, who also homered during their 11-run barrage against Lynn.

Wood came up one RBI shy of the single-game club rookie record set by Danny Espinosa in 2010. He’s still got 73 games remaining on the schedule to try to top today’s performance.

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Lipscomb takes over at third after Senzel designated for assignment

Trey Lipscomb swing

The Nationals wrapped up a week of notable transactions involving the promotion of young players at the expense of struggling veterans with a significant swap at third base, calling up Trey Lipscomb from Triple-A Rochester and designating Nick Senzel for assignment.

Lipscomb will start at the hot corner for today’s game against the Cardinals and will be given the opportunity to hold down that position for the remainder of the season.

“As you can tell, we’ve got the youth movement going on,” manager Davey Martinez said. “And he’s a big part of our future, so we wanted to give him an opportunity to see what he can do.”

Lipscomb, who is making his fourth stint in the majors this season, joins good friend and fellow Maryland native James Wood as well as 26-year-old first baseman Juan Yepez as players called up from Rochester this week, with the Nats injecting youth to bolster a flailing lineup. Senzel joins outfielder Eddie Rosario as players who have been DFA’d this week; Joey Meneses was optioned to Triple-A on Friday.

Lipscomb’s offensive performance was erratic during his first three big league stints. In 38 total games, he hit .237 with a .311 on-base percentage, only two extra-base hits and 10 stolen bases. But aside from his first call-up after Senzel was injured Opening Day, his playing time was inconsistent.

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Game 89 lineups: Nats vs. Cardinals

thomas trots v ARI

The Nationals could be a perfect 5-0 on this homestand. Instead, they’re a disappointing 2-3. Why? Because three times they had a chance to walk off the opponent in the bottom of the ninth but failed to do so, then lost in extra innings. It happened twice against the Mets, and then it happened again Friday night against the Cardinals.

The cumulative effect of all that: The bullpen is fried. Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey and Robert Garcia have each pitched four of the last five days. Derek Law has pitched the last two days. Dylan Floro has pitched three of the last five days. In other words, Davey Martinez may have no choice but to use some combination of Jacob Barnes, Tanner Rainey and Jordan Weems today, no matter the score or situation.

MacKenzie Gore could help the cause a lot if he can provide some length on what’s going to be another scorching hot and humid afternoon. The left-hander has managed to complete at least five innings in 14 of his 17 starts to date. But he’s only completed the sixth inning five times, only once in his last seven outings.

Lance Lynn, meanwhile, gets the start for the Cardinals. It’s hard to believe this, but he’s the same guy who was on the mound for St. Louis a whopping 12 years ago when Jayson Werth hit his iconic homer to win Game 4 of the 2012 National League Division Series. Lynn, now 37, has bounced around over the years, but he’s back with the Cardinals and sporting a 3.59 ERA despite a 1.300 WHIP in 17 starts.

You'll notice a new name at third base: Trey Lipscomb. The Nats recalled the 24-year-old from Triple-A Rochester this afternoon and designated Nick Senzel for assignment, signaling a permanent change at the hot corner for the rest of the season. More on that move to come ...

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Overworked Nats bullpen takes loss to Cards in 11 (updated)

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For the third time in five days as a big leaguer, James Wood stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with a chance to win the game for the Nationals. And for the third time in five days as a big leaguer, Wood and the Nats proceeded to go to extra innings.

Where for the third time in five days, they proceeded to lose. But, for the first time, in the 11th instead of the 10th.

Unlike Monday and Tuesday nights against the Mets, the Nationals found a way to extend this game against the Cardinals. That only prolonged the heartache, with St. Louis scoring the eventual winning run on a strikeout that got away from catcher Riley Adams and the Nats lineup unable to mount one final rally before falling, 7-6.

"We've been playing a lot of these tough games here lately," closer Kyle Finnegan said. "It's a testament to our character that we keep showing up and giving everything we have. Hopefully the balls start bouncing our way, and the tides will change here soon."

Unable to mount any more offense of consequence after busting out of the gates early, the Nationals instead had to rely on an overworked bullpen to keep the game alive. That group couldn’t do it, with Hunter Harvey allowing a run in the eighth, Finnegan blowing the save in the ninth and Dylan Floro allowing St. Louis' automatic runner to score in both the 10th and 11th.

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Yepez takes over at first base after Meneses demotion

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The Nationals could have ridden things out with Joey Meneses a bit longer, giving him a chance to snap out of his hitting funk until Joey Gallo is ready to return from the injured list. But with Gallo still weeks away, and with Juan Yepez on a hot streak at Triple-A Rochester, they decided now was the time to make a switch at first base.

Meneses was informed he was being optioned to Triple-A following Thursday’s win over the Mets, and this afternoon the Nats officially purchased Yepez’s contract from Rochester, giving the 26-year-old a chance to play at the big league level.

“It was all really about Joey, trying to get Joey locked in,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s got options. He’ll go down and try to work on his swing and just get him back. It’s not like we’ve seen the end of Joey.

“The other guy’s doing really well. Yepez has been hitting the ball really well, playing a good first base. So we wanted to give him the opportunity to come up here and see what he can do.”

Nearly two years removed from his breakthrough two-month debut at 30, Meneses had seen his numbers steadily decline, from a .930 OPS in 2022 to a .722 OPS last season to a .597 mark this season. He was slugging a mere .299 since June 1.

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Game 88 lineups: Nats vs. Cardinals

wood debut

It’s hot today. Really, really hot. And humid. Really, really humid. The temperature in Washington as I type this is 97 degrees, the heat index 109. And it’s barely going to cool down before first pitch tonight against the Cardinals. If you’re coming, please do what you can to hydrate and stay out of the sun. If you’re not coming, enjoy the game on TV from the comforts of home.

After a wild series against the Mets that included back-to-back 10-inning losses and then back-to-back dramatic wins, the Nationals now host the Cardinals for four games in a wraparound series that extends through Monday. They would love to keep the good vibes going, but they’re going to need to continue to get excellent pitching and start scoring some more runs, especially early in games.

Patrick Corbin is tonight’s starter, and you know the drill at this point. With Josiah Gray and Cade Cavalli remaining on the injured list for the foreseeable future, Corbin’s spot in the rotation appears to be secure once again. It’s up to him to make the most of it and at least give his team a chance. He was good in three straight starts against the Tigers, Diamondbacks and Padres. Then he struggled against the Rays. A bounceback start tonight would be very nice.

The Nats lineup faces a tough challenge in veteran Sonny Gray, 9-5 with a 2.98 ERA, 0.992 WHIP and 109 strikeouts in only 87 2/3 innings. The good news, if there is any: James Wood gets to face a righty starter for only the second time in five big league games. The Nationals also have a new first baseman: Juan Yepez, who was officially promoted from Triple-A Rochester this afternoon to replace the demoted Joey Meneses, with Josiah Gray transferred to the 60-day injured list to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Where:
Nationals Park

Gametime: 6:45 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Hot and humid, 95 degrees, wind 9 mph out to left field

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Winker makes the most of reduced playing time

Jesse Winker

All morning, he waited, knowing he was likely to be summoned at some point before the end of the game. Davey Martinez was just waiting for the right moment to signal Jesse Winker to step to the plate.

“He was biting at the bit, I can tell you that,” Martinez said. “He said: ‘I’ll be ready.’ Oh, I know you’ll be ready.”

Winker has been one of the Nationals’ most consistently productive offensive players this season, and in recent weeks he has become their regular No. 3 hitter. But that’s mostly against right-handers. And with the Mets starting three lefties during this week’s four-game series, that meant a lot of time sitting on the bench and waiting for the call.

Thursday’s series finale featured left-hander Jose Quintana on the mound for New York, so it was the right-handed Harold Ramirez batting third and serving as designated hitter. But the moment Mets manager Carlos Mendoza pulled his starter and inserted righty Adrian Houser for the bottom of the eighth, Winker knew his name was about to be called.

“You’re kind of just watching the game, paying attention and seeing when a moment might arise,” he said. “And then you go and prepare and talk a gameplan. I talked to (assistant hitting coach) Chris Johnson about a quick gameplan, went up and just tried to barrel a ball.”

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Irvin dominates, Winker delivers as Nats win 1-0 (Meneses optioned to Triple-A)

irvin pitching white

More than three months into this season, it has become clear the Nationals trust Jake Irvin. And with the stars perfectly aligned today, they trusted their young right-hander more than ever before.

And thanks to one – and only one – big hit from his teammates, Irvin and the Nats emerged victorious on Independence Day in the nation’s capital.

Irvin completed eight innings for the first time in his career, allowing one hit, one walk and nothing else on a day when the Nationals bullpen was severely depleted and needed everything it could get from the 27-year-old starter. And when Jesse Winker blasted a pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the eighth, they had the only run they needed to pull off an inspired, 1-0 victory over the Mets.

"That was unbelievable, it really was," manager Davey Martinez said. "We definitely needed that."

Held to four singles by New York starter Jose Quintana, the Nationals finally broke through in the bottom of the eighth against reliever Adrian Houser. With a right-hander finally on the mound, Martinez sent Winker up to pinch-hit for Harold Ramírez, then watched the veteran blast a 1-0 curveball to right-center for the day’s first and only run and some long-awaited support for his starting pitcher.

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Game 87 lineups: Nats vs. Mets

Jake Irvin

Boy, did the Nationals need that win Wednesday night. After dropping five straight to the Mets to begin the season, then falling behind 5-0, they stormed back to win 7-5 thanks to the offensive heroics of Luis García Jr. and James Wood and a really impressive job by an overworked bullpen.

The domino effect of that, though: You have to assume Robert Garcia, Hunter Harvey and Kyle Finnegan are all going to be unavailable for this morning’s series finale, none of them able to pitch for the fourth straight day. If this game is close late, Davey Martinez is going to have to rely on some different relievers for a change.

A long start out of Jake Irvin would help the cause tremendously, and Irvin has shown an ability to do that this year. He has completed at least six innings 12 times in 17 starts, and he has reached the seventh twice. If he can keep his pitch count manageable, you wonder if Martinez will push the right-hander a bit more than usual today.

After finally facing a right-hander Wednesday, the Nats will be going up against a lefty again today in veteran Jose Quintana. Given how well Wood has handled southpaws so far, you have to think he’ll remain in a prominent spot in the lineup.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. NEW YORK METS
Where:
Nationals Park
Gametime: 11:05 a.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv, MLB Network (outside D.C. market)
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 88 degrees, wind 5 mph out to center field

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Wood drives in winning run as Nats beat Mets (updated)

James Wood Jesse Winker

While James Wood’s first two major league games came with all of the deserved hype, the Nationals’ top prospect had yet to really deliver a signature moment.

Sure, he reached base in high-leverage moments in both games, but he hadn't yet scored his first major league run nor recorded his first major league RBI.

So maybe the third time would be the charm for Wood, who was promoted to the No. 1 prospect in baseball by Baseball America earlier today. And sure enough, his first big league moment came tonight in leading the Nationals to victory.

Wood drove in the game-winning run with an RBI single in the seventh inning of the Nats’ 7-5 win over the Mets, their first against their division rival this season.

After rallying from a 5-0 deficit to make it a one-run game entering the sixth inning, the Nationals offense put Wood in position to be the hero.

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Adams recalled from Rochester, Millas optioned down, Ferrer moved to Harrisburg

adams catching gray

The Nationals made a switch at their backup catcher position Wednesday afternoon, recalling Riley Adams from Triple-A Rochester and optioning Drew Millas back to Rochester.

Adams, 28, was sent down to Rochester and replaced by Millas on the major league roster a month ago after he hit .215 with five doubles, two homers, six RBIs, seven walks, one stolen base and six runs scored in 25 games with the Nationals.

Now after 22 games with the Red Wings, he’s back in the big leagues with improved timing at the plate and another defensive position in his back pocket to give manager Davey Martinez more flexibility.

“Feels good to be back,” Adams said mere minutes after he returned to the clubhouse at Nats Park. “Obviously I've been here now for 20 minutes and I'm happy to be back. Happy to be here and anyway can help the team and all that stuff, I'm here for. That's what I told Davey. I'm excited to get back to work.”

Adams slashed .288/.396/.550 with a .946 OPS, three doubles, six homers, 13 RBIs, 12 walks and 16 runs scored with Rochester.

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Game 86 lineups: Nats vs. Mets

parker pitching white

Will tonight be the night? Can the Nationals finally beat the Mets after starting the year 0-5 against their division rival? Better yet, can they do it in the standard nine innings after losing each of the first two games of this series in the 10th?

Starting pitching hasn’t been a problem for the Nats this week. On the contrary, they have remained in these games thanks to some dominant performances from their starters over the last two days. Mitchell Parker will look to continue that trend in his 15th start. The left-hander is 5-4 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.119 WHIP to begin his rookie season.

The Mets called up rookie right-hander Christian Scott to make his sixth major league start tonight. The 25-year-old is 0-2 with a 3.90 ERA and 1.084 WHIP to begin his big league career. After holding his own against two southpaws in his first two games, this will be James Wood’s first time facing a right-handed starter in the majors.

If you’re coming to the game tonight, you’ll be treated to the traditional postgame fireworks ahead of tomorrow’s July 4 celebrations.

Note: The Nationals requested unconditional release waivers on Eddie Rosario, who was designated for assignment on Monday to make room for Wood.

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Blow of Gray's injury softened by ascension of other young starters

Dj Herz

Tuesday’s news on Josiah Gray and Cade Cavalli wasn’t good, certainly not in Gray’s case. The Nationals’ Opening Day starter, who landed on the injured list after two outings with a right flexor strain, has been shut down during the final stages of his rehab assignment after a recurrence of elbow discomfort and is scheduled to visit specialist Keith Meister in Dallas during the All-Star break.

We won’t know until then whether Gray’s injury has become far more significant and requires surgery, or whether he managed to avoid the worst and just needs more time off. Either way, it’s clear he won’t be pitching in the big leagues anytime soon, and his 2024 season could end up a complete wash.

There’s still reasonable hope for Cavalli pitching major league games for the Nationals in the relatively near future, though his return from Tommy John surgery isn’t as imminent as it once looked after the right-hander came down with the flu last week and now needs to start building up his arm yet again. Both Cavalli and Gray’s rehab assignments have been shut down.

This would have qualified as terrible news back in April. The Nats absolutely were counting on both Gray and Cavalli to be a big part of their 2024 rotation, and then for years to come after that.

It’s still bad news, but it may not be as damaging to the club’s short-term and long-term hopes as most would’ve thought when the season began. For that, we can thank the remarkable and unexpected ascension of three other young starting pitchers who have dazzled so far in the majors this year: Jake Irvin, Mitchell Parker and DJ Herz.

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Another 10th-inning meltdown, another loss to Mets (updated)

DJ Herz

James Wood has spent all of two nights in the big leagues. Each time, the Nationals’ top prospect has found himself stepping to the plate to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning in a tie game. Each time, he hasn’t been able to score the winning run.

And each time, the Nats went on to lose to the Mets after a disastrous top of the 10th.

The script was basically the same tonight, New York scoring five 10th-inning runs after exploding for six in Monday’s series opener. The Nationals didn’t have a last-ditch rally in them and thus lost their fifth straight to their division rivals, this time by a more lopsided score of 7-2.

"I think I've kind of been learning quick that how close these games really are," Wood said, "and one play can really make a difference."

Kept off the bases his first three times up tonight, even though he scorched the ball each time, Wood finally got a chance to face a right-hander in his fourth plate appearance of the game, his ninth overall in the big leagues. He saw six pitches from the Mets’ Jose Butto, didn’t swing at any of them, and wound up drawing the walk.

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