Gray shut down with elbow discomfort, will get new MRI

Josiah Gray

Josiah Gray is unlikely to pitch again for some time after the right-hander experienced elbow discomfort during his last rehab start, prompting the Nationals to schedule an MRI and a consultation with Dallas specialist Keith Meister during the All-Star break.

Though they don’t yet know the extent of this setback, the Nationals and Gray admittedly are worried about the possibility of a serious injury that requires him to miss considerable time after he already spent nearly three months trying to make it back from a flexor strain in his elbow and forearm.

“I’m a little concerned right now,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We got him ramped up, he looked good. Last outing, the velo wasn’t there. He said he just felt tired. His arm, he felt like he had nothing in there. So we’ll wait and see what happens.”

Gray was making his fifth rehab start of the month Sunday, his previous outing Tuesday for Triple-A Rochester going exceptionally well: six innings of one-run ball on 73 pitches. This latest appearance bore little resemblance to that one, with Gray getting roughed up for seven runs in three innings and his fastball topping out at 91.9 mph.

“Honestly, I felt really good going into it,” the 26-year-old said. “And then in between innings, I didn’t feel like I was recovering well. I just felt a little fatigued. Told the trainers, and we tried to get ahead of it. We’ll see what we’ve got when we get the MRI.”

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Game 85 lineups: Nats vs. Mets

DJ Herz

Monday wasn’t a typical day at the ballpark. Today should be, as the hullaballoo of James Wood’s debut dies down and the rookie outfielder just gets to work on being a big leaguer for a team trying to start winning games again.

The Nationals had themselves within a game of .500 just over a week ago, but they’ve lost six of their last seven and now suddenly sit at 39-45, three games behind a Mets team they led for most of the season’s first half. They need to get this thing back in gear before it spirals too far out of control.

Wood and his teammates will be facing another left-hander tonight in Sean Manaea. The 32-year-old has solid numbers (3.89 ERA, 1.297 WHIP, 76 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings) but he’s also walking four batters per nine innings. A Nats lineup that frequently hasn’t shown enough patience needs to show it tonight.

DJ Herz, meanwhile, starts for the Nationals, and the rookie left-hander needs a bounceback performance after back-to-back shaky outings on the road that have made his 13-strikeout gem against the Marlins feel like a distant memory. We still don’t know what exactly is going on with Josiah Gray and Cade Cavalli, so Herz’s job may not be on the line tonight. But a strong outing would certainly help his cause to stick around and avoid a trip back to Triple-A Rochester.

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: Mostly clear, 84 degrees, wind 10 mph out to left field

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On Harvey's struggles, questionable at-bats and the decision to pull Gore

Hunter Harvey

James Wood was the center of attention Monday night, and he may remain so for the foreseeable future. But a whole lot of other stuff happened during the course of the Nationals’ wild, frustrating, 9-7, 10-inning loss to the Mets.

And it’s worth revisiting some of those other key developments through the course of the game …

* Another rough night for Harvey
There haven’t been many players on the roster this season more consistently reliable than Hunter Harvey, but the right-hander is in a legitimate pitching slump right now. And it’s costing his team games.

Harvey entered Monday’s affair having been scored upon in two of his three previous appearances, not to mention four of his last nine. He endured through an awful 10th-inning meltdown in San Diego last week. And then he basically re-lived it Monday night against the Mets.

Harvey faced six batters and retired only two. The three hits he surrendered were a three-run homer, a two-out double and an RBI triple. He got only two swings and misses out of his 24 pitches. And of the five balls that were put into play against him, four featured exit velocities of at least 101.5 mph, while the fifth still clocked in at 98.6 mph.

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Nats can't bring Wood home, then collapse in 10th (updated)

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This was always going to be James Wood Night at Nationals Park, no matter how the 21-year-old performed in his major league debut, no matter the outcome of the Nats’ series opener against the Mets.

But as early evening turned to dusk turned to night on South Capitol Street, it became clear this game was going to come down to Wood at the plate – or the bases – with a chance to be the hero.

The only problem: Wood needed at least some help from his teammates, and alas they provided none at the critical moment of the game. Which then set the stage for the proceedings to flip entirely in the other direction.

A six-run top of the 10th by the Mets, five of those runs scoring off Hunter Harvey, ultimately was the difference in what devolved into a bizarre, 9-7 Mets victory, spoiling Wood’s highly anticipated debut before a crowd of 26,719 that desperately wanted to go home happy but instead left disappointed.

"Obviously, that's the end goal," the sport's No. 3-ranked prospect said at the end of a long, emotional day. "I wish we'd come out with a win. But we've got another one tomorrow, and that's all I'm focused on."

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Wood's arrival spells end with Nats for struggling Rosario

rosario

James Wood’s arrival date had been known since Friday. What wasn’t known was the identity of the player whose roster spot the Nationals’ top prospect would take.

That question finally was answered this morning when the Nats designated Eddie Rosario for assignment, bringing an end to the veteran outfielder’s frustrating three months with the organization. The 32-year-old hit just .183 with seven homers, 26 RBIs and a .555 OPS in 67 games.

The Nationals had high hopes for Rosario when they signed him to a minor league deal in spring training, assuming all along he would make the Opening Day roster. He did make the club and earned a guaranteed $2 million in the process, with the potential to earn up to $2 million more via performance incentives.

Rosario actually started Opening Day in center field, ahead of Victor Robles, though he eventually settled into the two corner outfield positions, playing in right field while Lane Thomas was on the injured list and then shifting to left field once Thomas returned.

Rosario labored through a miserable April, finishing that month with only six hits in 68 at-bats, one homer and three RBIs. A notorious slow starter, he and club officials insisted things would turn around as the season progressed.

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Game 84 lineups: Nats vs. Mets

james wood spring 2024

A day Nationals fans (and players, for that matter) have long awaited has arrived at last. Nearly two years after the deal went down, the top prospect acquired in the Juan Soto trade makes his major league debut. And he’ll be joined on the field by two other top young building blocks who arrived in the same trade with the Padres.

It’s James Wood Day on South Capitol Street, and this promises to be the organization’s most significant debut since Soto himself arrived in May 2018. Don’t be surprised, though, when the lineup is unveiled and you have to scroll down a bit to find Wood. Soto batted sixth in his first career start (after one game coming off the bench). Same for Ryan Zimmerman (after four games off the bench) and Anthony Rendon. Bryce Harper batted seventh in his debut. Trea Turner batted eighth (after four games off the bench).

Abrams, who also had to earn his way up the lineup, will be leading off as usual against Mets starter David Peterson. Despite the lefty-lefty matchup, here’s some good news: Abrams has an .889 OPS vs. left-handers this season, and Wood had a 1.089 OPS against lefties at Triple-A. Not bad.

MacKenzie Gore is on the mound, and he is especially excited to have this assignment tonight, knowing the significance of this game. The young lefty knows he needs to control his emotions and perform a lot better than he did last week in San Diego, when he allowed five runs in five innings during a highly charged game with the Padres. The Mets also got to Gore for six runs in 4 1/3 innings last month, so he should have plenty of motivation to be good tonight.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. NEW YORK METS
Where:
Nationals Park

Gametime: 6:45 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv, MLB Network (outside D.C. market)
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Clear, 79 degrees, wind 11 mph in from left field

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Wood's arrival helps Nats further distance themselves from Soto (Rosario DFA'd)

James Wood

There has been no darker day in recent Nationals history – maybe in all of Nationals history – than Aug. 2, 2022, when general manager Mike Rizzo made the decision to trade Juan Soto to the Padres.

The only saving grace that day was the glimmer of hope that the blockbuster move to deal a 23-year-old superstar (plus Josh Bell) in exchange for six players (five of them highly regarded prospects) would someday pay off for the Nats.

That day hasn’t fully arrived in D.C. yet, but consider today the franchise’s most consequential day since that dreadful summer of 2022. James Wood, the consensus best prospect acquired in the Soto trade, is set to make his major league debut, most likely starting in left field for the opener of a four-game series against the Mets.

(That move became official this morning, by the way, with the Nationals announcing they have purchased Wood’s contract from Triple-A Rochester. Needing to clear a spot on their 40-man roster, they designated Eddie Rosario for assignment. The veteran outfielder never did fully turn his season around despite a brief hot streak in early May, finishing his time here with a .183 batting average, .226 on-base percentage, seven homers, 26 RBIs and .555 OPS in 67 games.)

When he takes the field at Nationals Park for the first time, Wood will look toward the infield and see good friend and fellow former Padres prospect CJ Abrams, now one of the most exciting young shortstops in baseball. And when he looks beyond Abrams to the mound he’ll see MacKenzie Gore, another one acquired in that trade and now one of the most promising young left-handers in the sport.

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Corbin takes another loss as Nats fall to Rays (updated)

corbin pitching gray

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – From the outset of this season, there have been several anticipated developments that would signify major steps forward for the rebuilding Nationals. When would CJ Abrams and MacKenzie Gore become big-time big-leaguers? When would James Wood make his major league debut? And when would the club have enough quality pitching depth to bump Patrick Corbin from his longstanding spot in the rotation?

As the calendar now shifts to July, we’ve already seen the first question come into focus with the ascension of Abrams and Gore. And we’re about to see the second one answered Monday night when one of the top prospects in baseball makes his planned major league debut.

The answer to the third question, though, remains very much up in the air. And today’s events, both here at Tropicana Field and 1,300 miles to the north at Frontier Field in Rochester, did little to clear things up.

During a 5-0 loss to the Rays, Corbin put forth a performance that epitomizes his last four seasons: four runs allowed in six innings. It wasn’t good, but neither was it bad enough to warrant immediate removal from the rotation.

"I thought my stuff today was pretty good," the veteran lefty said. "Sometimes, it doesn't really translate to the scorecard."

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García's bold scamper home appreciated by aggressive Nats

garcía swinging

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Nationals’ 8-1 victory Saturday was made possible by a six-run explosion in the top of the seventh that turned a tight, low-scoring ballgame into a comfortable rout. But if not for that rally, Luis García Jr.’s bold baserunning play in the top of the fourth might well have been the deciding factor.

Standing on third with two outs in what was at the time a 1-1 game, García watched as Rays starter Aaron Civale bounced a pitch to Jacob Young. Though the ball squirted only a foot away from catcher Ben Rortvedt – and towards the mound, not foul territory – García took off for the plate and wound up scoring easily to give the Nats the lead in impressive fashion.

“I was anticipating, seeing the catcher get on his knees and reading the pitch,” García said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “As I saw it leave the hand of the pitcher, and that it was going toward the ground, I read the catcher. And when I saw him actually going after the ball, not the pitcher, I knew I had plenty of time.”

It was an ultra-aggressive move, one the Nationals might normally expect from the fastest players on the team (Young, CJ Abrams, Lane Thomas). But for García, it was about more than athleticism. It was about preparation and instincts in the moment.

“Awesome,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We watched him, and he got a good secondary lead and broke right away. It was a big play for us.”

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Game 83 lineups: Nats at Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – We’ve reached the final day of a long road trip, one that saw the Nationals play nine games in three cities in three time zones. They’ve gone 3-5 to this point, so a winning record is out of the question. But a victory today over the Rays at least would seal two series wins to combat the unfortunate sweep in San Diego.

Stymied at the plate for the better part of 15 innings, the Nats finally broke out in a big way in the top of the seventh Saturday, exploding for six runs in rapid fashion en route to an 8-1 win. They will look for more of that, and preferably earlier, this afternoon against Tampa Bay right-hander Taj Bradley. The 23-year-old strikes out a lot of batters (11.1 per nine innings) but he also serves up a lot of homers (10 in 49 2/3 innings). The Nationals aren’t exactly a power-laden bunch, but they might need to try to take advantage of any meatballs they do see at the plate today.

Patrick Corbin, meanwhile, gets the ball. Yes, he’s still part of the rotation, and that could continue if he continues to pitch effectively. Three weeks ago, the lefty looked like he was on his last legs, destined to be bumped to the bullpen. But over his last three starts, he’s got a 2.60 ERA and 0.981 WHIP. Josiah Gray makes another rehab start today in Rochester, so we’ll have to see how this all plays out once today’s results are in.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at TAMPA BAY RAYS
Where:
Tropicana Field
Gametime: 1:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Indoors

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams
RF Lane Thomas
LF Jesse Winker
DH Harold Ramírez
2B Luis García Jr.
1B Joey Meneses
3B Ildemaro Vargas
C Drew Millas
CF Jacob Young

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Irvin, with some late run support, authors latest gem for Nats (updated)

irvin @ MIA

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Josiah Gray got the Opening Day assignment based off his 2023 campaign. MacKenzie Gore got the hype based off his reputation and knack for the occasional dominant outing. But the member of the Nationals rotation who had the best spring and most looked poised to break out might well have been Jake Irvin.

Three months later, the right-hander might just be the best pitcher on the staff. And in a couple weeks, he might just end up representing the team at the All-Star Game.

As the season’s unofficial second half got under way this afternoon with Game 82, Irvin took the mound at Tropicana Field and kept doing what he did throughout the first half. With six superb innings of one-hit ball, he led the way and bought time for his teammates to get their bats going, which they finally did during a late explosion that turned a close game against the Rays into an 8-1 rout.

Irvin was stellar again, overcoming an early (and unlucky) home run surrendered to hold Tampa Bay hitless the rest of the way. And thanks to the kind of run support that hasn’t been provided regularly enough, he emerged with his sixth win while lowering his ERA to 3.03 (ninth-best in the National League) and WHIP to 1.061 (seventh-best in the NL).

"When he first got to spring training, he was impressive," catcher Keibert Ruiz said. "And he's been great for us this year."

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Winker back in left field after right knee scare

winker

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – As scared as he was in the moment Friday when his right knee got tweaked and he fell to the ground in pain, Jesse Winker was confident by night’s end he wasn’t seriously injured and hoped he might even feel well enough to rejoin the Nationals lineup Saturday afternoon.

Sure enough, Winker is back in there today, starting in left field and batting third for the Nats against the Rays. His knee was taped up this afternoon as he went to the batting cage, but otherwise he looked no worse for wear.

“I’m thankful it’s not anything worse,” the 30-year-old said. “Because anytime you, as a professional athlete, go down without running into anything, it’s kind of a scary feeling.”

Winker was backtracking to try to catch Isaac Paredes’ first-inning fly ball Friday night when his cleat got caught in the artificial turf at Tropicana Field. He immediately felt his knee twist and was worried it was something bad. But with the ball still in the air, he kept tracking it back to the wall, where he made a circus catch as he fell to the ground.

Manager Davey Martinez and director of athletic training Paul Lessard jogged out from the dugout to check on Winker, who remained on the ground for some time. And even though he was able to get back on his feet and walk himself back to the dugout, he did so at an extremely slow pace and with a noticeable limp.

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Game 82 lineups: Nats at Rays

garcia

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – We’ve still got more than two weeks to go until the All-Star break, but technically speaking the second half of the season begins today for the Nationals, who have now played 81 games. At 38-43, they’re probably a little better than most people expected, though they also have to acknowledge they could be even better given how good the pitching has been.

They’re also mired in a four-game losing streak and would love to turn that around this afternoon with a win over the Rays. The good news: They’ve got arguably their most consistent starter on the mound in Jake Irvin. The right-hander enters 5-6 with a 3.13 ERA and 1.087 WHIP. Most impressively, he has allowed two or fewer earned runs over six or more innings in 10 of his 16 starts. That’s consistency for you right there, the good kind.

At the plate, the Nats have to do more than they did during Friday night’s 3-1 loss. We’re waiting to find out about Jesse Winker’s status after he tweaked his right knee in the first inning Friday. If he can’t go, that’s a pretty notable loss in the heart of the lineup, and it will be up to others to pick up the slack against right-hander Aaron Civale, who enters with a 5.20 ERA and hasn’t been credited with a win since April 9.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at TAMPA BAY RAYS
Where:
Tropicana Field

Gametime: 4:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Indoors

NATIONALS
SS CJ Abrams
RF Lane Thomas
LF Jesse Winker
1B Joey Meneses
2B Luis García Jr.
DH Harold Ramírez
C Keibert Ruiz
3B Nick Senzel
CF Jacob Young

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Where the Nationals stand at the official midway point of 2024

winker

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The sting of a 3-1 loss to the Rays was still fresh, not to mention the frustration of a losing streak that has now reached four games and dropped the Nationals from a temporary spot in the National Leauge’s final wild card slot to a spot well below that key standing.

But as Jesse Winker contemplated where this team stood upon reaching the official halfway point of the season – 38-43, four games out of a playoff berth with 81 games still to go – the veteran outfielder couldn’t help but think about the expectations way back in March compared to now.

“If we were to all sit in Palm Beach and you said we’d be right here, right now at this point, I think everyone would be pretty stoked about that,” Winker said. “Keeping that in perspective is obviously a big deal.”

Indeed, most anyone associated with a Nationals club that finished last in the division four years in a row and was happy to win 71 games in 2023 would have to be content with the current state of affairs.

This wasn’t a great first half, nor would anyone try to claim it was. But it was better than most probably expected, and it featured far more encouraging developments than discouraging ones.

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With Wood still at Triple-A, Nats lose Winker and game (updated)

Mitchell Parker

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Help is on the way for the Nationals’ power-starved lineup. But it’s not scheduled to arrive until Monday, leaving the current group to have to try to get the job done this weekend against the Rays.

And if tonight’s series opener was any indication, it’s going to continue to be tough sledding until James Wood joins the bunch. Especially if Jesse Winker has now been lost to injury.

Hours after news broke they intend to promote one of baseball’s top prospects Monday for the start of an eight-game homestand, the Nats slogged their way through a 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay that was made worse by Winker’s right knee injury in the bottom of the first.

Already reeling from a three-game sweep in San Diego, the Nationals were held to one run on five hits by the Rays’ pitching staff, leaving them with a 38-43 record at the official halfway point of the season.

"We were one game under .500 before we got to San Diego," center fielder Jacob Young said. "So I think we're right there. We've played a lot of teams tough. We've had a pretty tough schedule. I think we've played well. We just need to keep going one game at a time and try to get some victories and get off this little four-game slide we're on."

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Gray to start again for Rochester, Cavalli feeling better, Gallo progressing

Josiah Gray

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – By most conventional measurements, Josiah Gray should be ready to return from the injured list.

The Nationals right-hander, out since mid-April with a flexor strain in his elbow, has made four rehab starts this month, adding one inning each time out and maxing out at six innings Tuesday for Triple-A Rochester. That most recent start also was by far his best of the group, with only one run and four hits allowed, not to mention zero walks issued. He completed those six innings on only 73 pitches, but he got to 79 pitches the previous time on the mound.

So why aren’t the Nats activating Gray yet?

“I want to make sure when he comes back he’s ready,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We cleaned up his mechanics a little bit. The other day he felt really good, and he rebounded really well. So we’ll get him back out there.”

So Gray is remaining in Rochester and is scheduled to start Sunday, when he could throw as many as seven innings and build up his pitch count to 90.

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Source: Nats plan to call up Wood to debut Monday

James Wood

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Nationals plan to promote outfielder James Wood to make his major league debut Monday night against the Mets, two sources familiar with the decision confirmed, calling the top prospect up for their final homestand prior to the All-Star break.

Wood is still scheduled to play this weekend for Triple-A Rochester, according to one of the sources, where the 21-year-old surely will be monitored closely in hopes of keeping him healthy before he travels to D.C.

Wood’s planned promotion, which was first reported by 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen, figures to be the Nationals’ most-hyped debut in years, certainly since the franchise embarked on its roster rebuild three summers ago. One of the centerpiece prospects acquired in the August 2022 trade with the Padres for Juan Soto and Josh Bell, the 6-foot-7 outfielder currently is rated baseball’s No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline, two spots ahead of fellow outfielder Dylan Crews, who was just promoted to Rochester last week.

Wood has dominated at the Triple-A level since the season began and was on target to debut earlier this summer until he suffered a hamstring injury May 23. He spent nearly four weeks on the minor league injured list, then returned to action June 18 (the same day Crews made his Triple-A debut).

In six games since coming back from the injury, Wood is 5-for-19 with one homer, three RBIs, four walks and four strikeouts. In 51 total games this season, he’s batting .346 with a .458 on-base percentage, 10 homers, 34 RBIs, 10 stolen bases and a 1.036 OPS.

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With big smile and blue hair, Ramírez happy for opportunity with Nats

ramirez

When the Nationals signed Harold Ramírez to a minor league deal two weeks ago, the idea was that he could provide another right-handed bat to face left-handed pitching. He joined the Nats this week leading all major leaguers with a .339 batting average against left-handed pitchers since 2020, which could definitely help a team that ranks in the bottom half of the league in hitting southpaws.

Ramírez wasn’t having a terrible year by league standards, hitting .268 in 48 games with the Rays before they designated him for assignment and released him. There just wasn’t a lot of power (.305 slugging percentage and .589 OPS) or consistency after he hit .300 in each of the previous two seasons.

The question wasn’t really: Could Ramírez recapture his hitting ability? It was more: Where is his mindset after being designated for assignment in the middle of the season?

There was a conversation to be had between the 29-year-old and the Nats brass as he joined the team in San Diego on Monday. And that conversation was all about confidence.

“We just talked about confidence,” Ramírez said. “What can I do when I hit? We feel excited because I'm here. … I always have confidence because that's the most important thing for me.”

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Nuñez collects first major league knock in surprise pinch-hit at-bat

Nasim Nunez

SAN DIEGO – In the moment, it was a small maneuver. Even Nasim Nuñez himself was a bit surprised at the timing of it, though he figured it was going to come in an 8-0 game.

But Nationals manager Davey Martinez waited until the last possible moment to let Nuñez know he was going to pinch-hit for CJ Abrams in the top of the ninth to give the starting shortstop a breather.

Jacob Young was already in the midst of drawing a leadoff walk when the Rule 5 pick gathered his things to step onto the on-deck circle. Except Martinez told him so late, he wasn’t even using his things.

“I was mentally prepared for it, but I didn't know if it was actually gonna happen,” Nuñez said of getting the call to get in the game. “So I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ And then I didn't have my batting gloves, so I was like, ‘CJ, let me get yours real quick.’”

Using Abrams’ gloves, the 23-year-old stepped into the batter’s box for his 12th big league plate appearance still in search of his first major league hit. Facing Padres left-handed reliever Tom Cosgrove, Nuñez fell behind 0-2 but battled back to even the count 2-2.

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Nats serve up another slam to get swept out of San Diego (updated)

DJ Herz

SAN DIEGO – This series between the Nationals and Padres didn’t need any more drama. Not after the extra-inning theatrics on Monday and the extracurriculars on Tuesday.

It felt like both teams got everything off their respective chests last night and could just play a regular ballgame Wednesday.

They were able to do so. Except the Nationals were searching for a victory to avoid getting swept out of San Diego and couldn’t overcome an early deficit in an 8-5 loss in front of an announced crowd of 37,397 at Petco Park.

DJ Herz was tasked with holding the Padres lineup in check after it scored a combined 16 runs over the first two games. But as in his previous start in Colorado, the rookie southpaw couldn’t get out of the fourth inning. Today marked the shortest outing of his five major league starts to date.

Kyle Higashioka snuck a two-run homer down the left field line to give the Padres a 2-0 lead in the second. Herz left an 81 mph changeup right down the middle of the plate for the catcher to smack.

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