Clarifying Nats' comments after Tuesday's incident with Padres

Keibert Ruiz Nats Padres

SAN DIEGO – Let’s be very clear from the start: The Nationals did not intentionally hit Jurickson Profar during Tuesday’s game. Nor did manager Davey Martinez suggest that they did so during his postgame press conference.

Yes, Keibert Ruiz confronted Profar before his first at-bat last night, leading to both benches and bullpens clearing. Yes, MacKenzie Gore hit Profar with the first pitch. But the left-hander hit the back foot of the switcher-hitter, who was standing in on the right-handed side of the plate. A nearly impossible feat to accomplish on purpose.

And yes, Martinez said he was proud of the way his team – i.e. Ruiz – handled the situation by having a conversation, not by using physical retaliation.

As is commonplace on social media nowadays, some misinformation circulated online this morning speculating otherwise. And that’s the proper word for what happened because Martinez’s quotes were taken totally out of context.

For proper context, the portion of the manager’s postgame session that aired on MASN’s “Nats Xtra” postgame show started after the first couple of questions were already asked and didn’t include the question that Martinez was answering.

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Game 80 lineups: Nats at Padres

herz @ COL

SAN DIEGO – Are there any more fireworks left in this series between the Nationals and Padres? The Nats certainly hope so as they look to avoid the three-game sweep in today’s finale.

Last night’s game was full of emotion and got pretty heated early, but it eventually settled down and became more about baseball than any off-field theatrics. Let’s see if the Nats can take the frustration of these two losses and turn it into something positive before heading to Tampa Bay.

While the Nats have been able to score runs over the first two games of this series, they haven’t been able to keep the Padres from doing so as well. They’ll turn to rookie DJ Herz to hold this lineup and give them a chance to get out of here with a win. Herz was charged with four runs (three earned) in his last start at Coors Field, so he’ll try to get back to what made him so successful when he struck out 13 Marlins over six shutout innings in his start before that.

Meanwhile, Dylan Cease hasn’t been all that impressive after coming to the Padres from the White Sox this spring in exchange for four players. The veteran right-hander is 6-6 with a 4.14 ERA and 1.106 WHIP in 16 starts.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at SAN DIEGO PADRES
Where: Petco Park
Gametime: 4:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, DC 87.7 (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Sunny, 75 degrees, wind 10 mph from left to right

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After benches clear early, Nats lose to Padres late (updated)

Keibert Ruiz Jurickson Profar

SAN DIEGO – There was underlying tension ahead of this second game between the Nationals and Padres.

After Jurickson Profar took exception to two inside pitches that weren’t really close to hitting him then walked off the Nats and directed his celebration toward the visiting dugout last night, some members of the Nationals bench waited around to see if things would escalate.

They didn’t then. But it didn’t take long for it to carry over into tonight’s game.

The Nationals ended up losing 9-7 to the Padres, but not before both benches cleared in the first inning with Keibert Ruiz and Profar getting into it.

“It was nothing crazy," Ruiz said after the game. "We were just having a conversation about what he did yesterday. But it was nothing really crazy.”

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Gray strong in fourth rehab start with Rochester (updated)

gray pitching blue

SAN DIEGO – While the Nationals prepared for their second game against the Padres here in San Diego, they were also keeping an eye on a minor league game in Rochester, N.Y.

Josiah Gray made his fourth rehab start with Triple-A Rochester while nearing the end of his comeback from a right elbow/forearm flexor strain. And he had excellent results.

The right-hander completed six shutout innings with four hits, one run, no walks and four strikeouts on 73 pitches, 44 strikes. He'll probably throw more in the bullpen to get up to the targeted 90 pitches.

Gray has now completed three, four, five and six innings in his four rehab starts.

Nationals manager Davey Martinez, of course, didn’t have an update on Gray before the Nats’ game as he held his pregame media session as Rochester’s game was just getting started. But surely he will be happy with these results when we talk to him again after the game here.

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Game 79 lineups: Nats at Padres

gore pitching gray

SAN DIEGO – “It sucks we didn't get a win. But we just got to keep our heads up and come back tomorrow.”

That was Keibert Ruiz after last night’s brutal 7-6 loss in 10 innings to the Padres after the Nationals had a three-run lead going into the bottom of the 10th. Let’s see how the Nats respond tonight in the second game of this three-game set.

MacKenzie Gore goes to the mound to face his former team for the third time. He is 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA and 1.862 WHIP in his first two outings against the Padres, who included him and CJ Abrams in the blockbuster deal for Juan Soto. Gore is coming off one of his more bizarre outings in which he gave up a career-high 10 hits, nine of which were singles, to the Diamondbacks while striking out seven over five innings. The young lefty typically bounces back well after a rough outing, so the Nats certainly hope that’s the case tonight.

Yu Darvish was supposed to make his return from the injured list to start for the Padres, but that has been delayed due to right elbow inflammation. So it will be right-handed rookie Adam Mazur taking the hill with an 0-2 record, 7.27 ERA and 1.962 WHIP from his first four major league starts. 

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at SAN DIEGO PADRES
Where: Petco Park
Gametime: 9:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, DC 87.7 (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Sunny, 74 degrees, wind 8 mph from left to right

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Corbin's string of solid starts makes Nats' upcoming decision harder

Patrick Corbin

SAN DIEGO – It looked like it could have been the beginning of the end for Patrick Corbin in the Nationals rotation on June 5.

The veteran left-hander, now one of only two active players remaining from the 2019 World Series championship roster and in the last season of his six-year, $140 million contract that has kept him has the highest paid player on the team while statistically being one of the worst pitchers in the sport, once again gave up a lot of runs in a single outing.

The Mets tagged him for six runs on seven hits (three home runs) in 5 ⅓ innings. Four days later, Josiah Gray, an important piece to the Nats rotation of the future, made his first rehab start while coming back from a right elbow/forearm flexor strain.

The two have pitched close to the same day over the last two weeks, seemingly lining up Gray to take Corbin’s spot in the rotation once he was deemed ready. Corbin’s future with the team remained a mystery. Would they move him to the bullpen, where they currently have only one lefty reliever? Would they try to use a six-man rotation like they did with some success last year? Or would they simply cut ties with the 34-year-old as a pending free agent with very little trade value?

Well, if you look at the way Corbin has pitched since that start against the Mets, it’s as if he’s borrowing a line from Lee Corso: “Not so fast, my friend.”

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Harvey loses three-run lead in 10th as Nats fall to Padres (updated)

Nick Senzel

SAN DIEGO – The Nationals didn’t make a big deal of this three-game series against the Padres before the opener started. But if you looked at the standings, maybe they should have.

The Nats sat just a half-game behind the Padres for the last National League wild card spot entering tonight’s series opener. And although it’s still only June, the results of these three games will have an effect on those standings.

A victory would have vaulted the Nats into a playoff position with two games left to play at Petco Park. A loss would still keep them within striking distance.

After playing tight ballgames in Colorado, the Nats endured another one tonight in San Diego, this one ending in a 7-6 loss in 10 innings in front of an announced crowd of 39,164.

With two outs in the 10th inning of a 3-3 game, Keibert Ruiz pulled a second-pitch fastball from Padres reliever Enyel De Los Santos to score the automatic runner from second and give the Nats their first lead of the night.

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Nats select contract of Ramírez, option Lipscomb back to Rochester

Trey Lipscomb swing

SAN DIEGO – Harold Ramírez walked into the Nationals clubhouse at Petco Park with blue hair and a wide smile. He looked like the only kid ever to be excited on his first day at his new school. It’s because he was back in a major league clubhouse for the first time in three weeks.

The Nationals selected Ramírez’s contract from Triple-A Rochester before opening a three-game series against the Padres. The 29-year-old, who was designated for assignment by the Rays on June 7 and released on June 13, signed a minor league deal with the Nats on June 15 and needed just seven minor league games before joining a big league roster again.

“I really feel very excited to be here in the big leagues to be here with the Nationals,” he said in the visiting dugout after taking his first batting practice with his new team. “I just really want to give my 100 percent and take advantage of this opportunity.”

While not in the starting lineup tonight, he is available off the bench as a right-handed pinch-hitter for manager Davey Martinez, who says Ramírez will get opportunities against lefties.

“We picked up Harold. So he was down with us in Rochester, trying to get him going. He started swinging back really well,” Martinez said. “We needed a right-handed hitter. He's a veteran guy that hits lefties really well. So he's gonna get an opportunity to definitely play against lefties. And also if he starts swinging the bat, I can use him in our lineup. So we're gonna go over here. We wanted to bring him in today. He'll pinch-hit today for us. But get him acclimated and get him in as soon as possible.”

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Game 78 lineups: Nats at Padres

winker

SAN DIEGO – Hello from beautiful, sunny Southern California! The Nationals are set to begin a three-game series here against the Padres after winning two of three in Colorado against the Rockies. And they have escaped the extreme heat of both Denver and Washington, D.C. to San Diego, where it is forecasted to be in the mid-70s all week.

Don’t look now, but this series actually has some playoff implications. Yes, it is still June, but entering today, the Nats are only a half-game behind the Padres for the final National League Wild Card spot. With a series victory, they could leave town firmly in a postseason position and at or above .500.

The Nationals are sending Patrick Corbin back to the mound for his 16th start of the year. Although he has only been charged with one run in each of his last two outings, it should be noted that Josiah Gray will be making his fourth rehab start with Triple-A Rochester in the coming days. As he gets closer to his return, the Nats get closer to having to make a decision on their veteran left-hander, who needs another solid outing to make a case for keeping his rotation spot.

Matt Waldron makes his 16th start of the year for the Padres. The right-handed rookie is 5-6 with a 3.46 ERA and 1.164 WHIP this season. He’s currently on a dominant stretch of five straight quality starts in which he’s gone 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA. Waldron hasn’t given up more than two runs in a start since May 5 against the Diamondbacks.

Harold Ramírez is reportedly meeting the Nationals here in San Diego. No roster move has been announced yet, so we’ll see if he makes it in time for today’s game. The Nats signed the veteran outfielder to a minor league contract after he was designated for assignment by the Rays and cleared waivers earlier this month.

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Irvin stares down Coors and thrives in the thin air

Jake Irvin

DENVER – Jake Irvin had never pitched at Coors Field before. The Nationals’ trip here last season came right in between the right-hander’s major league debut in D.C. and his second start in San Francisco, so he had no personal experience to go off as he prepared for Sunday’s outing against the Rockies.

So Irvin sought out a teammate with loads of experience pitching at high altitude: Patrick Corbin, who has made 13 career starts here. (All three as a member of the Nationals were quality starts, to boot.)

As he stood at his locker following a dominant performance late Sunday afternoon, Irvin noted the words of wisdom he received from Corbin.

“Obviously the elements are a little different than any of the other parks we play in,” he said. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Pat, because coming in here I asked him – he had pitched in Arizona for a while, so he played here a lot. He said you can’t really be intimidated by the ballpark and the conditions. Just pitch your game. That advice really helped.”

Irvin certainly stuck to his usual gameplan, relying primarily on fastballs and curveballs. And he executed that plan brilliantly, striking out 10 over six innings of one-run ball to keep the game close before the Nats rallied to win 2-1 in the ninth.

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Nats finally break through in ninth to beat Rockies (updated)

thomas trots v ARI

DENVER – For two nights, the Nationals shrugged off their hitting woes and took full advantage of Coors Field and everything it has to offer. And then when it came time for today’s series finale in the best hitter’s park in America, they reverted right back to the form they displayed earlier in the week when they swung at almost everything the Diamondbacks threw at them and emerged with very little to show for it.

Until it mattered most at day’s end and the bats finally woke up just enough to do the impossible.

Held to one hit for eight innings, the Nationals strung together three of them in the ninth, getting clutch RBI knocks from Lane Thomas and Joey Meneses to storm back and beat the Rockies, 2-1, with Kyle Finnegan atoning for his disastrous bottom of the ninth Saturday night to notch the save on Sunday afternoon.

"You look at the last few games and know that the last few innings ... you feel like no one's going to win 1-0," Thomas said. "I think at no part in that game did we think we weren't going to score at least one. We were able to get it done." 

Unable to do anything at the plate for nearly the entire day, aside from Jacob Young’s sixth-inning infield single, the Nats finally put it together in the ninth against Colorado left-hander Jalen Beeks. Young got it started with another infield single, and though he was wiped out on CJ Abrams’ chopper to third, Abrams got himself into scoring position on a wild pitch.

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Despite recent woes on bases, Nats insist they will keep running

GettyImages-2148085252

DENVER – The 2024 Nationals established their offensive identity way back in April. Knowing they couldn’t match most other clubs in the power department, they decided to take advantage of their above-average speed and try to become the majors’ best baserunning team.

And for eight good weeks, they delivered in that department. The Nats racked up an astounding 77 stolen bases through their first 47 games, getting caught only 14 times for an impressive 84.6 percent success rate.

Since then, the numbers have plummeted and left the Nationals as the majors’ least effective baserunners. Over their last 29 games, they’ve stolen 27 bases but have been thrown out 24 times, a hard-to-believe 52.9 percent success rate that ranks far and away at the bottom of the league during the last month.

And it perhaps reached a low point Saturday night during an agonizing 8-7 loss to the Rockies that garnered attention for Kyle Finnegan’s walk-off pitch-clock violation in the bottom of the ninth but featured plenty more miscues along the way.

The Nats attempted four stolen bases in the game and were thrown out three times, including CJ Abrams and Lane Thomas in back-to-back plate appearances in the top of the seventh, just as the team was taking a 7-5 lead.

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Game 77 lineups: Nats at Rockies

Trey Lipscomb swing

DENVER – It’s a new day at Coors Field, and the Nationals are grateful for that, because it means they don’t have to dwell on Saturday night’s disastrous, 8-7 loss to the Rockies, a game that saw them run into four outs on the bases, then give up runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, the last of them scoring on the first walk-off pitch clock violation in major league history. Good times.

The good news: In spite of all that, the Nats still have a chance to win the series this afternoon. Jake Irvin gets the ball, and he’ll take his crack at trying to keep the ball in the yard here on what is going to be a hot, dry afternoon made for offense. Irvin had his first rough outing in a while last time out, allowing four runs in five innings to the Diamondbacks. He makes his first career start in Colorado, having missed this assignment last year right after he was called up for his debut.

At the plate, the Nationals will try to keep the good offensive vibes going against Kyle Freeland, just activated off the 60-day injured list after missing two months with an elbow strain. The veteran left-hander was awful in his first four starts in April, going 0-3 with a 13.21 ERA before landing on the IL. You would think he’ll be limited today.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at COLORADO ROCKIES
Where:
Coors Field

Gametime: 3:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Sunny, 93 degrees, wind 6 mph out to left field

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

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Nats wilt late at Coors, lose on pitch clock violation by Finnegan (updated)

wendelstedt pitch clock violation

DENVER – The Nationals and Rockies engaged in a good, old-fashioned Coors Field Saturday Night Special. The kind of night when anything can and will happen, and whatever happened in the first six innings doesn’t mean diddly squat because there’s still too much time for too much else to happen the rest of the way.

This game had five home runs. It had four runners caught stealing. It had multiple substitutions, either for injury or strategy. It had an ejection over one of countless erratic calls by plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. And it ultimately had the Nats’ top two relievers desperately try to replicate what they’ve done with ease everywhere else in Coors Field, the toughest pitcher’s park in America.

And then it ended in the most unimaginable manner possible: a pitch clock violation by Kyle Finnegan with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, handing the Rockies an 8-7 victory in historic fashion.

It was the first major league game to end on such a violation since baseball adopted the rule last year.

"It sucks," Finnegan said. "We played a great game and deserved to win, and I wasn't able to do my job."

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With six-out appearance in win, Rainey feels back on track

rainey on mound gray

DENVER – Tanner Rainey knew the significance of what he had just done. In closing out the Nationals’ 11-5 win over the Rockies on Friday night, he not only had been given the chance to pitch at the end of a victory instead of a loss for the first time in months. He also was given the chance to pitch multiple innings for the first time in nearly two years, his final appearance before undergoing Tommy John surgery.

“It’s not necessarily a milestone,” the reliever said, “but it’s something cool to have back under my belt.”

It’s been a painful season to date for Rainey, and not because his surgically repaired elbow has hurt at all. In his long-awaited return from that 2022 procedure, the 31-year-old former closer had seen himself plummet to the bottom of the Nats’ bullpen depth chart.

Rainey hadn’t pitched in a game the Nationals won since April 27 in Miami. And though this wasn’t exactly the definition of a high-leverage situation, a six-run lead in Colorado is probably more akin to a three- or four-run lead elsewhere.

Rainey took the mound for the bottom of the eighth and promptly retired the side, striking out a pair and needing only 13 total pitches to do it. So when he returned to the dugout, manager Davey Martinez asked how he felt about going back out for the ninth as well.

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Game 76 lineups: Nats at Rockies

parker pitching gray

DENVER – The Nationals exploded for 11 runs on a season-high 19 hits Friday night against the Rockies. Can they carry any of that success over into tonight’s game and keep the positive offensive vibes going?

Davey Martinez’s bunch seemed to find the right balance between aggressively hitting fastballs in the zone and working the count when there wasn’t the perfect pitch waiting for them. They went 7-for-8 with 15 total bases when they put the first pitch of an at-bat in play, but they also drew five walks, showing the kind of patience they didn’t have the previous series against the Diamondbacks.

The Nats are facing statistically the Rockies’ best starter tonight in Cal Quantrill. The right-hander boasts a 3.43 ERA in 15 starts, which is no small feat pitching in this ballpark. He doesn’t strike a lot of guys out (6.3 per nine innings) but he doesn’t give up homers either (only eight in 84 innings). His two primary pitches are a sinker and a splitter, so the Nationals have to make sure they’re not chasing him down in the zone and pounding the ball into the ground.

Mitchell Parker makes his 13th major league start tonight, hoping to keep his streak alive by limiting Colorado to three or fewer earned runs. The lefty was really good against the Marlins last time out, allowing one run over six innings without walking anybody. Parker’s challenge tonight: Don’t leave the curveball or splitter up in the zone in the thin air.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at COLORADO ROCKIES
Where:
Coors Field
Gametime: 9:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 84 degrees, wind 9 mph in from left field

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Herz gets the full high-altitude experience in first Coors start

herz @ COL

DENVER – DJ Herz’s start Friday night bore no resemblance to his previous outing, when he took Nationals Park by storm and struck out 13 Marlins batters over six innings of one-hit, shutout ball.

In this game at Coors Field, the rookie left-hander lasted only 3 2/3 innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on seven hits, all while throwing 76 pitches before getting the hook from manager Davey Martinez.

There was one similarity, though, and it was an important one that could bode well for future starts. As he did against Miami, Herz did not issue a walk against Colorado. He forced the Rockies to beat him, not giving them any help along the way.

“I thought it was good for the most part,” he said after the Nats’ 11-5 victory. “I’m happy about the amount of strikes, and the no walks again. Every time they scored, we answered, so it was good to see the run support and everybody hitting the ball tonight. It was really fun.”

Herz was hit hard, serving up three homers during a seven-batter span between the third and fourth innings. But two of those were solo shots, and the other was a two-run homer only because of third baseman Nick Senzel’s throwing error moments earlier. Herz didn’t create jams by losing control.

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Bats come alive in Colorado as Nats cruise to victory (updated)

thomas swinging gray

DENVER – Nobody in the clubhouse wanted to admit it this afternoon, but surely everyone was thinking it. If ever there was a place built to snap a moribund lineup out of its funk, it had to be Coors Field, right?

The Nationals arrived in the Mile High City reeling from a three-game series against the Diamondbacks in which they scored a total of five runs and saw a grand total of 287 pitches. (Somehow, they still won one of those three games.) But spirits remained high, because a weekend set with the Rockies felt like just what the doctor ordered.

And indeed it was, because in the series opener in the best hitter’s park in America, the Nats put forth one of their best offensive performances of the year, cruising to an 11-5 victory behind a season-high 19 hits.

"They responded really well," manager Davey Martinez said. "We talked a lot about know yourself. Know who you are. Know what pitches you want to attack. Stay on the fastball. We did well today."

Everybody in the lineup reached base once, and all but Nick Senzel reached multiple times. But Lane Thomas led the way with an RBI single, a two-run double and an RBI triple, the red-hot right fielder coming up just short of his first career cycle when he grounded out and then struck out in his final two at-bats.

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Abrams returns to lineup, Cavalli cruises through rehab start

abrams swinging gray

DENVER – CJ Abrams is back in the Nationals’ lineup tonight, his left wrist taped up as he tries to protect a ganglion cyst that developed earlier in the week and kept him from playing the last two days.

“I’m not really sure what that is,” he said. “But it can’t get worse, so I’m good for tonight.”

The cyst is on the palm side of Abrams’ wrist, under the skin but pushing up slightly to create a small bump. He first noticed it prior to Wednesday’s game, at which point the Nats scratched him from the lineup. He also sat out Thursday’s series finale against the Diamondbacks but was showing signs of improvement that led him to believe he’d be OK for tonight’s game against the Rockies.

Because the cyst is on his left wrist, Abrams has no issues throwing. He simply has to deal with a little bit of discomfort when he bats.

“I still don’t know,” he said when asked how it occurred. “Just swinging, I guess. That’s when it hurts the most.”

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Game 75 lineups: Nats at Rockies

herz pitching blue

DENVER – The Nationals couldn’t hit a lick in three games at home against the Diamondbacks. Maybe a three-game series at Coors Field against the Rockies will do the trick.

If ever there was a ballpark – and an opposing pitching staff – that could snap a team out of its offensive funk, this is that combination. There’s no better place to hit in baseball, and the Rockies give up a major-league-worst 5.87 runs per game (leaps and bounds more than the next-worst pitching staff: the White Sox, at 5.17).

As of this writing, we’re still waiting to see tonight’s lineup, so we don’t know if CJ Abrams is ready to return or if he still needs another day off due to the cyst on his left wrist. Obviously, the Nats would love to have their leadoff man and shortstop playing for them. Whether Abrams plays or not, they’ll still need much more production from others in the lineup, including Lane Thomas, Jesse Winker and Keibert Ruiz.

DJ Herz takes the mound for the Nationals, and it will be fascinating to see how he does tonight on the heels of his brilliant, 13-strikeout gem against the Marlins. It really does seem to boil down to Herz’s ability to keep the ball in the strike zone. And that’s all the more important here, where you simply can’t afford to give away free passes and allow small rallies to turn into big rallies.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at COLORADO ROCKIES
Where:
Coors Field
Gametime: 8:40 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 88.7 FM (Spanish), MLB.com
Weather: Slight chance of rain, 80 degrees, wind 7 mph in from left field

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