Weems replaces Machado in bullpen, Doolittle now in Harrisburg

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The Nationals made the first of what could be several moves in coming days to address a bullpen that has become the roster’s weakest link, designating Andrés Machado for assignment and recalling Jordan Weems from Triple-A Rochester.

Machado, who was tagged for four runs and gave up a pair of killer homers during Sunday’s loss to the Phillies, was out of options and couldn’t be demoted to the minor leagues without first clearing waivers. The Nationals will wait to see if the 30-year-old clears, but because he already went through this process last winter he’ll have the right to refuse an outright assignment to Triple-A and could elect to become a free agent instead.

A somewhat consistently effective bullpen arm for the Nationals in 2021-22, Machado had a 3.41 ERA and 1.326 WHIP across 91 appearances. But after opening this season in Rochester and making his return to the majors in late April, he struggled. In 14 games, he finished with an 8.47 ERA and 1.765 WHIP.

“It’s a tough move,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I really like Machado, and he’s got good stuff. It’s just his location was not good, and he was getting hit really hard.”

A Nats bullpen that performed well in 2022 and entered this season as a perceived strength has instead turned into a major cause for concern. The group enters tonight’s game against the Diamondbacks with a National League-worst 4.73 ERA and 1.433 WHIP.

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Robles is lone Nats player to file for arbitration (updated)

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It's deadline day for all major leaguers with more than three years and fewer than six years of service time to agree to terms with their clubs on 2023 salaries or else file for arbitration. The Nationals have six unsigned players facing today's deadline: Victor Robles, Kyle Finnegan, Lane Thomas, Carl Edwards Jr., Victor Arano and Hunter Harvey.

Bobby Blanco and I will be keeping track of any deals that come together over the course of the day, so check back for updates along the way ...

* Harvey is the first player to sign. The Nationals announced the right-hander has agreed to terms on his 2023 contract, avoiding arbitration. We don't have numbers yet, but MLB Trade Rumors projected a $1 million salary for him in his first year of arbitration eligibility.

Harvey, 28, had something of a breakthrough season out of the Nats bullpen after years of injuries with the Orioles. He did miss several months with an elbow strain, but he returned strong and finished the season healthy, with a 2.52 ERA and 1.144 WHIP, striking out 45 batters in 39 1/3 innings. He should enter the season at worst as the Nationals' seventh inning reliever, setting up Edwards and Finnegan.

* Next up is Edwards, who has avoided arbitration with his own one-year deal. The Washington Post reports he'll earn $2.25 million, which is a nice bump from his league minimum salary last season after he joined the club on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old right-hander was a revelation, producing a 2.76 ERA and 1.226 WHIP over 57 appearances, his best season since 2018 with the Cubs.

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Game 134 lineups: Nats at Mets

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NEW YORK – On the heels of an impressive 7-1 win, the Nationals now have a shot at a surprising series win today at Citi Field if they can continue to hit, pitch and field like they did Saturday night.

Patrick Corbin was outstanding, allowing one run on three hits over seven strong innings that required only 85 pitches. Can Erick Fedde come close to matching that? The right-hander was really encouraged how he felt in his return from the injured list 12 days ago in Seattle, but then he was beating himself up for a substandard showing last week against the Athletics. After that start, Fedde lamented his inability (or unwillingness) to come inside on Oakland’s hitters, so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s more aggressive this afternoon against an obviously tougher Mets lineup.

The Nationals lineup has a challenge itself today in Carlos Carrasco, who makes his fourth start against them this season. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.56 ERA in his previous three head-to-head encounters, allowing only three runs in 17 1/3 innings.

The Nats made a change to their bullpen before today's game, recalling Andres Machado from Triple-A Rochester and placing Víctor Arano on the 15-day injured list with a right shoulder strain. 

Citi Field
Gametime: 1:40 p.m. EDT
Radio: 106.7 FM, MLB.com
Weather: Chance of rain late, 85 degrees, wind 8 mph out to center field

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Clay recalled; Sánchez and Rogers to make rehab starts at Rochester


The Nationals returned from a five-game road trip and made a quick roster move before beginning a seven-game homestand tonight against the Pirates.

They recalled left-hander Sam Clay from Triple-A Rochester and optioned fellow southpaw Francisco Perez to Rochester, bringing in a fresh lefty arm for the bullpen. Perez’s demotion comes after he allowed three runs without recording an out in the ninth inning of yesterday’s finale against the Rangers, forcing manager Davey Martinez to call upon Tanner Rainey to close out the 6-4 win.

“Look, this game, as you know, we have to make tough decisions,” Martinez said of the move during his pregame session with the media. “But (Perez) had an outing yesterday, faced a couple of batters and got hit hard. So we just want him to go down and continue to get some work in. We brought Sam up, give him an opportunity. As you know, we're short on lefties in the bullpen. And we're always searching, we're always looking. So Sam has been pitching well down there. So we're gonna give him an opportunity to pitch up here. But that's not to say that we won't see Francisco again. He's gonna go down there and just continue to work.”

Clay went 1-2 with a 3.10 ERA, 20 strikeouts and seven walks in 21 relief appearances for Rochester. He tossed scoreless outings of relief in 17 of the 21 appearances with the Red Wings. The 29-year-old has given up five runs in four innings over five appearances with the Nats this season.

Perez, 24, posted a 7.27 ERA across 10 relief appearances for the Nats.

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Unsung heroes helped Nats over the weekend

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CINCINNATI – Wherever the Nationals go, the attention always focuses on their big-name players. Your Juan Sotos, Josh Bells, Nelson Cruzes, Josiah Grays, Patrick Corbins, etc.

While all of those stars contributed to the Nats’ three wins over the Reds this weekend, some unsung heroes played a significant role as well.

Not all of them got their fair share of praise over the last three days, partially my own fault for not incorporating them more. So let’s take some time to give them their time in the spotlight.

Lane Thomas is an obvious one, though he did get his fair share after hitting three home runs on Friday night. Those jump off the page, obviously, but he did a lot more this weekend.

Thomas went 7-for-14 with three home runs, a double, four RBIs, a walk and five runs scored in the three games he played in Cincinnati, once again showing his uncanny ability to produce in National League Central ballparks. All along the way, he played perfect defense in the outfield, including a nice sliding catch Saturday afternoon.

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Corbin, Nats hold off Reds for road series win (updated)


CINCINNATI – It’s been over a month since the Nationals completed a road series win. They took two out of three in San Francisco on April 28-May 1. They have lost five straight since.

That streak ended today as the Nationals beat the Reds 5-4 in front of 16,380 at Great American Ball Park to win their third straight game and therefore this four-game series.

The first inning had a lot of action this Sunday afternoon. Facing right-hander Luis Castillo, who doesn’t have great career numbers against the Nats, the guys in navy blue were able to jump out to an early lead, something they haven’t done in about a week.

César Hernández walked and Lane Thomas singled to start the game, and Josh Bell drove in both with an RBI double to right field, putting the Nats on the board first for the first time since Monday in New York.

But Patrick Corbin ran into trouble of his own in the bottom of the inning. The Reds’ game plan against the southpaw was clear: Attack the fastball and run on the basepaths.

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Rainey blows save, but Ruiz rallies Nats to avoid sweep (updated)


There’s always the next game in baseball. After a rough start to this series with two losses by a combined score of 13-3, the Nationals were finally able to solve the Marlins riddle and earn their first victory against their division rival.

It was a frustrating first two games. It almost became a third. But the Nats settled in, played a (mostly) clean game and won 5-4 in 10 innings in front of 7,566 at loanDepot Park to avoid the second straight sweep at the hands of the Marlins.

And they did it in an unconventional way: The Nationals broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning to take a one-run lead, lost it in the ninth and regained it in the 10th.

With Dee Strange-Gordon pinch-running for Nelson Cruz as the automatic runner on second base in the top of the 10th, Victor Robles bunted him over to third and Keibert Ruiz drove in the go-ahead run with a double down the left field line.

“I cannot say enough about Keibert," manager Davey Martinez said after the game. "What a tremendous game he had. Honestly, behind the plate, hitting, everything. Good all-around player and he's getting better. Like I said, every time he's out there, he's getting better. He definitely, for us, was the star of the game.”

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Bullpen blows first lead, Nats drop series in Pittsburgh (updated)


PITTSBURGH – The Nationals’ formula for success this season, tried and true through the first 10 games, went awry this afternoon at PNC Park. They got the five-inning start that to date has guaranteed victory, only to watch Patrick Corbin fade in the sixth and one of their most-trusted relievers, Steve Cishek, give up the lead in the seventh.

Throw in their worst defensive showing of the year, and what was shaping up to be a simple win over the Pirates in their series finale instead morphed into a 5-3 loss that devolved rather abruptly on this 42-degree Easter Sunday.

“Those little things, we got to clean up,” said manager Davey Martinez in one of several rare displays of public criticism of his team over the last few days. “We can’t give teams extra outs. We’re not going to win games like that.”

Corbin’s sixth-inning woes turned a three-run lead into a one-run lead. Cishek then gave up three runs himself in the bottom of the seventh, the first time the Nationals’ so-called “A” bullpen has blown a late lead.

There were other mistakes along the way. Third baseman Maikel Franco was charged with three errors, two of them on one play. The lineup failed to take advantage of late scoring opportunities after plating three early runs. And Josh Bell was narrowly thrown out at the plate trying to score from first on Franco’s seventh-inning double to left, aggressively waved around by third base coach Gary DiSarcina.

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Bad version of Nats shows up again in loss to Bucs


PITTSBURGH – Eight games in, here’s what we can say about the 2022 Nationals: When they’re good, they look really good; when they’re not … well, you can finish that sentence however you like.

The Nats have now won three and lost five following a 9-4 loss to the Pirates that will quickly be cast into the dustbin of forgettable games, with no reason to watch the replay.

It falls right into the same category as Tuesday night’s blowout loss in Atlanta, as well as the three season-opening losses to the Mets last week. Forgettable games, all of them, defined by poor starting pitching, not enough hitting and not enough ability by the lesser half of their bullpen to keep a deficit within a manageable margin.

They’ve been in stark contrast to the Nationals’ four wins to date, each of them defined by a solid starting performance, clutch hitting and dominant work by manager Davey Martinez’s so-called “A” bullpen.

The most notable development to come out of tonight’s affair: Dee Strange-Gordon was scratched from the lineup after feeling ill and stayed at the team hotel. Martinez couldn’t offer up any more detail than that, including on the possibility of a roster move before Friday’s game.

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