BALTIMORE - Nationals infielder Howie Kendrick gets the start tonight as the designated hitter. Manager Davey Martinez likes to find a way to put Kendrick in as a starter, but also understands that he must balance that hope with making sure his 36-year-old veteran can stay healthy enough to play the entire season.
And playing every day is not in the cards any longer.
The Nats have played 93 games so far this season. Kendrick has played in 60 of those games. Tonight, he starts at designated hitter for the fourth time. It will also be his 46th start of the season.
Kendrick has made 18 starts at first base, 14 at second base, 10 at third base and three as the designated hitter.
Ryan Zimmerman started at DH in Tuesday’s 8-1 win over the Orioles. He went 0-for-5. Tonight Martinez places Kendrick in as the designated hitter. It would be no problem for the Nats’ “Mr. Professional Hitter.”
“My decision was to get him four at-bats tonight,” Martinez said. “Would I like to play Howie 162 games? Absolutely. But the biggest thing is to keep him healthy and keep him fresh. But today was a good day to get him in there and get him some at-bats. Get some DH. And then we will see where we go this weekend.”
So with 42 starts in the field, how is Kendrick holding up? He is coming off a major Achilles tear from early last season.
“He’s been good. That’s the key,” Martinez said. “His legs feel good, so we just want to keep him that way.”
Probably most amazing is that, even though he doesn’t play every day and so has little opportunity to get into a groove, Kendrick has been able to hit consistently. In his last 33 games, Kendrick has hit .387 with seven doubles, five homers and 23 RBIs.
“That’s a tough job to do. It really is. He’s really good at it,” Martinez said. “He works great at-bats. Then again, when you give him four at-bats in the game, he could possibly work two, three, four good at-bats, drive in some big runs for you.
“That’s the balance that I got to deal with,” the skipper said. “There are some days where I wake up and have the inclination to put him in there for five days in a row. I just don’t want to do that, can’t do that, because we need him for the duration.”
Update: Following a 92-minute rain delay, the game started at 8:37 p.m.
In the third, the Nationals plated a run in a rally attempt that eventually chased Orioles starter Aaron Brooks.
With the bases loaded, Juan Soto flew out to center field to end the inning. The Nats left two men on and really should have scored more than one run.
Erick Fedde has scattered two hits but no runs through three innings.
Mid-fourth, the Nats lead the Orioles 1-0.
Update II: In the bottom of the fourth, Trey Mancini hit his 18th homer of the season to tie the game at 1-1.
In the top of the fifth, Turner and Eaton lined back-to-back two-out doubles to put the Nats back on top.
After five innings, the Nats lead the Orioles 2-1.
Update III: Fedde finished six innings, allowing one run on five hits with no walks and two strikeouts. He threw 66 pitches, 40 for strikes. Wander Suero and Tony Sipp allowed three runs in the seventh. Anthony Santander and Chris Davis laced RBI singles for the Birds. Rio Ruiz then connected on a sacrifice fly to score Santander.
After seven innings, the Orioles lead the Nats 4-2.
Update IV: The Orioles scored five runs on six hits in the eighth inning to blow the game open. Mancini hit a two-run shot and Stevie Wilkerson smacked an RBI double.
After eight innings, the Birds lead the Nats 9-2.
Update V: Matt Adams connected on a single in the ninth, but nothing came of it.
Final score: The Orioles 9, the Nats 2.