NEW YORK - Davey Martinez was thinking about sitting one of his left-handed-hitting star outfielders for today’s series finale at Citi Field. But not necessarily the one who actually is on the bench this afternoon against the Mets.
Harper also is 0 for his last 11 at the plate, putting at least a temporary halt to his second-half resurgence. He was batting .364 since the All-Star break, raising his season average from .214 to .252. It has since dropped to .248.
“The fact he’s not feeling good,” Martinez said when asked why Harper isn’t playing. “And just giving him a day off.”
Had Harper been healthier, Soto might have been the guy sitting today. Instead, the 19-year-old is starting his 46th consecutive game, the longest current streak on the Nationals roster.
Martinez said he approached Soto this morning and raised the possibility of a day off. The kid’s response: “Nooooo.” Martinez replied: “You’re sure you’re good?” To which Soto answered: “100 percent.”
Martinez has been looking for signs of fatigue (either physical or mental) from Soto, who has never played a full season as a professional ballplayer, let alone a major leaguer. What the rookie manager sees from his rookie outfielder, though, suggests he’s not tired.
“The fact that he’s willing to take his walks,” Martinez said. “The fact that he’s still trying to use the middle of the field. It all matters. It all counts. I watch. When he starts swinging at pitches all over the place, then you tend to feel like that’s a good indication that he’s tired, that his focus is not there. But he’s good.”
Soto was asked after Saturday’s game how he feels at this late stage of a season nobody foresaw from him.
“Right now, I feel very good,” Soto said. “But my body is real nice. And I now I know I worked very good in the offseason, because I feel normal. Just sometimes (tired) a little bit. But we just have to sleep and get it back.”
This is the first time Madson has thrown in a ballpark since he gave up a walk-off grand slam to the Cubs’ David Bote on August 12, then revealed he had a shooting pain down his back and leg, which landed him on the disabled list. After spending the last week working and throwing with his personal trainer in Phoenix, the veteran reliever has rejoined the club and said he feels considerably better.
If Madson emerged from today’s session well, he could be activated either Monday or Tuesday in Philadelphia. Doolittle, out since early July with a stress reaction in his left foot, appears to need more time before he’s ready to return.
Update: Well, it’s happening again. They’ve played five innings so far today, and neither the Nationals nor their opponents have scored. That’s the third time in the last four days this has happened. And the other time, they trailed 1-0. So, the scoreless innings streak is now at 32. On the bright side, Jefry Rodriguez has tossed five scoreless innings of his own and is poised to pitch the sixth inning for the first time in his brief MLB career.
Update II: The streak is over! Yes, the Nationals scored a run in the top of the sixth, and all it took was Trea Turner’s double off the top of the left field wall (inches away from being a homer), Anthony Rendon’s single up the middle and Soto’s RBI groundout to first. And so after 32 innings that spanned 88 hours and 1 minute, the Nats have scored a run. They lead 1-0.
Update III: Holy moly, what just happened in the top of the eighth? The Nats scored eight runs, that’s what happened. Yes, eight. Soto got it started by drawing a bases-loaded walk, giving him the team’s first two RBIs in the last four days. But they didn’t stop there. Martinez sent Harper up to pinch-hit for Michael A. Taylor, and Harper responded with a three-run double. Then Wilmer Difo launched his second homer of the week (same number as Daniel Murphy has hit for the Cubs, by the way) and Adam Eaton added his own to cap off a remarkable inning for the Nationals, who now lead 9-0. By the way, I don’t know what everyone has been complaining about. Over their last four games, the Nats have outscored the opposition 9-8!