NEW YORK - Javy Guerra was hanging out in Toronto with his 2-year-old son Monday afternoon when he got a call from a Blue Jays official, informing the veteran reliever he had just been claimed off waivers by the Nationals.
“Just hanging out,” he said. “And before you know it, you find out that you have to get down here and be ready to play tomorrow.”
Guerra, now pitching for his sixth franchise in nine years, has learned how to deal with the uncertainty of this profession.
“You just kind of learn to roll with it,” he said. “You embrace it for what it is. You are thankful for every day, and you do your job. You take the ball.”
The Nationals hope to give Guerra the ball plenty of times and hope he delivers some key innings of relief for them to help stabilize the majors’ worst bullpen. The 33-year-old has pitched in a variety of roles during his career, even recording 21 saves as a rookie for the Dodgers in 2011. He had a 3.86 ERA in 11 games with the Blue Jays, capped by three scoreless innings in his final appearance Friday before he was designated for assignment.
Nats manager Davey Martinez spoke to Guerra over the phone Monday after the transaction was made official and told him to be ready to pitch. After arriving today, Guerra insisted he is.
“I’m ready every day,” he said. “That’s the new role. Just ready to take the ball whenever they call.”
Update: Juan Soto got a fastball from Zack Wheeler in his first at-bat tonight. And he made the most of it. Soto crushed the ball deep into the second deck down the right field line, the ball leaving his bat at 109.1 mph. That gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead, and the lead remains there through three innings thanks to quality pitching from Erick Fedde and some nice defense behind him. Anthony Rendon has made two impressive plays at third base, including a 5-4-3 double play to escape a second-inning jam. And Adam Eaton made a sliding catch of a sinking liner with two out and a man on second in the bottom of the third. Fedde is through three scoreless on 44 pitches.
Update II: Fedde pitched quite well for five innings, but he needed to be perfect to protect a 1-0 lead, and he couldn’t quite do that. The Mets got on the board when Brian Dozier just missed a diving attempt of Jeff McNeil’s two-out sharp grounder up the middle. That brought Juan Lagares home and made this a 1-1 game. Fedde hadn’t thrown more than 49 pitches in nearly a month, so he was pulled after 61 pitches and five innings tonight. And because the Nats lineup has managed only two hits off Wheeler, it’ll be up to the bullpen to keep this game where it is.
Update III: Dozier had been in a bit of funk against the Mets. Like 0 for his last 37 against the Mets. Seriously. Well, that slump is over now because he crushed a two-run homer to left to give the Nats a 3-1 lead in the seventh. Couldn’t have come at a better time.
Update IV: So much for that. Wander Suero pitched a scoreless sixth, but he fell apart in the seventh. The big blow came from J.D. Davis, who drove a 1-2 curveball deep to right and just deep enough to bounce off the top of the wall and over for a killer, three-run homer. Just like that, the Nats trail 4-3 after seven.
Update V: And just like that, the Nats are back on top, 5-4. They scored two in the top of the eighth thanks to big RBI doubles from Trea Turner and Soto. They did, however, strand two more potential insurance runs in scoring position. They could’ve handed the rest of the bullpen a 3-run lead. Instead, it’s a 1-run lead with six outs to go.
Update VI: And we’re tied again. Yep, it’s been that kind of night. Pete Alonso launched a moonshot off a 98 mph fastball from Tanner Rainey in the bottom of the eighth, and so the outcome of this game is yet again in flux.