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UPDATED: Washington Nationals’ lineup for 3rd of 4 with the St. Louis Cardinals: Juan Soto scratched with back spasm

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Washington’s Nationals need to win tonight to have a shot at a split with the St. Louis Cardinals, and they have Max Scherzer on the mound in the third of four with the Cards in D.C.

St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

UPDATED: 6:00 PM - “The Nationals announced that Juan Soto has been scratched from the lineup after he was initially penciled in, with what a note on the change said was “back spasm(s)”. Knowing Soto, or at least based on what Davey Martinez has said about him never wanting to be out of the lineup, the back must have been a real issue for the 20-year-old slugger, who’s in the midst of a 15-game on-base streak, to sit this one out. With Soto out, as you’ll see below, Michael A. Taylor is playing center, Adam Eaton shifts to left field, and Victor Robles is in right.”

After the eighth loss in the last 11 games left the Washington Nationals four games under .500 at 12-16 overall in the first month-plus of the 2019 campaign, second-year Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez was asked what the vibe in the clubhouse is like right now.

“If you watch the games, they’re playing hard till the last out, and they don’t give up, they don’t give up at all,” Martinez told reporters. “I don’t see that. If I started seeing that, then you know, then it’s time to have a conversation amongst all, but they are playing hard and now the bullpen is doing really well. So we keep our starting pitching the way it is, our bullpen the way it is, our hitting is going to come around, as we all know, we started hitting really early, our bullpen wasn’t great, and now things are starting to turn around, but it will turn around, and then everything will start meshing and we’ll start winning these close games.”

Last night’s 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the nation’s capital left the Nats 4-6 in one-run games, a year after the team went 18-24 in games decided by a run, something that the Nationals’ skipper talked about wanting to improve on in his second year on the bench.

Martinez, as always, preached staying up the middle of the field offensively, and cashing in on the opportunities that they create.

“We’ve just got to start moving the ball and stay up the middle of the field,” Martinez said.

“We get opportunities to score, we’ve got capitalize. They do at times, but games like this, you get a chance to put some runs up, we’ve just got to move the ball, and put the ball in play. We hit some balls good, don’t get me wrong.”

The ones they did hit well, Martinez said, providing examples of a well-struck balls by both Wilmer Difo and Carter Kieboom did not result in hits.

Asked about the fact that the Nationals, who have the 4th-highest K total in the National League early this season, have a tendency to strike out looking, rather than going down swinging, Martinez talked about his team’s approach at the plate overall.

“When I see it, we can’t get too picky,” Martinez said.

“You get two strikes, you’ve got to fight balls off, you’ve got to battle, you’ve got to get to the next pitch. Like I’ve said before, I’m not going to argue and ream umpires for balls and strikes, I’m not doing it, you know, just get up there and you’ve got to battle. Know the umpire’s strike zone and be ready. If the ball is close try to foul it off.”

Will the Nationals be able to turn things around tonight and give themselves a shot at a split in the four-game set with the Cardinals?

HERE’S THE NATS’ LINEUP FOR THE 3RD OF 4 WITH THE CARDINALS: