With only about 37% of the games this year compared to a normal Major League Baseball season, each series is now the equivalent of three in a normal year. That means the Nats can’t afford too many more like this one against the New York Yankees, dropping 2 out of 3.
Here are the main takeaways from the three-game set with the Bronx Bombers...
Fedde fills in
We’ll come onto Juan Soto later on in the recap, but the Nationals had another late scratch over the weekend.
On Saturday afternoon, it was announced that Stephen Strasburg would no longer start that night’s game due to a nerve issue in his right hand.
Enter Erick Fedde.
The right-hander only lasted four innings and didn’t qualify for the win. However, he battled admirably given all the circumstances working against him, as he was not only called upon on short notice to make the start, but the defense behind him did him very few favors.
While he was in the game, his team committed four errors, giving him a lot of traffic to work around. So to come out of the game with only one earned run allowed, the moonshot of a home run by Giancarlo Stanton, was terrific and all the Nats could’ve hoped for from Fedde.
“Really happy with it,” the right-hander said about his spot start. “The goal every time I go out is to be really aggressive and put them in a tough spot, and being able to get ahead of guys early is about as important as it gets and I was really happy with the way I did that.”
Though Strasburg is hopeful his nerve issue won’t keep him out long, if he does miss another start, Fedde more than deserves another chance to impress in his stead.
Robles on an early roll
Almost every Nationals fan is probably sick of hearing about the storyline of where the Nats are going to try and make up for the lost offensive production of Anthony Rendon this season.
That said, it still has weight. If the team is going to replace his production, it’s going to come across the board, with several players picking up a bit of slack.
One of those players who needs to take another step forward in that plan is Victor Robles.
If the team’s opening series is anything to go by, Robles may be able to do just that.
In the three games, Robles collected three hits and two walks in eight at-bats, including a home run and a double in Saturday’s game where he recorded a career-high 4 RBIs.
“Tremendous,” Martinez told reporters when asked about Robles on Saturday. “He uplifted us early. It was a great night for him. He can do those kind of things, he really can.
“The biggest thing I say when I talk to him all the time, is just to be on time when he’s hitting. If he does that, he hits the ball hard.”
Robles also was able to come out of the gates quickly despite missing a large chunk of Summer Camp following a period of self-isolation after coming back from the Dominican Republic.
In the minors, Robles showed the potential to be a difference-making bat, hitting an even .300 with an OPS of .849 in his five minor league seasons. After a solid rookie season in 2020, this series was another glimpse at the type of player he could become very quickly.
Shaking off the rust
There were a few things that could’ve gone in the bad section here. Max Scherzer’s substandard start, the defense kicking the ball about on Saturday, or some bullpen woes on Sunday.
But none of them really stood out above the rest and all can probably be attributed to some early rustiness after a shortened preseason. Or at least that should be the case for now.
“We didn’t capitalize on some situations we should have,” Martinez said of the series on Sunday.
“That’s part of the game. We had some pretty good hitters up there that didn’t put the ball in play in that situation.
“I’ll take my chances with those guys. Yankees are a good team. Would have been nice to win the first series of the shortened year. But I like that we’re going out there and we’re competing and I like what I’m seeing.”
With some sharper play, this was definitely a series that the Nationals could’ve taken two out of three from, and little things like that will become magnified in a 60-game season.
Soto tests positive
Sometimes, these series recaps can venture into some silliness. It can be fun to laugh a little about this game and there will be plenty of times this recap isn’t overly serious.
But we can’t recap this series without talking about the biggest story in baseball this week.
With just hours remaining until the first pitch of the 2020 MLB season, news broke that the Nats’ young superstar, Juan Soto, had tested positive for COVID-19.
“It hurts,” Martinez explained before Opening Day. “I woke up this morning excited that we were going to have baseball again, it is Opening Day, and then I get the news that he tested positive. I mean, It hurts.
“And like I said, it didn’t have to be Juan Soto, it could have been any one of our guys. And then reality sets in that, hey, we’re in the midst of a pandemic, and we’ve just got to be awfully careful, throughout everything.”
It was a moment where the reality of the situation set in again. Even though everyone is excited to have baseball back, there is still a deadly virus out there.
Thankfully, in this case, Soto is asymptomatic, according to GM Mike Rizzo. There’s even a chance that this test may have even been a false positive, as Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post reported that Soto’s test from Thursday came back negative.
Even if Soto comes back to the team and is unaffected, this news shook the baseball world. These players are still putting themselves at risk this season and that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Fauci’s flailing first pitch
Ok, back to a less serious takeaway. I don’t think Dr. Anthony Fauci will be offering to throw another first pitch anytime soon after his attempt on Opening Day...
Dr. Fauci, who the Nationals referred to as a “true champion for our country during the Covid-19 pandemic and throughout his distinguished career” in a press release announcing the news, was a very fitting choice to throw the very first pitch of this strange season.
However, while his knowledge has been appreciated in this troubling time, his pitching skills were... less than good. They were even worse than the infamous 50 Cent first pitch. Yikes...
Dr. Anthony Fauci threw out the first pitch before the Nationals-Yankees game. pic.twitter.com/04Tbkh7Voa— ESPN (@espn) July 23, 2020
Next up: The Nationals, stay in the AL East with the Toronto Blue Jays set to come to Nationals Park for two road games and two “home” games. Weird. Aníbal Sánchez, Austin Voth, Max Scherzer, and either Stephen Strasburg or Erick Fedde will start for the Nats in this set.