It could have been a rainout, it might have been a blowout, but it turned out to be another shutout for the Washington Nationals in a season that’s slowly fading away.
When Max Scherzer leaves a game after only 12 pitches, few Nationals fans would expect their team to win.
But in 2021, no one familiar with the Nats would think twice after hearing that they lost that game, 1-0, after the bullpen rallied around the injured starter to hold the San Francisco Giants to four hits.
After an on-time start following a day of rain, the game turned on a few inches — the difference between a home run for the Giants and just another out for the Nationals in a game where they racked up 27 of them more rapidly than they have all season.
“I was pulling for us to get just two runs,” said Martinez.
“[Paolo] Espino came in [for Scherzer] and did a great job, and then the rest of the guys came in after him and they were really phenomenal, they really were.”
Scherzer left with one out in the first inning after what he described afterward as a “groin tweak,” while delivering a pitch.
With Martinez and head athletic trainer Paul Lessard supervising, he took another warmup, but did not like what he felt.
“It grabbed again in the same spot, so it just wasn’t an injury that you can pitch through.”
Scherzer immediately had a MRI.
“It’s not a muscle strain,” he revealed. “It’s just a little inflammation of the adductor, fascia of the adductor, something like that. Basically, it’s not a muscle strain.”
Scherzer listed himself as day-to-day.
Espino took over and allowed three hits and the lone Giants’ run over 3 1⁄3 innings, and Kyle McGowin allowed one hit in 1 1⁄3 innings. Wander Suero, Ryne Harper, and Sam Clay were all perfect over the last four innings.
It was another heroic effort by the pitching staff, and another zeroic effort from the batting order, the eighth time the team has been shut out of the season.
The Nats got just two hits off Giants starter Anthony DeSclafani, plus a walk. And two of the runners were erased on double plays.
The Giants scored in the fourth when Buster Posey hit an 0-1 slider from Espino into the left field bullpen, just over Kyle Schwarber’s glove for a solo home run.
Three innings later, in nearly the same spot, Giants’ left fielder Mike Tauchman robbed Juan Soto of a home run, catching Soto’s line drive over the fence and bringing it back into the ballpark after a perfectly-timed leap.
DeSclafani faced one batter more than the minimum, with that 28th plate appearance accounted for by Josh Bell, who had the only other hard-hit ball of the night, a ground-rule double into the Nats’ bullpen in right, just after Soto’s near miss.
Bell was stranded on one of several sharp plays from a Giants’ defense that seemed to have players perfectly positioned all night.
The Nationals’ relief corps could have combined for a no-hitter, and it wouldn’t have mattered; in 2021, the Nationals find ways to lose games like this.
So Martinez was left working late into the night on a pitching plan after a fruitless 8 2⁄3-inning, five-man relief effort, less than 24-hours before a doubleheader.
Neither scheduled starter in that twin bill, Joe Ross nor Erick Fedde, has pitched deep into many games this season.
“Proud of all those guys. Let’s just hope they can pitch tomorrow,” said Martinez.
Scherzer said he admired relief effort after returning from the MRI.
“Heck of a job by those guys to be able to come up and only allow one run through nine innings,” said Scherzer.
“They were put in a tough spot right there and they answered the call.