A couple of formerly-prized prospects in the Washington Nationals’ system faced off on Tuesday night in Miami, where Erick Fedde mowed down the Marlins and the Nationals jumped on Jesús Luzardo in a 5-1 Washington victory.
The Nationals dealt Luzardo in a package to Oakland for key pieces of a championship team in 2017, the same year Fedde made his major league debut for the Nats as a September call-up.
Fedde had one of his most efficient outings of the season, allowing six hits and one walk in a 103-pitch start, with the final hit and the walk ending his night one out into the seventh inning.
“Being able to land breaking balls and cutters early in the count I think got me into a lot of 0-2, 1-2 counts,” Fedde told reporters afterward, “where I could go after the punchouts and I think just landing those early in the counts was working well for me.”
Fedde used the curveball to set his cut fastball for strikeouts and to induce fly ball outs.
“He’s been pitching a lot better, he really has,” said manager Davey Martinez.
“Today, the breaking ball was a lot sharper than it ever has been, it was shorter, it was a late break, tough to recognize, you could tell by the swings of the hitters.
“If he can do that consistently and keep it that way, he’s going to be good.”
The Nats did all their offensive damage against Luzardo in fewer than five innings, belting out 10 hits, five for extra bases, including two doubles, a Yadiel Hernández triple, and two homers. Catcher Tres Barrera, in the same 2015 draft class as Luzardo, hit his second homer of the season in the fourth inning, and Ryan Zimmerman hit his 12th of the season in the fifth.
Martinez said he told his hitters to be aggressive.
“We mentioned to the players, ‘You’ve got to swing at strikes, get the breaking balls up and get them over the plate, and don’t chase,’ and the guys did that today,” he said.
Fedde said he met Luzardo when both were Nationals’ prospects, and talked his young teammate through recovery from Tommy John surgery.
“Maybe it was in [instructional league] one year and he had just recently had Tommy John, so just kind of talked him through trusting the process and understanding just kind of how not every day is the best day.” said Fedde. “I think they just maybe wanted him to have a conversation with someone who has also been through the process in pro ball, so that’s really kind of interactions we had before he was quickly shipped.”
Tha Nats sent Luzardo to the Athletics along with former closer Blake Treinen and third baseman Sheldon Neuse for relievers Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, who was, coincidentally, designated for assignment Tuesday by Cincinnati.
Another former National, lefty Ross Detwiler, induced a groundout from Luis García to get the Marlins out of the fifth.
Andres Machado struck out Alex Jackson before allowing one of the runners he inherited from Fedde, Jorge Alfaro, to score on a pinch hit single by Jesús Aguilar. He then struck out Miguel Rojas to end the inning.
“He’s been big for us, he really has,” Martinez said of Machado. “It doesn’t matter what situation I put him in, he seems to be poised and he just tries to get outs. And he made a really nice pitch to a really good hitter, and got him out, looking, which was pretty impressive.”
The Nationals threatened in the ninth, when Victor Robles walked ahead of a force out by Lane Thomas, and Alcides Escobar singled ahead of an intentional walk to Juan Soto that loaded the bases.
That brought up Zimmerman, who had homered and struck out three times previously.
Zimmerman fouled off a 1-2 pitch before sending a ball up the middle, where Miami second baseman Jazz Chisolm made a diving stop to rob him of a hit and start an inning-ending double play.
“Jazz made an unbelievable play on him,” said Martinez.
”But every time I put Zim in the lineup, I know it’s not a lot, but when he does play, I expect good things out of him, I really do, he’s just a professional.”
Kyle Finnegan pitched the ninth in a non-save situation, allowing one hit.