Erick Fedde tossed six scoreless innings on the mound against the Los Angeles Dodgers’ potent offense, and then Carl Edwards, Jr., Kyle Finnegan, and closer Tanner Rainey made the one run of support the Washington Nationals’ bats provided hold up in a 1-0 win, which was LA’s first shutout loss in 43 games this season.
It also snapped a nine-game losing streak for the Nationals against the Dodgers.
“I think, first off, you have to give [Fedde] credit,” Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts told reporters, as quoted on MLB.com, after taking 2 of 3 in D.C.
“He threw the baseball well. He was certainly up for this game and this matchup against us, and you have to tip your hat to him. I thought we had some opportunities at different points in the game but couldn’t get that big hit.”
The Dodgers did have opportunities in the late innings as well, with Edwards, Jr. issuing a leadoff walk before retiring the next three batters, Finnegan giving up a one-out single and an (intentional) walk, and Rainey allowing a one-out single and walk before he locked down the win.
It was not a clean game for the bullpen, but with a rare lead to defend they came through.
“We had one hiccup in Anaheim,” Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez said after his club salvaged the series finale with LA. “Other than that they come in the games and they do really well out of the bullpen. I’ve said it before, we get some starting pitching, we get them — deep to me is somewhere in that sixth inning or so — and we got the lead, our bullpen can hold people down. Today was an example of that, with a really good team and a really good lineup. I mean, those guys just keep coming, and they work good at-bats, so I thought we did well today pitching.”
It wasn’t just the pitchers either. The one constant in the win was catcher Riley Adams, who guided the four pitchers through the game.
“They did well,” Martinez said. “I think Riley Adams did really well back there calling the game as well, so he gets a lot of credit for that, he managed the game well.”
Edwards, Jr., the one-time Chicago Cubs’ reliever who crossed paths with Martinez when both were in the Windy City, came to Spring Training with Washington on a minor league deal and earned a spot in the Nationals’ bullpen with a strong start to the year a Triple-A Rochester, and on Wednesday he got the call with a 1-0 lead when Martinez decided Fedde was done.
“Six innings, 90 pitches, and we took the lead, and I thought that was awesome,” the fifth-year skipper said of the decision to go to the bullpen in the seventh. “I didn’t want to send [Fedde] back out there, I felt like our bullpen could come in there with fresh arms and do the job.”
Though he started off with a leadoff walk, Edwards, Jr. extended the shutout through the top of the seventh with a 21-pitch, 11-strike frame.
“He’s been really good,” Martinez said. “We had him in Chicago, and we knew what he can do. The biggest thing for him was finding the strike zone and staying healthy. When I saw him in Spring Training the first thing I talked to him about was throwing strikes. I said, ‘You got to throw strike one with all your pitches.’ I know he came in and walked the first batter, but then he settled down and he started pumping strikes, and when he does that, his stuff is really good. He developed a changeup, so now he’s got a cutter and a changeup that’s more like a sinker, and it’s worked out really well for him, and he’s got a nice curveball, so but the biggest thing for him is strike zone, getting ahead of hitters, he’s really good when he does that.”
With Finnegan and Rainey established as the eighth and ninth inning options when the club has leads to defend, has Edwards, Jr. worked his way into a role as the seventh-inning arm?
“My biggest thing is to keep these guys fresh,” Martinez said. “They’ve been pitching a lot, right, so we’ll see how things line up tomorrow, but like I said, if he’s throwing the ball like that, he’s going to help us out a lot. The other guy that is throwing the ball well, as we know is [Victor] Arano, and also [Steve] Cishek, so we’ve got 4-5 guys, Erasmo [Ramìrez] has been throwing the ball really well, so we’ve got guys down there that can do the job when someone else is down, and like I said they’re doing well.”
In the eighth, Finnegan threw a 19-pitch, 12-strike frame, striking out two, dialing his sinker (which he threw for 68% of his pitches) up to 97.1 and throwing it at an average of 96.6 MPH (up a bit from his 95.9 MPH average on the year).
“He was pumping fastballs,” Martinez said. “He was electric today. And he threw a couple sliders. One slider he threw to Trea [Turner] I was hoping he didn’t, but he did, and Trea is pretty smart when it comes when it comes to that stuff, but other than that he was really good.”
Martinez decided to pitch around an old foe (who’s crushed Nats’ pitching over the years) when Freddie Freeman’s spot came up after Turner’s one-out single.
“We had a tough choice with Freddie and [Justin] Turner. I’ve seen Freddie a lot, a lot, being he was in our division, and at that particular point, I wasn’t going to take my chances.”
Then it was Rainey’s chance to earn his first save since April 19th (after he blew two save opportunities earlier this month).
Rainey threw 18 fastballs and one slider in his 19-pitch, 10-strike appearance. He averaged 97.2 MPH and got up to 98.8.
Pitching Coach Jim Hickey went out for a chat after Rainey put two on with a one-out walk and single before recording out No. 2 with catcher Will Smith due up and the potential tying run on second. Smith lined out (sharply) to the track in right field, where Juan Soto caught out No. 3 in front of the out-of-town scoreboard.
“It was good,” Martinez said of Rainey’s outing. “I wanted Hickey to go out there and settle him down a little bit, and he did that, but he came out pumping 98 and was good.
“At some point, like I said, these guys are good hitters, and walks are going to get you. Walks are going to get you every time.
“If a guy hits the ball, he hits the ball, but we got guys behind you to play defense, and he did that, [Rainey] threw a strike, [Smith] hit it well, but it was a fly ball.”
The manager said his closer is a different pitcher now than the one the Nationals acquired from the Cincinnati Reds back in 2018.
“I think he’s got confidence now where he feels like he can attack the strike zone with all his pitches. He’s throwing strikes now with all his pitches, which is really nice, and that’s something that we harped on with him for years, especially when he gets to two strikes. Not going 2-2, 3-2 all the time, just keep attacking, keep attacking, I mean, your stuff is good and he’s getting better at it, he really is.”
Rainey got the eighth inning last night, with the Nationals up 6-3 and the 3-4-5 hitters in the Colorado Rockies due up, and he tossed a scoreless, 15-pitch, 9-strike frame after 6 1⁄3 from Patrick Corbin, and 2⁄3 scoreless from Victor Arano. Steve Cishek got the ninth and worked around an error for a scoreless inning.
“I talked to Rainey before the game and gave him a heads up that if the situation arises, he’ll pitch that bulk of the guys there,” Martinez said after the 7-3 win over the Rockies.
“And I thought we matched up really well with Cishek at the bottom.”
Martinez said he often tells his relievers where they might end up being used so they are ready ahead of time and can focus on hitters they might face.
“I talk a lot to those guys before each game, and let them know what’s kind of going on and what we’re trying to do. So, he knows — I talked to Finnegan a lot, Arano, all those guys at the back end, the high-leverage guys, where they might fit, and what to expect, so they have an idea of what to look for and who they’re looking at. So today it was that group for Rainey, and he did really well, he did exactly what we wanted him to do with the scouting report, and he pitched well, threw strikes, which, I told him, ‘Don’t walk that first guy, and just pound the strike zone,’ and he did that.”