As of Saturday afternoon, Davey Martinez hadn’t decided on a starter for today’s series finale with the Atlanta Braves in the nation’s capital.
“No, not yet. We’ll see how the game goes today and see how fresh our bullpen is,” Martinez told reporters before the third of four with their divisional rivals.
A bullpen game was a possibility.
“We could do a bullpen day, but it all depends on today, so we’ll see how today goes,” he added.
Once the game was over yesterday, the fifth-year skipper said the club would piece their pitching together in the fourth of four with the Braves.
“We’re going to go bullpen day tomorrow. Like I said, we got to work through some things.”
The final decision was to open with Erasmo Ramírez, who gave the Nationals 3.0 scoreless on 39 pitches, allowing just one hit, retiring the side in order in a shutdown, 15-pitch third, half an inning after Washington jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the second.
Early Bullpen Action:
Jordan Weems was next out of the bullpen, taking over in the top of the fourth, but he gave up back-to-back hits to the first two batters he faced, with Dansby Swanson singling to lead off before scoring on a double by Matt Olson, who hit a 106 MPH grounder by Josh Bell over at first base, 4-1. Austin Riley connected for the third straight hit to start the inning, and sent Olson to third, so Eddie Rosario could drive him in with a sac fly, 4-2. Adam Duvall drove in a run as well, with a double off the left field fence, 4-3. That was it for Weems.
Steve Cishek inherited a runner on second with one out in the Braves’ fourth, and the right-hander got the last two outs. Cishek returned to the mound in the top of the fifth and put a scoreless inning up, working around a one-out hit-by-pitch on Ronald Acuña, Jr.
Carl Edwards, Jr. struck out the side in the sixth to keep the Nationals’ two-run lead intact.
With a 6-3 lead in the seventh, Edwards, Jr. returned to the mound and had a runner reach on an error by Ehire Adrianza, before Michael Harris II singled with one out, and a two-out walk to Dansby Swanson loaded the bases in front of Matt Olson, who got up 2-0, but hit a grounder back to the mound to end the threat. Still 6-3 Nationals.
I Know You, Strider:
The first time the Nationals saw hard-throwing right-hander Spencer Strider this season, the 23-year-old was pitching out of the Braves’ bullpen, but he moved into their rotation in late-May, and in his first start against Atlanta’s NL East rivals, the 2020 fourth round pick out of Clemson went 5 2⁄3 innings on 106 pitches, giving up one hit, two walks, and two runs, while striking out 11 in an 8-2 win in the nation’s capital.
What stood out watching Strider for Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez?
“100, 101,” he said of the righty’s velocity, “... but more so his breaking ball. His breaking ball was good. And he threw it for strikes. When a guy is like that he’s tough locating his fastball. He was tough.”
Strider was pounding the strike zone too, and mixing things up to keep hitters off-balance.
“The thing is, he started — he didn’t often — he would throw a fastball, but it was more he started guys off with breaking balls, and then mixed in his fastball, then go back to breaking balls, so it was tough at-bats all night, when he was going good there for a while it was tough, and then all of a sudden we started laying off some pitches, and the at-bats got a little bit better, but he was good.”
A leadoff walk and two-out throwing error in the second gave the Nationals’ their first good opportunity of the game, with Josh Bell taking the free pass and Maikel Franco reaching on an infield single and advancing on a throwing error by Austin Riley on a swinging bunt past the left of the pitcher’s mound. Ehire Adrianza stepped in for a two-on, two-out shot and a line drive single to center gave the Nationals a 2-0 lead, their first, lead that is, of the four-game series. Victor Robles got hold of a 98 MPH 2-2 fastball low, but in the middle of the zone in the at-bat that followed, and hit it 383 feet to left field for a two-out, two-run home run and a 4-0 Nats’ lead in the nation’s capital.
It was a 4-3 game after three and a half, but the Nationals added to their lead in the bottom of the fourth, with Luis García singling to start the frame, moving up on a walk from Strider, (to Yadiel Hernández), taking third on a groundout by Maikel Franco, and scoring on another off Ehire Adrianza’s bat, 5-3 in D.C.
Spencer Strider’s Line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 77 P, 50 S, 5/2 GO/FO.
Juan Soto had reached base safely in a career-high 25 straight games going into today’s “first-half” finale, posting a .515 OBP over that stretch, which gave him the longest active on-base streak in baseball, but through three plate appearances he was 0 for 3 with no walks or anything, putting the streak in jeopardy (though the Nats were winning the game).
Soto got one last shot in the bottom of the eighth, against Tyler Matzek, and he hit a 95 MPH 3-1 fastball to right field for a solo shot and a 26-game on-base streak.
No. 20 of ‘22 for Soto. 387-foot shot. Nice way to go into the All-Star Break, and HR Derby.
Braves’ lefty Dylan Lee took over for Atlanta in the bottom of the fifth, and tossed a 1-2-3 frame, but he gave up a run in the sixth, with Josh Bell singling to start the inning, taking second on a groundout by Luis García, and scoring on a two-out hit to center by Maikel Franco, 6-3.
Tyler Matzek needed just six pitches in a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh.
Andres Machado got the top of the eighth, with the score still 6-3 in the Nationals’ favor, and he worked around a leadoff walk for a scoreless frame.
It was a 7-3 game, when Kyle Finnegan came on for the Nationals and retired the side in order, with a nine-pitch battle with Ronald Acuña, Jr. which resulted in a K.
Final Score: 7-3 Nationals.
Nationals now 31-63