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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats drop finale in Coors Field, split series with Rockies

Davey Martinez and Co. are on their way to Anaheim, CA after splitting four in Colorado.

FRONT PAGE - Kuhl, Kuhl, Kuhl:

Chad Kuhl gave up three straight hits at the start of his first outing of the season last week, and he allowed three runs in the opening frame, then another in the second, before a solid end to his appearance, with three scoreless and 10 of 11 set down in what ended up a 10-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

“He competes, and he battled back and kept us in the ballgame, which was awesome. The first couple innings didn’t go his way and then he started making pitches and he kept us in the game so I thought he did well,” Davey Martinez said after the veteran righty’s debut for the Nationals.

Kuhl signed as a free agent this past February, and slipped into the starting rotation in the aftermath of Cade Cavalli’s season-ending elbow injury.

He chalked his early-start struggles against the Rays up to poor pitch selection and execution.

“It really just came down to poor pitch selection by me, and poor pitch execution by me,” Kuhl said, as quoted by’s Mark Zuckerman.

“After that,” he added, “... in the middle of the first, we kind of got things dialed in.”

In start No. 2 of 2023 for the 30-year-old, who pitched for the Colorado Rockies in 2022, after he spent five seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates who drafted Kuhl in the 9th Round in 2013, the righty returned to Coors Field and gave up one run through 3 23 innings, working with a 2-1 lead after the top of the first, but an Elias Diaz homer tied things up at 2-2, then after the Nationals went up 3-2 in the top of the fifth, the home team hit another HR, with Jurickson Profar taking Kuhl deep to tie it up at 3-3.

Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez sent Kuhl back out for the sixth, at 80 pitches, with a 6-3 lead, and nine pitches later there were runners on second and third after a walk and a double.

By the end of the inning the Rockies were up 7-6, the score by which they went on to win the series finale.

There were eleven walks issued between the two teams, three of them coming with the bases loaded, including the eventual winning run, and there a bases-loaded wild pitch.

There was even a perfectly-executed hit-and-run executed by the Nationals’ Victor Robles.

Hobie Harris gave up the last of the bases-loaded walks. Erasmo Ramírez was first out of the bullpen, replacing Kuhl, allowing an inherited runner to score, and giving up two more in a rough outing for the right-hander, which ended with a hit-by-pitch which loaded the bases with two out in the inning.

“We talked about this all week here,” Martinez said after the loss in the series finale.

“You’ve just got to score as many runs as possible. Anything can happen. Look, we battled. It was just a tough day. I thought Kuhl threw the ball okay, he walked some guys. Certain situations where we needed to make a pitch — like I said, here, sometimes those breaking balls don’t break like you want them to, and end up being in the zone, but you know, we battled. I thought we played well, our defense played well. I thought Harris did a great job.

“I know he walked the first guy in, he got put in a tough situation, but after that he settled down and gave us two-plus innings, which was awesome.”

Martinez said he probably would not have sent Kuhl out for the sixth at 80 pitches, if his bullpen was at full strength.

“Probably not. Yeah. But we felt like in that spot, we could get him through it,” he told reporters.

But, Martinez added, “I thought he kept us in the game, and threw the ball well.”

And Ramírez’s outing? What went wrong?

Washington Nationals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

“Location more than anything,” Martinez said. “Once he hit [Kris Bryant], you know, some guys here [in Coors Field], it frustrates them a little bit, and I think he threw some good pitches, and he threw some balls he kind of hung. So just get out of here, you know, we split a series, get out of here, we head to Anaheim, but we got to keep playing hard. We played with a lot of energy these four days, and it was awesome, so we got to keep going, keep swinging the bats, keep playing the defense. Starting pitching is keeping us in ballgames, so that’s a good thing.”

BACK PAGE - Luis García Update:

“He’s doing better, he’s doing better,” Davey Martinez said when asked for a status report on his 22-year-old second baseman, who tweaked his hamstring in the second of four with the Rockies on Friday.

“He’s going to go out today again and do a little agility stuff,” the manager added.

“Hopefully he’s available to pinch hit today, and then if he’s good today, try to get him in there tomorrow.”

Unwritten Rules - Coors Field Edition

After coming perilously close to blowing a five-run lead when the Rockies rallied to score four runs in the ninth inning in Saturday night’s 7-6 win for Washington, Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez was asked by a reporter if that was as a perfect example of why you never stop playing or assume a lead is safe, especially in Coors Field.

The reporter framed the question by noting how Colorado’s manager Bud Black responded to a question about Lane Thomas trying to steal second base (and getting picked off, and thrown out) with a 10-5 lead on Friday night.

As the reporter explained it, Black said something to the effect of the standard, “It’s Coors Field, nothing’s safe,” but nonetheless, Martinez said he did address that steal attempt by Thomas.

“Hey look, granted, yesterday, he ran on his own. He was talked to,” Martinez said.

“I come from the old school like Buddy does, but still and all, this is Coors Field. We say it all the time every time we come in here, we got to continue to tack on runs, late innings and try to get to that five runs, really I mean it’s important here. We did a good job with tonight with that. So I’m proud of the guys coming out again today, they’re swinging the bats, they hung in there, we played good defense, so we got a chance tomorrow to win the series.”

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