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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats battle back late, but drop 8-7 game to D-backs...

It was a wild one in Chase Field on Saturday night...

FRONT PAGE - MacKenzie Gore in Chase Field:

MacKenzie Gore fell behind early in the second of three with the Arizona D-backs in Chase Field, giving up a one-out shot to left field by Emmanuel Rivera in the bottom of the first.

Rivera’s first home run of 2023 traveled 394 feet, with the Diamondbacks’ third baseman hitting a 1-1 knee-high curve from the middle of the zone into the stands for a 1-0 lead.

Gore worked around a two-out single in a 17-pitch second, then induced an inning-ending double play after giving up back-to-back, one-out singles in a 13-pitch third, after which it was still 1-0 in the D-backs’ favor, with the Nats’ starter up to 48 pitches overall (with 3 Ks total and no walks).

With a 2-1 lead to work with after three and a half, Gore worked around a one-out hit in a 12-pitch fourth, then he added two strikeouts as he retired the side in order in the home-half of the fifth, for seven Ks total, from 21 batters faced, and five strong on 72 pitches.

Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. and Christian Walker hit back-to-back singles off Gore in the sixth, and Gurriel, Jr. scored on a wild pitch, 2-2. A walk to Evan Longoria put two on again, and then Dominic Fletcher bunted both runners over, with Gore firing a strike to first base after he’d fielded the bunt, and then striking out the next two batters to keep it tied and end his own night after 95 pitches overall.

MacKenzie Gore’s Line: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 Ks, 95 P, 63 S, 5/1 GO/FO.

Washington Nationals v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

“Nine batters he was ahead,” Manager Davey Martinez said after what ended up a wild, back and forth, 8-7 loss to the Diamondbacks, “eight of them he struck out. The other one hit into a double play. That’s a [telltale sign] of what MacKenzie can do. We always talk about him throwing strike one, getting ahead. When he does that, man, he’s tough, so that was a good lesson for him. I wanted him to go through that moment, and he did well, he got a couple big strikeouts for us and kept us in the ballgame. So I’m proud of what he went out there and did today. He showed great emotion, great character. I mean, he was jacked up when he came out of the game, so it was good for him.”

“We located well,” Gore said after his outing, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “We made pitches in that [sixth] inning when we needed to, to limit the damage.”


D-backs’ starter Tommy Henry held the Nationals hitless through three, with a 1-0 lead after one, but Nats’ hitters got to the southpaw in the top of the fourth, with Luis García singling with one out, moving up on a hit by Joey Meneses, and scoring in front of Meneses on a 2-run double by Keibert Ruiz, who hit a 2-0 fastball belt-high inside off the left field fence on a hop to drive both runners in, 2-1.

It was a 2-2 game after six, but Carl Edwards, Jr. gave up a run on a triple and RBI single in the first two at-bats of the seventh, 3-2 AZ.

Mason Thompson gave up two hits and a run early in the eighth, 4-2 D-backs, and another single, sac bunt, and ROE led to another run, 5-2, and 6-2 on an RBI single before Martinez went to the bullpen again for Thaddeus Ward, who got the last two outs.

Keibert Ruiz homered to lead off the top of the ninth, 6-3. Alex Call walked with two out to keep the inning going, so the D-back replaced Scott McCough with Andrew Chafin, and a Michael Chavis singled moved Call over to third, before both scored on Ildemaro Vargas’s two-out, two-run single, 6-5. Lane Thomas stepped in next, with a runner on, and hit a two-run home run 419 ft. to left field for a 7-6 lead.

Kyle Finnegan came on for a save in the bottom of the ninth, however, and gave up a home run by Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. 7-7. A single, and walk, and a one-out intentional free pass which loaded the bases followed, before the closer issued a walk-off walk to Pavin Smith to end it, 8-7 D-backs.

“I can’t say enough about what our team did,” Martinez said after the loss, “behind like that and coming back. And it shows a lot of fight. It shows a lot of the character of our ballclub. And you’ve got a team over there that’s fighting back. Look, we made it a battle. At the end, we couldn’t hold the lead, we got to come back tomorrow and do it again.”

Asked about Finnegan’s rough outing, the sixth-year skipper said that, “Finnegan has been throwing the ball really well. He really has. We can’t forget what he did the other day to help us win a game neither. It was just one of those days. We got to come back tomorrow and do it again.”

“Look, we were down [four] runs going into the ninth,” Martinez added, as quoted by MASN reporter Mark Zuckerman.

“We come back and put up a five-spot. That’s awesome. I already went out there and told them: ‘Keep your heads up. You showed a lot of character. You showed a lot of heart. Keep playing with that energy. We’ll get on top of these games.’”

BACK PAGE - Victor Robles Leaves Game ...

Victor Robles started last night’s game with a .292/.382/.360 line, four doubles, one triple, nine walks, and 14 Ks in 30 games and 106 plate appearances on the season, starting off a big campaign for the 25-year-old outfielder, whose struggles in the previous three seasons raised questions about where he fit in with the rebooting ballclub.

This is the Victor Robles the Nationals were looking for in the past few years.

“He’s doing a lot better at swinging at balls in the strike zone, and giving himself time — he’s getting ready a lot earlier,” skipper Davey Martinez explained, “... giving himself time, not trying to do a whole lot. He’s staying pretty much in the middle of the field, he’s taking his base hits to right field, but really trying to stay on top of the ball.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

“As we all know, Vic, the ball comes off his bat hot when he makes good contact. It’s been a lot different this year for him, so he’s having a lot of fun. I think the pace of the game has helped him out tremendously as well. It’s kind of his kind of game, he gets on base, we’re allowing him to steal bases, and [allowing him to be him] so he’s had a lot of fun so far.”

The big difference for Robles this year, his manager said, is the maturity-level for the young center fielder, who debuted in the majors as a 20-year-old in 2017, and played center every day for the 2019 World Series winners.

“He’s learned a lot. About himself. He’s learned a lot about the game. My first conversation this year with him was, ’Hey, I get it.’ He told me, he said, ‘I get it. I understand who I need to be, and what over the years what you’ve been trying to teach me,’ and to me that’s maturity, he’s matured quite a bit.”

Unfortunately, Robles (after walking in his only plate appearance, taking the 10th walk in 107 PAs after he walked 17 times in 407 last season) left the game in the top of the fourth inning with an undisclosed injury.

Martinez told reporters after the game it was a back issue, with Robles tweaking something on a slide into second base on a steal attempt.

“He hurt his back a little bit,” Martinez explained, “so we’ll figure out what we’re going to do tomorrow, see how he feels.”

Candelario Dehydrated:

Jeimer Candelario started each of the Nationals’ first 32 games, but his name was not in the lineup when it was released before Saturday night’s game.

According to his manager, Davey Martinez, the 29-year-old third baseman, who signed a one-year/$5M deal with the club over the winter, felt dizzy after Friday night’s game, and ended up going to a local hospital in Arizona where he received IV fluids and was given a diagnosis of dehydration.

“He felt sick. We had to get — so the paramedics came out to check on him,” Martinez told reporters. “He basically had a — he was dehydrated. They took him to the hospital just to make sure he was okay, they did bloodwork. Everything came out fine, it was just dehydration, so I want to give him a day off today and we’ll see how he feels come tomorrow.”

MLB: Washington Nationals at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Candelario didn’t show any signs of feeling dizzy during the game, but did quickly after the series opener.

“He went and took a shower, said he didn’t feel well,” Martinez said before the second game of the weekend in Chase Field.

“They laid him down. He started shaking pretty good. They came in, we saw a doctor and they deemed that he was dehydrated. They gave him some fluids, and he still didn’t feel right. So we just wanted to make sure we got him all checked out. Everything checked out.”

Road Warriors?:

Davey Martinez’s club is 6-12 in the first 18 at home this season, coming off their 4-3 run in the series with the Pirates and Cubs, and they arrived in Phoenix, AZ this weekend for their series against the D-backs with a 7-6 record on the road thus far. A .500 record after a loss in the series opener in Chase Field was a decent start for a club which finished the 2022 season with a 29-52 mark outside the nation’s capital.

What explanation did their manager have for the way they’ve played on the road over the first weeks of the season?

“I think we get on the road and it’s just about getting these guys to relax a little bit,” Martinez said before the club fell below .500 with another loss last night.

“You know, doing our due diligence about the teams we’re going to face, and letting them go out there and play and have fun, and that’s what they’ve been doing.”

Though they were 13-19 overall, Martinez said he liked the way the club was playing, and the fact that they were doing good things consistently was the difference over their 6-5 run in 11 games going into Saturday night’s matchup.

Consistency, Martinez said, “... that’s been the key. They’re feeding off one another. I love that about them. They’re playing with a lot of energy. Let’s keep that going.”

“Let’s just come on the road and continue to play the way you’re playing.”