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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats 5-1 over Giants in opener in San Francisco; Jake Irvin impressive again...

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ series opening win in Oracle Park...

FRONT PAGE - Irvin Strong vs Giants:

Jake Irvin, the 26-year-old, 2018 4th Round pick out of the University of Oklahoma, settled in after hitting a batter with his first pitch his major league debut, giving up a walk, and an RBI single as well in the bottom of the first last week in the nation’s capital, tossing 3+ clean and impressive frames after allowing the early run.

Irvin told reporters after the outing he quickly recognized he’d done it all before and any nerves went away once he started pitching.

“It’s the same 60-feet, 6-inches wherever you’re at,” Irvin said. “So making pitches, just like I’ve been doing all year and my whole career. But it’s nice having a guy like Keibert [Ruiz] back there.

“We talked after the first, and he’s such a calming presence back there, he’s one of a kind, so that definitely helps a ton.”

“After the first inning,” Nats’ manager Davey Martinez said after the 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs.

“I sat back and I said, ‘You covered all the bases, you hit a guy, you walked a guy, a guy scored, so now you’re loose and go throw strikes.’ And he handled it really well.”

Martinez didn’t immediately give Irvin the nod for another start, explaining it was a decision he would make in consultation with Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo, but then three days after the righty’s debut, he announced Irvin would stick around and get another turn in the rotation.

“He’s going to get an opportunity,” the sixth-year skipper said. “Like I said, I thought he threw the ball really well, so he’ll go out and pitch on Monday.”

“Got the first one out of the way,” Martinez added, “so he’ll go out there and relax hopefully. It’s always that first inning you’ve got to get through. Once you get through that, it seems like everything comes out and he starts doing what he’s supposed to be doing. Hopefully that’ll be the case on Monday.

“He’s got great stuff. He’s got to just attack the strike zone and throw strike one.”

Working with a 5-0 lead when he took the mound, Irvin threw first-pitch strikes to 2 of the 3 batters in the bottom of the first against the Giants in San Francisco’s Oracle Park, getting a strikeout and an inning-ending double play after the leadoff man, Lamonte Wade, Jr., bunted his way on to start the home-half of the inning.

Irvin erased a leadoff walk with a 6-3 DP in the first two matchups in the second, and after a seven-pitch first, he put up a scoreless, 15-pitch frame the second time out. He stranded a one-out double in a 19-pitch third, and then he got a third double play with a grounder up the middle from J.D. Davis, which started another 6-3 twin-killing after he gave up a leadoff walk and single to start the fourth. Michael Conforto’s fly to right ended a 16-pitch inning.

A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 fifth gave Irvin five scoreless on just 67 pitches (with a 5-0 lead), and he set the Giants down in order in the sixth as well, completing a 12-pitch frame at 79 total.

Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

A one-out single and walk in the seventh ended Irvin’s outing at 92 pitches overall.

Irvin generated just five swinging strikes in the outing, but he got 16 called strikes, nine of them with his curveball, and the two runners he left on were stranded, with Carl Edwards, Jr. getting two outs with two pitches after taking over on the mound...

Jake Irvin’s Line: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 Ks, 92 P, 54 S, 5/4 GO/FO.

“He goes out there and he competes,” Martinez said after a 5-1 win in the series opener.

“The best thing is that he’s around the zone, he’s throwing strikes,” the manager added.

“Defense played really well behind him, we turned some really good double plays. But he’s out there and he’s got a lot of poise, doesn’t let nothing rattle him, and he just tries to attack the strike zone.”

“I absolutely loved watching him pitch. I enjoyed it very much. For his second start, he did really well.”

Irvin made just one big mistake ... in his post game press conference.

“Just went out there, made pitches,” he said in assessing his own outing. “Same old thing yeah, having a blast, enjoying San Fran.”

“Like I told you guys last week, same 60-feet, 6-inches,” he said when asked about having success in his first road start.

“Definitely a different atmosphere, you don’t have the crowd behind you. But that’s kind of what the minor leagues is for I think. You kind of feel that on the way up, and you learn a lot about that, so same thing, just keep making pitches.”


The visiting Nationals started the series opener in San Francisco with four straight singles, though Keibert Ruiz, who hit the third of four, was thrown out between first and second, trying to stretch his liner to right into a double when Lane Thomas, who’d singled to start the inning, stopped at third (unexpectedly?) and hung the catcher out to dry.

Joey Meneses stepped with runners on second and third instead of the bases loaded, and singled through the right side to put the Nats up 1-0 on the Giants early in Oracle Park.

One out later, Dominic Smith hit an opposite field single through short to drive Luis García in and make it 2-0 against San Francisco’s starter, Anthony DeSclafani.

Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Then it was Alex Call with a soft liner to the right-center gap for an RBI double, and run No. 3, 3-0.

CJ Abrams drove in two more with a two-out single to center and Davey Martinez’s club got out to a 5-0 lead in the opening frame.

All their runs came in the first inning of the 5-1 win, before DeSclafani settled in, but it was more than enough.

“We don’t want to chase, we want to get the ball in the zone, and they did a great job today with doing that,” manager Davey Martinez said of the early runs.

“I’ve said this before, we got to get the ball in the zone, we can’t chase, you know. Accept your walks when given but be aggressive and be aggressive in the strike and they did it well.”

It’s the approach he always preaches, but against DeSclafani in particular, he wanted Nats’ hitters to be aggressive early.

“We know he throws a lot of strikes,” Martinez said.

“That’s something we talked about in the meeting, and these guys went out there and like I said, we got a strike and they hit the ball hard.”

BACK PAGE - Roble To IL; Alu Up:

Victor Robles was placed on the 10-day Injured List (retroactive to May 7th) with back spasms before last night’s game, and Jake Alu’s call-up became official after multiple reports the 26-year-old 2019 24th Round pick was on his way to San Francisco.

There wasn’t much of an update on Robles before the series opener with the Giants.

“He came in today, got treatment, still feeling the same,” Davey Martinez told reporters in his pregame press conference from Oracle Park.

“I’m sure it’s going to take him a few days before he really feels better, and then we’ll go from there. So there’s no real additional update.”

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

Alu has played mostly third, some second, and a little bit of left field, and Martinez said it was likely he’d get most of his at-bats in the majors in the outfield since that is where the club has a need right now.

“I definitely would like to get Jake in there against some right-handed pitching. We’ll see where that may be,” Martinez said, noting that Alu was getting work in before the first of three with the Giants, to get used to the outfield in San Francisco, but he said he wanted Alu to definitely get at-bats while he’s up.

“He can do a lot of different things,” the manager added. “He plays some third, plays some second, last year he played some left field. This year, because of his knee*, the priority was to just get him — get his at-bats. But he felt good enough to play the outfield, they played him out there a few times already this year.

[ed. note - “Alou started the year on the IL after suffering a knee sprain this spring.”]

“So, like I said, because of missing Robles, more of [Alu’s] playing time will probably be out in the outfield, so we wanted to make sure we get him out there and get him some work.’

The fact Alu has worked his way up, for a 24th Round pick, is something of an organizational success story, but mostly a story of hard work by the infielder.

“He’s a hard worker,” Martinez said. “And I got to know him a little bit early on in January this year and watched his work ethic throughout Spring Training. He works hard, and he’s worked to put up some good numbers in the minor leagues. He’s earned the right to be up here. They moved him to different positions, he’s played well. All of a sudden last year, they put him in left field and he did well out there. But he can hit. He can hit the ball, puts the ball in play, and we love that about him. So he’s going to get an opportunity to play here and get some at-bats up here.”

Meneses Heating Up?:

Over his last 10 games, coming off a 3 for 5, 4 RBI performance on Sunday, which included Joey Meneses hitting his 2nd HR of the season to put the Nationals ahead in the top of the ninth in Arizona, the slugger is starting to look more like the hitter he was in the majors and minors in 2022.

Meneses went 13 for 42 (.310/.310/.381) in that 10-game stretch leading into last night’s season opener in San Francisco, with 12 of his hits singles and the one home run.

“For me it’s about his timing, and getting on time,” Davey Martinez said when the manager was asked what’s been different for Meneses recently after a relatively slow start. “He’s a guy that stays on the ball really well. He’s just a click late sometimes. On that [home run] swing he was on time, and he got his foot down and he stayed behind the ball, and he got the ball up in the air. But he’s been hitting the ball hard, it’s just a matter of time before he starts getting the ball out front and hitting the ball in the air.”

Meneses drove in the first of five runs the Nationals scored in the first inning last night, and finished up 2 for 4 with a run scored in the win.