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Washington Nationals news & notes: Rain in St. Louis washed out opener three innings in; CJ Abrams as leadoff man + more...

Notes and quotes from the washed out series opener in St. Louis...

Sorry, Bullpen:

Trevor Williams wrapped up the first half of the first year of his 2-year/$13M contract with Washington’s Nationals with a losing effort which left him (5-5) with a 4.45 ERA, a 5.41 FIP, 30 walks (2.97 BB/9), 68 strikeouts (6.73 K/9), and a .278/.333/.489 line against in 18 starts and 91 IP on the season.

Williams, 31, gave up seven hits, three walks, and four earned runs in six innings in the 7-2 loss to the Texas Rangers, in his own first-half finale, reaching a season-high 110 pitches, something his manager said might happen more often going forward with the veteran of eight major league seasons, who split time between the bullpen and rotation in New York (NL) between 2021-22 before signing on with the Mets’ divisional rivals this past winter.

He started for most of his career before going to NY, so Davey Martinez said he was still trying to build Williams back up.

“I think we could do that more,” Martinez explained, while noting they stretched Williams out a bit out of necessity after rain washed starter MacKenzie Gore out after just 1 13 IP in the previous game and the manager had to piece together a long game.

“We got to remember too, Trevor, for the last couple years, he didn’t start, he was a spot-starter and pitched out of the bullpen, so he’s getting built up.

“Today he felt pretty strong, so we let him go out there for the sixth.”

“Everyone knows we had to cover almost nine innings yesterday from the bullpen,” Williams told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“That’s my job. My job is to give as many bullets as possible. Thankfully today was I able to do 110. I would like to go 100 pitches and go eight-plus (innings), but today was six.”

Williams got through just 2 23 innings on 52 pitches in last night’s series opener in Busch Stadium, giving up a two-out solo homer by St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder Lars Nootbar on a 1-2 fastball up in the zone Nootbar hit 404 ft to left-center in the first, then striking out four in a row and retiring six straight overall before a hit-by-pitch put a runner on just as the sky opened up and forced a delay and eventual postponement...

Washington Nationals v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Joe Puetz/Getty Images

Hope the bullpen arms and starters rested up over the All-Star Break...

“Good stuff,” Martinez said of Williams’ outing, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman after the postponement.

“Good two-seamer. His slider was really good today. It’s a shame. The rain got him again. But he’s been throwing the ball really well for us.”

Candy Injured?:

Jeimer Candelario was on a nice run before he was hit in the knee by a pitch in the last days before the All-Star Break.

Candelario, 29, and playing on a 1-year/$5M deal with the Nats this season, was 26 for 84 in the final 22 games of the so-called first half of the season (.310/.376/.607), and though he’d taken a pitch in a tough spot, he wanted to keep going out there while he was going well.

“If he’s good to go, he’s good to go,” Davey Martinez said after Candelario sat out one game then returned to the lineup as the DH (going 1 for 4 with a HR in his return). “He wants to continue swinging the bat. He doesn’t want to take that much time off. We’ll get him out there, and like I said, give him some at-bats today. And if he feels good enough tomorrow, he’ll go back to third base. If not, we’ll see how he feels and go from there.”

One at-bat into the second-half, however, Candelario left the lineup between the first and second, after an awkward swing on brutal, 76 MPH, two-strike curve from Cardinals’ right-hander Miles Mikolas last night. The issue?

It’s a tough time for Candelario to be dealing with this, as he’s bounced back nicely on the one-year deal with the Nationals, after a down year with the Tigers in 2022, and he’s one of a couple of possible trade chips for the rebooting ballclub in D.C. with the trade deadline in a few weeks at the end month.

“He’s out of the first game, obviously,” Martinez said after the postponement. “We’ll see how he feels for the second game.”

Candelario once again said he’s hoping he’ll be back tomorrow night, because he’s been swinging it well and wants to get going in the second-half.


Davey Martinez was going to wait until after the All-Star Break before he moved CJ Abrams up to the top of the Nationals’ lineup, but before the series opener of the final matchup of the “first-half” of the season, he decided to make the move. Abrams, 22, responded to the moved with a 6 for 12 run in his first three games as Washington’s leadoff man, reaching in all three games, and stealing three bases as well.

“He’s been really good,” Martinez said after pencilling Abrams in as the leadoff man again in the second-half opener last night in St. Louis.

“He’s been working great at-bats. He’s just trying to get on base, he’s not trying to doing too much,” the manager continued. “But what I love, he’s a lot more aggressive on the bases.

“He’s getting on first, he’s looking to steal a lot more, he’s pushing the envelope a little bit, which is great, and that’s what I wanted to see.”

Texas Rangers v Washington Nationals Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

“Something that I talked to him about before I even did it with him,” Martinez added, “... we had a great conversation about him just trying to be the catalyst, but be smart.

“The biggest thing for me is cutting down his chase rate, and he’s done that, so he’s done well up there.”

Martinez was asked if the move to the top spot was about getting Abrams more at-bats, but he said the biggest consideration was testing the young shortstop to see where he’s at now in terms of his development.

“He’s going to get plenty of at-bats,” the manager said. “It’s more, like I said, I wanted to test him a little bit and see where he’s at. See if he can handle it mentally. He’s got all the ability to do it. but the biggest thing was chasing. Getting the ball in the zone. When he gets the ball in the zone he hits the ball really hard. We started seeing that a little bit, and I thought it was time. And like I said, I was going to wait till after the break, and I got up and said, ‘I want to do it now.’ So this way after the break he understands what he needs to do, and he gets after it and we’ll see where he’s at.”

Did the sixth-year skipper see evidence in Abrams’ first three games leading off of him being more selective in a new role? Did they want him to be more selective?

“Not necessarily to see more pitches, but understand who he is and what pitches he needs to hit that he can hit and he’s done that really well so far,” Martinez said.

Texas Rangers v Washington Nationals Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

“I want him to be aggressive. He’s a really good fastball hitter. Where does he hit the fastball the best, that’s what I want him to start learning, and he’s done a really good job at that.”

One thing he has noticed is the move seems to have energized his infielder.

“He’s excited about it, so it’s awesome to see,” Martinez told reporters. “And like I said, it’s something that I was waiting for the right moment to do with him and I thought it was the right moment. I think it uplifted him, it uplifted our team, it gets Lane [Thomas] to hopefully to get somebody on base for him because he’s been swinging the bat really well. Joey [Meneses] is all of a sudden starting to swing the bat well, [Jeimer Candelario] has been swinging the bat well, so it gives us another guy up there to get on base and make things happen.”