clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats and St. Louis Cardinals split two; Jake Irvin tries to keep rolling; CJ Abrams’ SBs...

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ sort-of doubleheader in St. Louis on Saturday...

First Things First:

Before the Nationals and Cardinals could play the second of two on Saturday night in Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri, the clubs had to finish six (-plus in the end) innings from their series opener, after it was postponed by rain in the third inning on Friday night.

The Cards led 1-0 in the third when play resumed, but the visiting Nats tied it up in the top of the fourth, with Joey Meneses driving in CJ Abrams with an RBI single after Abrams led things off with a hit, 1-1.

Both teams scored three runs in their respective halves of the fifth, then they each added a run in the eighth, and it went into extras tied at 5-5, before the Nationals pushed two more across with Lane Thomas connecting for an opposite field RBI single to right and run No. 7 scoring on a double play grounder, 7-5.

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

“We stayed in the middle of the field,” Davey Martinez said after his club improved to 22-22 on the road this season with the win. “Good at-bat by Joey [Meneses] obviously, driving in that big run [in the eighth], but CJ again, staying in the middle of the field, getting on base for us, stealing bases, all these guys.

“Lane, going the other way, all had really good approaches, good at-bats, good two-strike at-bats too.”

“It was a good day for our hitters,” Martinez added. “It was an all-around good day for our guys. I wish we would’ve won a little bit earlier, but the bullpen came in and held it down. We played well.”

Irvin In St. Louis:

Davey Martinez and Co. made a decision to give Jake Irvin, the Nats’ 26-year-old rookie, an extended break in early June so the starter and Nationals’ pitching coach Jim Hickey could tweak some things with the pitcher’s mechanics, and the results since he’s returned have been positive.

“He’s been pounding the strike zone a lot better,” Martinez said before Irvin’s fifth start back from the skipped turn in the rotation. “[He’s] utilizing all his pitches, but his fastball location has been really good.

“His efficiency, pitch efficiency has been a lot better since his first start, so he’s done really well.”

Irvin, who’d posted a 5.81 ERA, a 5.79 FIP, 20 walks, 23 Ks, and a .267/.386/.408 line against in seven starts and 31 innings on the mound before the break, finished his fifth start back (W, 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER) with a 3.25 ERA, a 4.36 FIP, eight walks, 18 Ks, and a .243/.296/.350 line against in 27 23 IP in that stretch.

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

“We talked about how much he’s improved,” Martinez said after a win over the Texas Rangers.

“Once again today he pounded the strike zone. His fastball was electric, breaking ball was awesome. So when he throws strikes, he’s good, he’s really good.”

“We talked a lot about just giving him that time off,” the manager added, “... and trying to fix some things for him. And it’s what he’s done in those 10-12 days that’s helped him become what he is right now.”

In the second of three in St. Louis last night, the rookie starter struggled from the start, with two quick outs in the first, before a two-out single and walk pushed him up to 27 pitches at the end of the inning. Irvin ended up throwing 31 pitches in the second, giving up a leadoff HR by Alec Burleson, who hit a 1-1 sinker up and over the middle of the plate 427 feet out to center in Busch Stadium, 1-0, before a single, one-out HBP, and two-run triple put the home team up 3-0, and then 4-0 on another RBI hit.

It was 4-2 in the home team’s favor when Irvin returned to the mound in the third (at 58 total pitches), and he was up to 79 after he struck Nolan Gorman out in a 10-pitch at-bat to end a 21-pitch bottom of the inning, stranding a leadoff single.

That was it for Irvin in the outing...

Jake Irvin’s Line: 3.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks, 1 HR, 79 P, 51 S, 2/2 GO/FO.

“He had almost 80 pitches in three innings, and for me he’s part of our big future ahead of us, and I thought that was good enough for him,” Martinez explained, after what ended up being a 9-6 loss to the Cards.

The manager said his starter was having trouble dealing with sweat on a humid night in St. Louis, but he didn’t want to use that as an excuse.

“When you’re throwing almost 25-27 pitches an inning for three innings, that’s a lot,” he said.


• Alex Call, on an 0-1 sinker up in the zone from lefty Steven Matz, and CJ Abrams, on a 1-2 curve over the middle, hit solo home runs in the top of the third, with Call’s a 403 ft. shot out to left-center, and Abrams’ a 408 ft. blast to right as the visiting club got on the board, down 4-2 after the Cardinals jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Call’s was his 6th of the season, while Abrams connected for his 8th.

• Ildemaro Vargas and Dominic Smith took back-to-back, two-out walks from Matz in the top of the fourth, and Riley Adams made the Cards’ starter pay with an RBI single to left field, 4-3.

• Michael Chavis (starting at second in the nightcap of the sort-of doubleheader) doubled off Matz, took third base on a sac bunt by CJ Abrams, and after Lane Thomas walked, scored one a batter later when Joey Meneses hit a sac fly to the wall in left field in Busch Stadium, 4-4.

• With the score 7-4 in the Cards’ favor in the top of the sixth inning, Dom Smith doubled to right, Riley Adams singled to right, and Alex Call took a sinker to get on the hard way, and a big spot developed for Michael Chavis, who stepped in with one down against Cards’ right-hander Dakota Hudson, and went down chasing for out No. 2. CJ Abrams? Force at second base. Opportunity wasted. Did you note MASN’s coverage of Luis García seemingly getting the call to pinch hit for Chavis then not going out there? Was he not prepared to hit? Did it cost him a pinch hit at-bat? We’ll see if Davey Martinez says anything in his post game press conference...

• Abrams singled to start the ninth, took third on Thomas’s 24th double of the season, and both runners scored on a two-out double by Ildemaro Vargas, 9-6. That’s how it ended, a split of the first two and now a rubber match this afternoon in Busch Stadium.


Jose A. Ferrer replaced Amos Willingham after the right-hander gave up a two-out single in the bottom of the fifth, and the left-hander gave up a single, two-run double, and an RBI hit which put the Cards up 7-4 after five.

Paolo Espino gave up a run in the sixth, 8-4, then tossed a scoreless seventh in his second inning of work to keep it a four-run lead for the Cardinals. In his third inning of work in the eighth, the righty gave up a two-out home run by Nolan Arenado, 9-4.

Abrams [Leading] Off & Running:

Davey Martinez liked a lot of things he saw from 22-year-old infielder CJ Abrams in his three games as the Nationals’ leadoff hitter before the All-Star Break, “... but what I love,” Martinez said after the speedy infielder stole five bags in four games in that stretch, “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,” the manager explained.

Abrams stole two more in the series opener with the St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium on Saturday afternoon, singling his way on in the top of the fourth, swiping second base, and scoring on Joey Meneses’s RBI single, before he stole his 16th base this season in the fifth, reaching when he grounded into a force, taking third on an error, and scoring on an error a Lane Thomas’ grounder.

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

“He’s been great,” Martinez said of Abrams’ running game after a 7-5 win in extras on Saturday afternoon.

“In order for him to do that, he’s got to get on base, and that’s what he’s doing really well.

“He’s taking pitches, he’s being aggressive on balls that he can hit, but all he’s trying to do really is get on base, and he’s done a great job so far.”

Are the seven stolen bases in five games, from a player who stole nine in the previous 77 in the first three months-plus, a sign of a change of mindset for Abrams since he moved up in the order?

Martinez said it was more about, “... just giving him leeway to go ahead and play the game, and do what you do best. He’s doing that. I told him, I said, ‘Hey, unless I give you the hold sign, I want you to go. I want you to be aggressive. You’re going to get caught every now and then, but we’re going to learn by it, and we’re going to move on.’ He’s been really good.”

So the speedy leadoff man has a green light to run when he does get on base?

“There’s times where I shut him down depending on the score of the games and everything else, but for the most part he’s on his own,” Martinez said.