clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats take opener with Cubs; Bullpen usage after Hunter Harvey IL’d + more

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ series opening win over the Cubs...


A positive first half of the 2023 campaign for MacKenzie Gore ended on something of a down note, with the left-hander struggling in a 2 23-inning, six-hit, three-walk, and seven-run start against Philadelphia, and the next time out it was a 1 13-inning, rain-shortened outing against Cincinnati which robbed him of an opportunity to bounce back going into the Break.

With Gore’s injury issues in 2022 (left elbow), Washington’s manager Davey Martinez was not going to take any chances with their 24-year-old southpaw going back to the mound after an hour-and-a-half delay.

“We talked to him and he was good,” the Nats’ skipper explained. “I told him, I said, ‘I’m not going to put you out there like that.’ Last year he had arm injuries, ‘... won’t do that to you.’”

Gore, who also had a blister issue in the July 6th start, but dismissed it as a thing he’s dealt with before, threw some in the bullpen to get his work in, and Martinez said the club would get him ready for the second half.

“Just told him just make sure you throw some pitches down there, so we’ll reset him for his next start,” the manager said.

Gore’s first outing of the so-called second half got off to a good start, with a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 bottom of the first in Chicago, IL’s Wrigley Field, but he ran into trouble in the second, with Cody Bellinger singling his way on, moving up on a walk by Yan Gomes (Respect, Champ!), and then scoring on an RBI single by Christopher Morel, 2-1, a half-inning after the Nats got an early lead on the road.

Gore ended up throwing 32 pitches in a long second, though he limited the Cubs to the one run, and he came back out in the third and retired the side in order, in an efficient, 10-pitch, bottom of the inning.

A six-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth had the starter at 60 overall, with seven straight set down after the two-out walk in the second.

Gore was up to 10-straight set down after he retired the Cubs again in a 15-pitch bottom of the fifth.

It was 5-1 in the Nationals’ favor when Gore returned to the mound in the sixth, and had his streak of retired batter snapped by Seiya Suzuki’s leadoff single.

Ian Happ homered to left field on a 1-0 slider up in the zone in the next at-bat, 5-3 Nats.

It was an 18-pitch frame in the end, which left Gore at 93 total after six, and he returned to the mound in the seventh, but gave up a leadoff single by Trey Mancini and one-out, 2-run home run by Patrick Wisdom, who hit a 1-2 heater up and over the middle out to left field, a 398-foot shot. 7-5 Nationals.

MacKenzie Gore’s Line: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 2 HRs, 106 P, 71 S, 4/7 GO/FO.

“We were hoping to get him to about 105-110 pitches,” Martinez said after the Nationals held on for the 7-5 win in the series opener.

“[Gore] was throwing the ball well. And I still think — when I took him out, he still had a little bit left in the tank.”

“But he pitched really well. He had one inning where he fell behind some hitters but he was able to get out of it. And then he came back and gave us what we needed.”


• Hours after he was named the NL’s Player of the Week (in recognition of a short-week, three-game stretch in which the Nationals’ leadoff man went 6 for 13 (.462 AVG) with a double, triple, two stolen bases, and seven runs scored), CJ Abrams, 22, was hit by a pitch from the Cubs’ left-hander Drew Smyly, in the first at-bat of the series opener in Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Abrams stole second base in the next AB, then scored on a two-run homer to left by Jeimer Candelario, a 359-foot shot on a first-pitch sinker, up and in, that cleared the ivy-covered brick walls, and landed in the angled, chain-link baskets. Candelario’s 14th (in his return to the lineup from a bruised right thumb).

Post Game Note: Davey Martinez said he was happy to see Candelario return with a home run on his first pitch back, though he was less happy to see Candelario get hit with a pitch later in the game:

“Yeah, it was a very good sign, and I’m glad he did that, and then all of a sudden he gets hit in the hand, I’m like, oh boy, here we go again. You know? But yeah, he’s a big part of our lineup, I was glad to see him in there and he hits a big home run for us today.”

• Keibert Ruiz walked twice in 29 games and 120 plate appearances between May 30th and July 14th, but his fourth-inning walk in Wrigley Field tonight was his second in four PAs over the last two games, and he moved to third on a double to center by Stone Garrett before Dom Smith brought him home with a groundout which put the Nationals up 3-1. It was 4-1 just a batter later when Garrett scored on Luis García’s RBI single off Smyly.

• Stone Garrett “doubled” on a fly to right field which Cody Bellinger lost in the friscalating dusklight, took third on a Dom Smith groundout to the right side of the infield, and scored on a sac fly by Luis García in the top of the sixth, 5-1 Nationals.

• Jeimer Candelario (2 for 3) singled off reliever Daniel Palencia with one out in the seventh, and scored one out later when Keibert Ruiz hit a meaty 1-2 slider 400 ft. to right field for his 11th home run of the season and a 7-3 Nationals’ lead.

Post Game Note: Martinez on Ruiz picking it up at the plate... what’s working when he’s going well?

“Staying back, using his legs, getting ready on time, and hitting strikes. Like I said, he’s got unbelievable bat-to-ball skills, he’s just got to focus on hitting the balls in the zone, and when he does that he hits the ball hard.”


Mason Thompson got the second and third outs in the seventh, and returned in the eighth to get two more, but gave up two singles, before Davey Martinez went to the bullpen for Kyle Finnegan, who got out No. 3 on a hard-hit liner to center by Mike Tauchman, still 7-5 Nationals.

Finnegan gave up a leadoff single in the Cubs’ ninth, but retired the next three batters in order to earn the save. Final Score: 7-5 Nationals.

With Hunter Harvey placed on the IL [see below], Martinez is going to need some of the other relievers to step up, because he knows he can’t lean on Thompson and Finnegan every night.

“We can’t do this every day with just two guys,” Martinez acknowledged after the game.

“We’ve got to use those other guys in the pen, and they’ve got to be ready to go.”

His other options right now?

“[Amos] Willingham is going to have to pitch in the back end of the bullpen,” he said.

“[Jordan] Weems was down today, he’s going to have to — hopefully he’ll be all right tomorrow, available. And the two lefties [Jose A. Ferrer and Joe La Sorsa] got to come out and face some left-handers, some switch-hitters. These guys are all going to have to man up and get out there, and we’re going to have to see what we have and honestly, I’m looking forward to that a little bit. I want to see what Willingham can do in high-leverage situations. [And the same] with [Jose A. Ferrer]. Ferrer has to get lefties out for us, so I want to see him do that as well. I can’t say enough about what Finnegan, Thompson, even [Hunter] Harvey, what they’ve done thus far. We push them, but we need to take care of them, as well. Those other guys got to pitch.”

BACK PAGE - “Good News” on Hunter Harvey:

Hunter Harvey, 28, had Tommy John surgery in 2016, and the hard-throwing reliever dealt with oblique and lat strains in 2021, so the Nationals were, of course, concerned when he experienced a dip in velocity in his outing against the Cardinals over the weekend, so the club sent him back to D.C. for an MRI on his right elbow.

“Especially with his history, and the way he was feeling, I was very concerned,” sixth-year skipper Davey Martinez told reporters before the series opener with the Cubs last night in Wrigley Field, but when they heard back from doctors in the nation’s capital, it was what’s considered a best-case scenario and relatively good news for the reliever.

Washington Nationals v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

“We got the MRI back from Hunter Harvey,” Martinez said, “... and it’s just a mild strain of his right elbow. Best-case scenario for us. We’re going to shut him down for ten days, and then resume his throwing. But we’ll just let it calm down a little bit and build some strength up, and get him back as soon as we possibly can.”

“But this came out great,” the manager added at another point.

“They said everything looked great. He just has a little mild strain in there, and he should be back.”

In a breakout season for Harvey, he has put up a 3.12 ERA, a 3.63 FIP, 12 walks (2.68 BB/9), 45 Ks (10.04 K/9, and a .196/.258/.336 line against in 39 games and 40 13 IP, earning nine saves in 14 opportunities as the closer in D.C.


As noted above, CJ Abrams was named the NL’s Player of the Week on Monday, after a six-game run for the 22-year-old shortstop which saw the infielder embrace a move up to the top of the Nationals’ lineup.

In six games after manager Davey Martinez made the move in the final games of the first-half, Abrams was 12 for 25 (.480/.500/.720) with a double, triple, homer, one walk, two Ks, and five stolen bases heading into the series opener with the Cubs last night.

“He’s been great,” Martinez said earlier this week, of Abrams’ play since moving to leadoff, and the running game which he’s opened up in recent days. “In order for him to do that,” the skipper added, “... 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.”

Abrams also had multi-hit games in the five of the previous six games, with hits in all six, and a streak of 13 consecutive stolen bases without being caught, which stretched way back to May 3rd.

“It’s awesome,” Martinez said of Abrams’ award before last night’s game.

“It’s a great accomplishment for a young kid,” he added. “And I’m proud of him. I put him up to the leadoff spot, talked to him a lot about it, and he’s taken it upon himself to do the things that he’s supposed to be doing and he’s doing it well. I think it’s more just him going out there and just trying to have fun.”

Abrams extended his successful stolen base streak to 14 straight when he swiped second in the top of the first last night, after reaching via HBP.