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Washington Nationals news & notes: Jackson Rutledge to make MLB debut tonight in PNC...

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ 5-1 loss to the Bucs last night; plus the news on tonight’s starter...


Knowing the club was going to have to send someone out there in MacKenzie Gore’s spot in the starting rotation, with the lefty on the 15-Day IL dealing with blisters on his left hand, the Nationals weren’t giving anything away in the lead-up to this evening’s matching against the Pittsburgh Pirates in PNC Park, with manager Davey Martinez declining to bite when asked if the decision was made in advance of what would have been Gore’s next turn.

Before the series finale with the LA Dodgers in Nationals Park on Sunday, a reporter noted that Washington’s 24-year-old, 2019 1st Round pick Jackson Rutledge’s scheduled start on Friday didn’t happen because he’d been scratched without explanation.

A couple days later, Martinez said he still hadn’t heard anything about why Rutledge did not pitch in the game.

“Nothing,” he said on Sunday afternoon. “So, I’ll probably announce something — probably not tomorrow, but the next day [Tuesday].”

Washington Nationals v Detroit Tigers Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Martinez said he didn’t even ask why Rutledge was scratched?

“Yeah, I didn’t find out,” Martinez said, with rain delays and extra innings taxing the bullpen over the weekend, he had plenty of other things to worry about.

Asked again before Monday’s series opener with the Pirates, Martinez still declined to name a starter for today’s third matchup of the four-game stay in PNC.

“We’re still going to wait,” he said. “I won’t announce anything probably till tomorrow after the game. We got some other things that we need to look at, but I’ll definitely let you guys know tomorrow after [the game].”

He was good to his word.

Following last night’s 5-1 loss to the Bucs, Martinez announced that it was in fact going to be the 6’8’’, 251-pound righty making his MLB debut.

“Rutledge is going to start for us tomorrow,” Martinez finally acknowledged.

“We’ll get him going and, like I said, another young prospect of ours, we’ll get to see him up here.

“Biggest thing for him is just to go out there and have some fun and attack the strike zone.”

In 23 starts and 119 IP between Double- and Triple-A in the Nationals’ system this season the starter has put up a combined 3.71 ERA with 55 walks (4.16 BB/9), 106 strikeouts (8.02 K/9), a .227 BAA, and a 1.27 WHIP, (with a 3.16 ERA in 12 starts with AA Harrisburg, and a 4.44 ERA in 11 starts at AAA Rochester).

“He made some adjustments down there, especially gathering himself when things get a little awry,” Martinez said when asked why Rutledge got the nod.

“He understands what he needs to do, so I’m looking forward to watching him pitch tomorrow.”

Rutledge is set to make his debut four years after the Nationals selected him 17th overall, with their top pick in the 2019 Draft, after he dealt with injuries in college but impressed both GM Mike Rizzo and Assistant GM Kris Kline when they scouted the right-hander over the years.

“He showed power stuff,” Rizzo said in 2019, of what he saw when they did watch scout the pitcher.

“Mid-to-upper 90s fastball, with a good hard slider, a good curveball, and a developing change. His command is vastly improved since he was a younger pitcher.

“He’s finally growing into that big body of his and we think that he’s just scratching the surface.”

“First round talent and everybody in that room is extremely pleased that he was there when we picked at 17,” Kline said.

“He’s got a good package for a starting pitcher,” Rizzo added. “He’s a big physical guy, with good arm action. He’s got a quick arm. He’s got power stuff.”

A few years, some injuries which slowed his development, and a solid run this year later, the Nationals are giving Rutledge an opportunity to show when he can do in the majors, against the Pirates tonight.


“He was good,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez told reporters after righty Joan Adon, Washington’s 25-year-old starter, went five innings on 80 total pitches, giving up six hits, three walks, and two earned runs in a 3-2 win over New York’s Mets last week in D.C.

“He limited the damage,” Martinez continued. “It was hot. He got through five innings with 80 pitches, and I thought that was enough as hot as it was, and he kept us in the ballgame.”

“I understand they got a few base hits the first inning, but I stayed with my same game plan,” Adon said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, in assessing his own outing.

“I made some good pitches, and they made adjustments to those pitches. I still had a game plan going into that game, and I stuck to it and continued making my pitches.”

His ability to limit the damage was put to the test again last night in Pittsburgh, PA’s PNC Park, and Adon stranded back-to-back, two-out hits in the bottom of the first, but a walk and two-run home run to kick off the second and put the Pirates up 2-0 early, with Josh Palacios hitting an 0-1 sinker low and over the middle of the plate 410 ft. to center field.

Adon worked around a single and two walks in the third, and two walks and a single in the fourth, but a leadoff double and back-to-back singles in the fifth added to the lead and his night was over at that point, with the starter up to 93 pitches in 4+ innings pitched in what ended up a 5-1 loss to the Bucs.

He gave up four earned runs on eight hits and six walks in the end.

“Just bad. Bad overall,” Adon said of his own outing, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco after the game.

“How can I tell you? I don’t even know how to explain it,” Adon said. “I felt good, but they were just hitting my pitches. They were seeing everything very well.”

“He just couldn’t get the ball in the strike zone,” Martinez said. “He fell behind. He kept going back to breaking balls and breaking balls, not really attacking hitters, so we’ll sit down with him in the next couple days, and get him back squared away.”

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Adon got nine swinging strikes on the night, and 13 called strikes, spread over five pitches.

“His stuff was fine, he just couldn’t find the strike zone when he needed to,” his manager added.

“He’s got to understand that he’s got to make adjustments. For an inning or two there he did start throwing his fastballs a little bit more, which was great, but then again he still — he got to two strikes and then he started throwing more breaking balls again, but he’s got to understand, the fastball plays sometimes and when your other stuff you can’t get over you’ve got to utilize your fastball.”