Brief day on field rankles the Nats
Gonzalez’s one inning means doubleheader will need new starters
philadelphia — The tarp covered the Citizens Bank Park infield from Friday night through Saturday morning and into the early afternoon. The spigot in the sky switched on and off all day, allowing for some drizzle here and there, some rain now and then, and all indications were it would open for good right around the time the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies were supposed to play at 3:05 p.m. The forecasts predicted rain for the rest of the evening and into the early morning hours.
Despite the gloomy prognosis, the game began as scheduled. The tarp came off around 2:40 p.m. It was back on the field again by 3:40. The rain let up long enough for an inning and a half of baseball — no more.
The game was postponed until Sunday as part of a single-admission doubleheader beginning at 1:05 p.m. Stephen Strasburg will start the first game as scheduled. The Nationals will need to find a starter for the rescheduled game, which will start from the beginning Sunday, with all stats from Saturday gone.
“Burned our pitcher,” Nationals Manager Matt Williams said, visibly and admittedly frustrated. “I’m not very happy about it.”
Gio Gonzalez threw 19 pitches in his only inning Saturday, a scoreless first. That’s the kind of workload relievers bounce back from in a day. But starters go through more vigorous pregame
warmup work than relievers do, so Gonzalez will not come back Sunday. Williams said the team will determine whether Gonzalez waits five days before starting again based on how Sunday’s games go and what pitchers must be used to get the Nationals through them.
“It just sucks. I’ve been waiting four days and that’s what happens,” Gonzalez said. “And this rain, it kind of caught us all off guard. We didn’t know it was coming for like three days so . . . ”
Major league rules allow teams to add an additional player to their active roster for doubleheaders. The Nationals can certainly use one. Williams would not reveal his plans Saturday evening, but the Nationals may opt to bring up a starter from Class AAA Syracuse to start the second game Sunday. Syracuse’s Taylor Jordan was scratched from his scheduled start Saturday night in Indianapolis and appears to be the likely choice.
Williams also said he would be willing to use Tanner Roark for significant innings. Roark last started June 16 then headed back to the bullpen when the rotation got healthy and pitched two innings of relief on Wednesday. Roark could be used to start Game 2, but if Strasburg is knocked out early in Game 1, Roark may be needed in long relief, and the Nationals would still need that extra starter — potentially Jordan — for Game 2. Williams said the team is allowed to announce its 26th player between games.
The Nationals could also benefit from another position player, as their banged-up roster is ill-equipped to handle one game these days, let alone two.
While everyone involved would have preferred the game be called before it began — before everyone worked out and got treatment and sacrificed true rest — the postponement should aid the Nationals in some ways, despite the looming doubleheader. So many regulars ailed Saturday that Williams could not post a lineup until two hours before game time. Bryce Harper and Denard Span needed treatment before determining their availability. Neither ended up in the lineup.
Only one regular position player ended up starting — Ian Desmond, playing shortstop and hitting third. Wilson Ramos got a day off. Yunel Escobar’s left hand, hit by a pitch Friday night, was still too swollen for him to play. Harper was still nursing a sore right hamstring. Span was not ready to play after experiencing back spasms Friday night. Anthony Rendon landed on the disabled list again Friday, where he joined Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman, who have been there awhile.
The extra day should help Harper and Span. Williams said they are both day-to-day and said after the game that both are progressing. The postponement means each gets a day without missing a game. The day may help Escobar, too. X-rays on his hand were negative, so as of now, he just needs swelling and soreness to subside.
Regardless of who is available Sunday, it will be a taxing day for the Nationals, who are frustrated because much of the trouble could have been avoided had the Phillies heeded ominous forecasts and called the game early.
Williams said Phillies officials told him the game began because “the forecast was that it was going to be playable.” “Clearly it wasn’t,” he said. It was not, so the Nationals will play two Sunday.
Gio Gonzalez walks off the field after striking out against the Phillies’ AdamMorgan to end the top of the second. Play did not resume.