PHILADELPHIA — The Nationals submitted a lineup for Saturday’s game against the Phillies that featured only one player projected to start on Opening Day (Ian Desmond) hitting in a spot he rarely has held in his career (third).
Such is life for Matt Williams right now, with six of his regular position players currently out due to injury, plus catcher Wilson Ramos needing a day off after starting four consecutive nights.
“It’s opportunity,” the second-year manager said. “That’s the way I look at it. It’s an opportunity for Clint [Robinson] to play, and for [Tyler Moore] to play and for Matt den Dekker to get in there and hit a 2-run homer to seal it for us. … You gotta do what you gotta do, right? That’s how we play it.”
The Nationals have managed to win seven consecutive games despite the injuries, thanks to some dominant pitching and contributions from bench players, but they do recognize they can’t go on forever with a lineup as depleted as this.
In that regard, Williams is hopeful none of Saturday’s scratches will miss significant time. Bryce Harper (strained right hamstring) might have played if not for the rainy conditions at Citizens Bank Park that left the outfield grass slick. Denard Span (back spasms) was moving around much better after having to miss Friday’s game with the recurring condition. And X-rays taken of Yunel Escobar’s left hand were negative, though it remained swollen Saturday after he was hit by a pitch in the first inning the previous night.
So the Nationals didn’t feel the need to make a roster move Saturday, bringing up another position player for their game against the Phillies.
“As of today, no,” Williams said. “I think we’re OK. Both Harp and Spanny are day-to-day. So it’s not like there’s a long-term issue with either of them.”
As for Escobar, there are no immediate plans to have him get an MRI on his hand.
“Not unless it continues to be sore,” Williams said. “Right now, standard process is to get an X-ray, see how he is the next day, treat it, give him a day off. And then if the swelling goes down and he’s got some function and feels better, then we don’t necessarily go there unless he doesn’t feel well.”
MORE NATIONALS: ANOTHER NATS INJURY CONCERN
Thus, the Nationals’ lineup Saturday featured one regular, Desmond, batting third despite his current .226 batting average, .268 on-base percentage and .616 OPS. He did bat third 11 times previously in his career, though his numbers in that position (.116/.208/.116) are even worse.
Through it all, though, the Nationals continue to win games. They entered Saturday on a 7-game winning streak, having opened up a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL East. That provides some comfort to the otherwise nervous Williams.
“With the current state of our club, I don’t get a whole lot of enjoyment out of most things right now,” he said with a laugh. “I enjoy winning. And the fact that our guys that are not the regular guys but are in the lineup and are doing well and we’ve been able to win some games, that’s enjoyable. But it’s stressful when you have to try to see if we can get guys going for the game. Guys getting hit in the hand and having to come out. And having a pitcher going up to pinch-hit when you have four other guys on the bench who are position players but you don’t want to use them. That’s not fun. That’s not the fun part of it. It’s the challenging part of it.”