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Bullpen struggles plague Nationals in loss to Orioles

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Bullpen struggles plague Nationals in loss to Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Juan Soto sat on the ground against the left-field wall, his head in his hands in the bottom of the eighth. Washington's outfielder had just reached for a long shot from Baltimore's Trey Mancini, but the ball was just out of Soto's reach and Mancini notched his 19th homer of the year, a two-run knock that gave the Orioles a 6-2 lead. 

Soto's body language symbolized more than just his frustration from the one play. By the end of the game -- the start of which was delayed 92 minutes after an onslaught of rain made Camden Yards look like a blizzard had blown into town -- the Orioles outscored the Nationals 9-2, almost the opposite of Washington's 8-1 win Tuesday.

Both teams were sluggish out of the box; a one-run ball game until the seventh, when Baltimore tore the game wide open. Washington put across its two sole runs in the third and fifth, both RBIs from Adam Eaton (he knocked in Soto on a sacrifice fly on the third, and Trea Turner on a double in the fifth). 

The Orioles briefly tied the game in the fourth, but it wasn't until the seventh when Baltimore broke down Washington's bullpen and put up two consecutive multi-run innings. 

Though Washington starter Erick Fedde, who was recalled from Double-A Harrisburg earlier Wednesday, put in six solid innings on the mound and only allowed on run on five hits in his 66 pitches, the Nationals' bullpen struggled to thwart the Orioles' comeback seventh and eighth innings.   

Since the outing was Fedde's first since he was recalled, Washington manager Davey Martinez didn't want to stretch him since he'd had two weeks off. 

"He got us through the sixth inning," Martinez said. "We had [Wander Suero] ready to go, but [Fedde] did well."

Suero, Tony Sipp and Javy Guerra combined for the seventh inning, contributing an out apiece. Suero got off to a rough start, however, and the first two batters he faced reached base. In his outing he gave up three earned runs on three hits and one walk.

After the game Suero explained that he received some bad personal news prior to the game, so he wasn't necessarily in the right mindset.

Sipp faced only two batters before he was done on the mound (he walked one and gave up a sacrifice fly to Rio Ruiz). So, when Guerra entered with two outs and two runners on, the Nationals were in desperate need of that elusive third out. 

Guerra induced a groundout to end the seventh, but couldn't carry that momentum into the eighth. To start the penultimate inning, Guerra gave up that two-run shot to left field that left Soto with his head hanging between his knees. 

Washington stuck with Guerra after those two runs crossed the plate, but as the right-hander struggled to record even one out, Martinez made the call and brought in Matt Grace to complete the inning. Three more runs crossed in the half, putting Baltimore ahead 9-2.

Now, the Nationals head to Atlanta to face the NL East-leading Braves for a four-game set. Washington is 6 1/2 games back of Atlanta, though the Nationals are the top wild-card standings in the National League.

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Davey Martinez hospitalized for precautionary reasons during Nationals’ Sunday win

Davey Martinez hospitalized for precautionary reasons during Nationals’ Sunday win

WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Davey Martinez left the dugout in the sixth inning on Sunday after not feeling well. 

Team physicians assessed him and decided the best course of action was for Martinez to go to a local hospital for further examination. Bench coach Chip Hale replaced Martinez for the remainder of the Nationals' 7-0 win against Atlanta on Sunday afternoon.

"So, just for precautionary reasons, they took him to the hospital to see what's going on, but we're expecting everything to be good," Hale said.

The team, set to fly to St. Louis on Sunday night, was informed postgame. 

"I don't know what's going on, so I can't really speak on that," Howie Kendrick said. "I knew, I think it was the fifth inning, maybe? And then Chip took over as manager. Then after that, all you can worry about is hopefully, he's doing great. I wish him the best. I love Davey. We talk pretty much every day. He's got a lot of insight and I've known him for years -- playing against him in the American League, too. He's done a great job this year. I wish him the best right now. Like I said, I don't know what's really going on, but hopefully it's nothing major."

Hale said Martinez, 54, in his second year as the team's manager, is expected to join the team in St. Louis.

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Saturday night’s scare for Charlie Culberson brought Sunday questions for many

Saturday night’s scare for Charlie Culberson brought Sunday questions for many

WASHINGTON -- Questions to be answered Sunday morning: How was Charlie Culberson? What did Fernando Rodney think? Why did he remain in the game? What exactly transpired between Davey Martinez and the umpires Saturday night?

First, Culberson. The Braves announced he has multiple facial fractures. He left the hospital Saturday night and slept at the hotel. Sunday, he flew back to Atlanta to be further evaluated.

“I talked to Charlie just a little bit ago,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He sounded good. One of the trainers will accompany him back to Atlanta and let the eye doctor and the specialist see him. I didn’t see him. I talked to him. The guys that did see him said he looked better than they thought he would this morning. He sounded good, for what he’d been through. It’s all very encouraging.”

All things considered, this is one of the better scenarios after a 91-mph fastball hit Culberson on the upper right side of his face in the seventh inning Saturday. The game froze, Rodney’s face went blank and a hush dropped over the crowd. Rodney was not in the clubhouse when reporters entered Saturday night following an extended delay. Sunday morning, a still-concerned Rodney explained how he felt in the moment and afterward.

“I really don't know what's going on,” Rodney said. “I only saw that I hit him in the face, it was a scary moment for me, the player, for them. The reaction ... that's part of the game sometimes. I don't want to hit nobody, no matter where, but I don't want to hit no player."

What were you thinking when it appeared you wanted to come to the plate?

“I wanted to say sorry,” Rodney said. “I want to say sorry because I don't want that to happen to nobody. Sometimes ... a lot of things happen in this game."

Did you want to still pitch afterward?

"Really after that I say [in my head] I don't want to,” Rodney said. “I feel sorry that that happen. I feel like I tried to do something, I'm supposed to do, but that's baseball. You have to continue to keep working... You try to recover your mind and keep going and doing your thing."

Which leads to the next question. Why was Rodney still in the game after the incident? Multiple opportunities existed to remove him. After he struck out Adam Duvall, who replaced Culberson, was a chance. Two batters later -- following back-to-back doubles, one of them a bloop by Ozzie Albies -- was another. Instead, Rodney remained in the game while it unwound.

Martinez said Sunday neither he nor pitching coach Paul Menhart spoke with Rodney after the incident. Instead, they motioned to him to see if he was all right.

“Kind of made little gestures to him back and forth,” Martinez said. “And he was saying he wanted to stay in. I talked to him [Sunday] again, he said he never wants to hit anybody. He said, I know as much as that moment you feel bad, but he said I had to pitch. I know that. Trying to win a game, I had to pitch, he said [Sunday] is another day and if I need him, he’s ready to pitch.”

Part of the fallout from the night includes criticism of Martinez for asking the umpires to check if the pitch should be called a strike. Home plate umpire and crew chief Tim Timmons told a pool reporter Saturday night:

“The very first concern was clearly for (Culberson). In the process of asking him to stay on the ground and not move and the trainer getting out there and them starting to look at him. After we got into that a little bit, Dave Martinez was saying something to me. I couldn’t hear him. So, I walked over and I said, ‘What’s going on?’ He said, ‘We’d like you to check on whether or not he offered at the pitch.’ I said, ‘Okay, I understand. I’ll do that.’ At which point, I went to first base umpire Bill Welke and asked him if he had him offer at the pitch. He said, ‘Yes, he did.’ So, that’s the situation.”

Martinez disputed that characterization of the situation Sunday.

“I really don't want to talk about that,” Martinez said. “I had a conversation with [Timmons]. The way it sounded was not the way...let's just say that. So, um. But, as a manager, it's kind of my job -- we're in a 1-1 game. That's all I'm going to say. It stinks. It wasn't the way it was portrayed to be.”

Martinez was asked what’s the line between trying to win the game and handling the situation with sensitivity.

“I'm going to be honest with you, the last thing I wanted to do was be a jackass,” Martinez said. “I'll tell you right now. All right? But, they get it. They understood. It's part of the game. We're in a 1-1 game. I would think that everybody would understand that. It's unfortunate. It stunk. As we all recall, we had a player [Trea Turner] break his finger in two places because he got hit and he had to go back and we had to get somebody else to hit for him.”

Snitker said he understood, from a competitive perspective, why Martinez would talk to the umpires.

“I’m sure they don’t like doing it,” Snitker said. “I guess over the course of a game, that’s one of the things you do ask about. Hard as it might be, you’re still within your right to do that.”

Though, Snitker continued to disagree with the umpire’s conclusion that Culberson swung at the pitch.

Martinez called Snitker on Sunday morning to express his, and Rodney’s, sympathies. Baseball resumed at 1:35 p.m. Rodney went down to the bullpen. Martinez took his spot on the dugout steps. Culberson went home to heal.

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