WASHINGTON — The Nationals lost 9-5 to the streaking Braves on Monday, allowing a season-high five homers as Atlanta won its 12th straight game and dropped the home team's record to a measly 23-40.
Yet the loss was hardly the most important development for Washington on a day when starter Stephen Strasburg underwent an MRI to address some “discomfort” he felt after a bullpen session. Manager Davey Martinez began his pregame press conference with a grim assessment of his prized right-hander, saying “we don’t know if this is the same issue” which sidelined Strasburg for the first two months of the season.
Things didn’t get any easier from there. With the club facing a difficult week ahead that included eight games in seven days — all against the streaking NL East rival Braves and Philadelphia Phillies — the Nationals were forced to scratch starter Josiah Gray from his start Monday when a rain delay took him off the mound minutes before first pitch.
“We felt like he was fully warmed,” Martinez said after the game. “He came out of the gate, they told us they were gonna put the tarp on. He sat for a very, very long time and I’m not gonna do that to him. He was in uncharted waters right there, so I decided after an hour and a half that we weren’t gonna send him out.”
Instead, Martinez pooled together a bullpen game. Reliever Erasmo Ramírez got the start and allowed six runs in three innings. Steve Cishek and Jordan Weems each followed with two frames of their own before Kyle Finnegan and Tanner Rainey — the Nationals’ top two relievers out of the bullpen — finished out the game because “that was all we had.”
Gray will treat his missed start Monday as a between-starts bullpen session and Martinez plans to assess him Tuesday before determining when he will make his next start. In Strasburg’s place, the Nationals will call up Triple-A starter Jackson Tetreault for his major-league debut. He’ll enter Tuesday’s game with a 4.19 ERA over 12 starts for Rochester this season.
Tetreault isn’t on the 40-man roster, so Washington will have to make room for him somehow before Tuesday’s game. Martinez also said the Nationals could bring up a fresh arm for the bullpen, something that could be done as a corresponding move for Strasburg going on the injured list.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, star outfielder Juan Soto exited Monday’s game with a sore knee after slipping in the Nationals’ dugout and bumping into the corner of the bench. Ehire Adrianza pinch hit for him in the bottom of the ninth and the club will see how he feels Tuesday before determining whether he can return to the lineup.
The Braves didn’t get out of the game unscathed, either. Second baseman Ozzie Albies fractured his left foot on a swing in the fifth inning, landing awkwardly after hitting a groundball to shortstop. He couldn’t make it down the baseline and was replaced by Orlando Arcia the following frame.
With their loss, the Nationals remained neck and neck with the Cincinnati Reds for the worst record in the NL. There's no time for them to get worked up over anything like that, though. They’ve got bigger things to worry about right now.