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Nationals bullpen does them in again in extra innings loss to Pirates

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Nationals bullpen does them in again in extra innings loss to Pirates

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-3, in 10 innings Friday night to move to 6-6. Here are five observations from the game...

1. The easy nights are few.

Anthony Rendon’s eighth-inning home run -- his second of the game -- tied the game after the bullpen gave away the lead. Howie Kendrick’s one-out double in the ninth put him in scoring position, but Adam Eaton’s strikeout left him there. Then the bullpen blew it. Again.

Patrick Corbin’s dominant outing was undone by the relievers. Handed a 2-1 lead after Corbin deftly moved through the Pirates’ lineup for seven innings, Tony Sipp and Kyle Barraclough forked over the lead.

Sipp allowed two hits. One of which was a single to right field with a runner on first. Eaton chose to throw in the air all the way to third, allowing the batter to end up on second. Had Eaton thrown to the cutoff man instead, the Nationals would have a first-and-third situation with one out. His throw setup two runners in scoring position. A single would score both. Which is exactly what happened when Barraclough entered.

A troubling stat for Barraclough this season: all seven of his inherited runners have scored. Both runners he inherited last season when pitching for Miami scored. And, once again, this would have been a spot for the Trevor Rosenthal the Nationals thought they were getting.

Sean Doolittle rolled into some trouble in the ninth, too. A one-out triple brought the infield in. Ryan Zimmerman stabbed a ground ball to his right, threw home, and picked up the out at the plate. Doolittle finished the inning with a high fastball for a strikeout of Erik Gonzalez in an eight-pitch at-bat to keep the score tied.

Matt Grace allowed a leadoff double in the 10th. His throwing error when handling a sacrifice bunt attempt put runners on first and third. It also ended his night. Justin Miller replaced him, recorded an out on a grounder, then gave up a three-run homer to pinch-hitter Colin Moran on a center-cut 0-2 pitch. Miller has allowed five home runs in 6 ⅓ innings this season and will be placed on the 10-day disabled list because of a lower back strain.

“It's been affecting me since New York, I guess,” Miller said. “That's when I saw the drop in velo and of course like when the ball's flattening out it's not gonna have late life so something was going on and I couldn't really figure out what it was. I've been with the training staff trying to figure it out, but there's something in my back right now that is not allowing me to get through my pitches.”

The bulllpen is far from fixed following its reasonable work in Philadelphia. Miller was throwing 91 mph most of the time Friday. His fastball averaged 94 mph last season. Sipp’s ERA is 18.00. Barraclough’s ERA is completely misleading because the runs he allows go on someone else’s line. Rosenthal can’t be used when it matters. Only Doolittle is close to a sure thing.

“We got to get this one thing ironed out,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We’re playing really well. I can’t speak enough about how Corbin is pitching, how all our position players are playing, really well. Defense is good. Our base-running has been good. We got to iron out that bullpen, we got to iron out the back end of the games. We can’t run Doolittle out there for six outs, five outs, every day.”

2. Corbin let out an elated yell following his 11th strikeout Friday night. The third start version of Corbin was the one seen last season in Arizona. Slider, curveball, sneaky fastball. Lots of diving pitches, lots of confused hitters.

Final line: seven innings pitched, one earned run, one walk, 11 strikeouts on 106 pitches. Corbin’s ERA dropped to 2.84. His outing puffed up the bullpen following a day off. He even picked up two hits and knocked in a run.

“I thought my slider was really good today and was able to mix my fastball in and out,” Corbin said.

Corbin struck out 10 or more just four times last season on his way to 246 strikeouts.

Martinez said pregame the Nationals are working under a general premise of winning game one of a series, then trying to win the series. Corbin’s outing put them in great standing to do so until the bullpen came in.

3. Nothing new on Trea Turner.

His fractured right index finger continues to be wrapped in bandages varying in size. He’s never had a cast. Sometimes, the wrap is light. Others, it’s a bit more beefy, keeping his index finger tethered to his middle finger. Turner politely declined to talk about his injury Friday.

He’s traveled with the team and continues his cardio work by running sprints in the outfield.

“He’s doing everything he can to get better,” Martinez said. “There’s no timetable.”

4. Sipp is fine, according to Sipp and Martinez. Sipp came out of the game Wednesday after just one batter. His preference was to stay in -- especially following an out.

Sipp normally pitches nine live innings -- not counting bullpen sessions or simulated games -- at spring training. He threw three after signing late with the Nationals.

He thought what was called “shoulder stiffness” on Wednesday was normal for this stage. Typically, he would have back-to-back appearances in spring, as well as a chance to pitch across two innings. He never did this year.

So, in short, Sipp said Wednesday’s exit was nothing to worry about health-wise, proven out by his return to the mound in the eighth inning Friday night. However, his results weren’t great. Sipp allowed two hits and two earned runs in ⅓ of an inning.

5. Max Scherzer will pitch Sunday. He was scheduled to pitch Saturday, but the Nationals moved him back a day as a precaution.

“If it wasn’t April 12, I think things would be a lot different,” Scherzer said. “And when you also consider the off-days we have here. I mean, literally it’s just [Anibal Sanchez] and I flipping days. No one else in the rotation gets moved. Everybody else stays on schedule. It really was for them an easy decision, because there wasn’t going to be any other moves that needed to be made.

“If they needed me to pitch [Friday], I could. I can. But I understand. Hey, we’re early in the season. Be smart. You’re dealing with a leg injury. Leg injuries can turn into shoulder problems in a heartbeat. So I respect what I have here, and I understand where they’re coming from.”

Scherzer was hit by a comebacker on the right ankle Sunday in New York. He remained in the game at the time, but dealt with stiffness afterward. Scherzer threw from flat ground Wednesday, then a bullpen session Thursday. He played long-toss Friday.

So, Sanchez pitches Saturday, Scherzer on Sunday and Stephen Strasburg -- following a six-day break -- will pitch April 16.

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Report: Nationals among teams to release minor leaguers amid coronavirus pandemic

Report: Nationals among teams to release minor leaguers amid coronavirus pandemic

The Nationals are among many teams that cut a portion of its minor-league ranks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, TheScore’s Robert Murray reported Thursday.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, "hundreds" of minor leaguers lost their jobs Thursday as talks continue between MLB and its players union over the parameters for a salvaged 2020 season.

Although both sides maintain optimism that an MLB season will be played this summer, the fact that it would begin without fans in attendance is an indication that the minor-league season—of which teams rely almost entirely on ticket sales and concessions for revenue—is likely lost.

MLB teams agreed in March to pay their minor-league players $400 a week through May 31. However, as many teams have announced series of pay cuts, furloughs and lay offs for their employees over the past few weeks, it started to look inevitable that the minor leaguers would be a casualty of the virus’s economic ramifications once the agreement expired.

The last few weeks of spring training leading up to Opening Day typically see a significant number of minor-league players cut loose after failing to make team rosters. Since no team had the chance to narrow down its list of players before coronavirus forced the suspension of spring training, many of the players released may have already been candidates to get let go.

However, the sheer number of players that are now unemployed is unprecedented. While the released players are now free agents and free to sign with any club, it’s unlikely many teams bring on new players while the pandemic continues to grip the country.

At the very least until the league and MLBPA—which doesn't represent players in the minors—reach an agreement on how to proceed with the 2020 season, those minor-league players are going to have to find income through another job.

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New Jersey brewery takes shot at Astros' cheating scandal with new beer

New Jersey brewery takes shot at Astros' cheating scandal with new beer

Even with the baseball world on hold, the digs at the Houston Astros surrounding their sign-stealing scandal persist. The latest may be the most clever, as one New Jersey brewery created a custom beer just to take a shot at the Astros.

Departed Soles' newest drink is named "Trash Can Banger" and is a beer dedicated to slighting the Astros' 2017 World Series championship. The drink itself contains 2,017 grams of hops in each barrel, and the can design mimics Houston's well-recognized striped jerseys.

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Sometimes you need to bend the rules a little to Marwin the day, so we're up and at 'em a little earlier than we should be, getting a fresh new Hazy IPA in cans Justin time for a surprise Sunday release! Some of you may have already gotten the Signs that this was coming today, but beer releases are like a pitcher's arsenal, and you never really know what's coming and when... unless, of course, you cheat. When this pandemic first struck, much of our staff worked from home, while Brian rededicated himself to the Art of Brewing.. rewatching brewing school classes, reading new studies, and pouring over interviews, trying to Luhn(h)ow we could improve our efficiencies and processes. The result is a Fiers new approach to everything we do, from mashing in, to dry hopping, water treatments to canning, and everything in between. And, well, we don't mean to breg, man, but this new beer is Reddickulous, and you won't want to miss it! Brewed with Citra in our whirlpool, and given a touch of milk sugar for complexity, this juice bomb was twice dry hopped... first with more Citra, then with 2017 grams per barrel of Galaxy and Strata Hops... and just like an Asteroid, the flavor is out of this world! Like a craft beer Minute Made orange juice, to enjoy at a Park this fine day! Need some #TrashCanBanger in your life? Maybe Collin a favor with a friend if you're stuck in Correa, to have 'em pick you up some, or Cora ride share from Dallas to the brewery. If all else fails, throw a Belt & ran to the brewery, with a little Springer in your step, to be here at noon when we open up and release it to the world... Assuming our canning run goes off without a Hinch, 4 packs of this new #DefinitelyNotGlutenFree Banger will be available at noon for $17. Set your alarm to buzz, or tape an electrode to your chest to make sure you don't forget! The show Musgrove on! We're open from noon until 8pm, accepting same day delivery orders up until 4pm. Usual minimums, fees, etc. apply! Menu in story.

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Why exactly did Departed Soles decide to make this beer? It was a simple mentality that most would agree with.

“I’m not a fan of cheaters,” Departed Soles head brewer and owner Brian Kulbacki told NJ.com

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Kulbacki noted that the beverage has created some support among Yankees and Dodgers fans who were heavily impacted by the 2017 events, while people in Houston are not too fond of it. That's no surprise, though Kulbacki was taken back by how many Astros fans remain blind to what happened.

The creation of the beer stemmed from the brewery missing live sports; taking a shot at the Astros in the process was an added bonus. 

“We’re all very big sports fans, and we’re all desperate for sports to come back,” Kulbacki said. “We’re desperate for anything to talk about other than a pandemic right now. So we thought it was an opportune time to put out a beer.”

At ballparks or bars, it looks like the Astros won't be escaping the digs anytime soon. 

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