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Noah Syndergaard shuts down Nationals who spend night in familiar territory

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Noah Syndergaard shuts down Nationals who spend night in familiar territory

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals lost to the New York Mets, 6-2, Tuesday to fall to 16-25. Here are five observations from the game…

1. The Nationals are nine games under .500, and it’s back to the 2011 schedule listings to find out the last time that happened.

Records show Sept. 8, 2011 as the date and Drew Storen as the losing pitcher. This year’s loser to drop the Nationals to their low point was Jeremy Hellickson. His outing was short, mostly ineffective and repetitive. The night also felt familiar to the offense.

Wilmer Difo’s single in the sixth inning broke up Noah Syndergaard’s no-hitter. Victor Robles hit a two-run homer off Syndergaard -- his third against the Mets’ hard thrower this season -- to produce the runs. Otherwise, three hits, eight strikeouts and just one walk. The Nationals have scored two or fewer runs in 12 games (29.2 percent) this season. Eight of those games were played in May.

2. Start No. 8 for Hellickson made it to the fifth inning, then stalled.

He has made eight starts, four have lasted five innings or fewer. His ERA is 6.00.

Tuesday’s five earned runs were a bit misleading. The Nationals didn’t turn a double play to end the first (more on that below), then Hellickson loaded the bases and allowed a grand slam. His fifth run scored when Matt Grace allowed an inherited runner to cross the plate.

However, Hellickson also need to find a way to be competitive for six innings. It’s not a large ask, even for a back-end rotation pitcher.

Hellickson is making $1.3 million this season. That’s a consumable contract if the Nationals feel they need to make a change. But, who would take his place?

The logical choice is Erick Fedde. But Fedde, who pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings Tuesday, appears to have an effective future in the disastrous bullpen this season.

Which, yet again, is another instance of the Nationals pulling from a thin spot to cover another. Call it the Combover Conundrum.

“For right now, I like what he's doing,” manager Davey Martinez said of Fedde when asked about his future. “The fact, all of a sudden, after the games, he's telling me he feels good. He's not laboring. And I told him, 'We'll see how you feel tomorrow.' He had made comments about being ready to pitch back-to-back days. We'll see about that.”

3. There’s no official record of “plays not made” among all the analytics. If there was, the Nationals would hold a troubling spot on the list.

Tuesday’s non-error error came in the first inning from Wilmer Difo. His throw to first when in line to turn a standard double play pulled Gerardo Parra to the ground. Parra couldn’t hang onto the ball. A replay review showed the runner at first, Robinson Cano, to be safe. No error was charged because the double play can’t be assumed in official scoring.

"That first inning bit us,” Martinez said. “It really did. You're down four, when a double play gets you out of the inning nothing-nothing. Like I've said before, we've got to play clean baseball. We really do. Got to give us a chance. That was a different game (if) we get out of that inning.”

Hellickson gave up a single and a walk to load the bases. Wilson Ramos hit a 1-0 changeup for a two-out grand slam.

The inning should have been over when Difo threw to first. Instead, it went on for a pitcher with little margin for error. The result immediately tilted the game.

“I think I probably rushed it a little too much,” Difo said through interpreter Octavio Martinez. “I didn’t realize that the runner’s probably not as fast as I expected him to be. I tried to rush the play, and I had more time. But that’s one of those unfortunate things that sometimes happens during a game.”

4. Trevor Rosenthal pitched a bullpen session in Nationals Park on Monday. Martinez said it went well. Rosenthal was sent back to Double-A Harrisburg, where he is currently on a rehabilitation assignment. Rosenthal has pitched one inning for the Senators. He struck out one, picked up a groundout and a fly out. Rosenthal threw 11 pitches, eight strikes.

Monday, his extension was better when throwing in the bullpen.

“Looked like he was a little freer,” Martinez said of Rosenthal’s bullpen session. “Arm angle was up. The biggest thing is he was working on his mechanics. And he looked a lot better. He’s going to go down there and throw an inning [Tuesday] and we’ll see where he’s at.”

Tuesday’s inning was reminiscent of his earlier outings. Rosenthal walked two and threw just 12 strikes among his 26 pitches. He did not allow a run.

Martinez did not suggest a timeline for Rosenthal. Instead, he stressed the need for consistency.

5. More help is on the way.

Trea Turner started a rehabilitation assignment Tuesday with Single-A Potomac. Turner hasn’t played since breaking his right index finger April 2 when he was struck by a pitch.

Turner has taken batting practice, thrown, and taken infield practice for several days. He did so again Tuesday at Nationals Park before heading to Potomac to play shortstop.

“Just let him go out there and really get the feel of the game again,” Martinez said of priorities on the rehab assignment. “Seeing balls off the bat defensively, getting at-bats, just getting back in the swing of playing nine innings.”

Ryan Zimmerman (plantar fasciitis) participated in infield drills Tuesday. If he feels better, more work will be added. Zimmerman was placed on the injured list April 28.

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Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

The Washington Nationals decided to use “partial furloughs” to keep their baseball and business employees at work through the end of their contracts or the calendar year.

The road map works like this:

All full-time business and baseball employees will receive a reduction in pay and hours ranging from 10 to 30 percent. If the employee’s contract runs to the end of baseball season -- typically Oct. 31 -- then these parameters apply from now until then. If the employee is not on contract, these reductions persist until Dec. 31.

No full-time employee is being laid off because of the economic impact from coronavirus.

An example: If a person works a 40-hour week, and has the 10 percent reduction in pay and hours, they are down to a 36-hour week at 10 percent pay cut.

The reduction scale slides. The highest-paid employees, like Mike Rizzo, are taking the largest reduction in pay. Then on down the line.

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The Nationals deciding to do this now allows their staff to know what the future holds as opposed to wondering month-to-month what decision the organization will make in regard to their job status.

Major League Baseball organizations remain uneasy about their financial future in 2020 since the season has stalled. The league and its team owners are in the midst of negotiations with the MLBPA while attempting to find a safe, revenue-satisfactory path back to the field.

Meanwhile, teams across the league are assessing their non-player finances, and the approach varies. For instance, the Anaheim Angels decided last week to furlough some non-playing employees.

In Washington, no full-time employee will be laid off because of this salary adjustment.

USA Today was first to report the Nationals’ overall decision.

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MLB return: Latest gulf in player-league negotiations reinforces time is not on baseball’s side

MLB return: Latest gulf in player-league negotiations reinforces time is not on baseball’s side

While NHL commissioner Gary Bettman outlined the league’s pending return to the ice Tuesday, the news began to pop on social media. The baseball players’ union has balked at Major League Baseball’s follow-up proposal, the sides are far apart, and a lot of work remains.

Multiple reports provided the same damning news. Tuesday was previously targeted to deliver some progress since the league’s initial proposal of a 50-50 revenue split was a known non-starter in the players’ view. The second proposal apparently did little to bring the sides closer financially. A significant divide on health protocols also remains, according to reports.

Meanwhile, the clock ticks.

The agreement reached in March -- when spring training stopped and the influence of coronavirus was being better understood -- took roughly two weeks. The climate then was comparatively jovial. Two sides who were long fighting each other realized they needed to be calm and focus on a swift deal to set basic parameters. So, they developed an agreement the players now feel is steadfast and owners feel is malleable.

Which brings the sides back together in late May. They are scrambling. The calendar is setting a crunch on both ends. The later the season starts, the longer it has to go to produce an amount of revenue the players find reasonable. The longer it has to go, the larger the chances it is compromised by a spike of the virus, the weather or unmanageable logistical hurdles. Last, the further the season stretches in 2020, the shorter the break between the end of the year and spring training in 2021.

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Bettman’s comments included a telling timeline. The NHL will not open training camps before July 1. That is when MLB thought it could begin playing games. The league is also using two hub cities for the resumption of what will be their version of the “playoffs” this year. Baseball is trying to play in all 30 host cities. Bettman said the NHL has not determined when the actual games will start because the league will be waiting to see how efforts to contain the virus will proceed. Baseball wants to be full steam ahead in five weeks.

And, remember spring training is a three-week minimum for the players. That’s four starts for starting pitchers. The players will deem that important because they are taking dual risks: they are worried about injury when running back to play; they are worried about their health as it relates to coronavirus.

Could an agreement be reached in the next 10 days, immediately starting cars and sending players onto flights? Yes. Could they be ready by July 1 or the July 4th weekend? Possibly. Is this over? Far from it.

But, is any of that likely? It seems less so after Tuesday.

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